Whether you need to run a quick errand or you work full time, you probably have to leave your dog alone now and then. Unfortunately for dogs, they are naturally social animals and prefer not to be alone. In some cases, dogs may act out their frustrations by exhibiting certain behaviors, such as destructive chewing or digging, excessive barking or having accidents inside the house. In most cases, your dog is simply bored or may be an immature puppy. Boredom-related behaviors usually occur an hour or more after you leave the house. If you come home after only 30 minutes and find there is no problem, your dog probably does not have separation anxiety. He may just be bored!
What can you do for bored dogs?
- Consider doggy day care, hiring a dog walker or taking your pet to work as options.
- Provide your dog with fun, safe, interactive toys to help occupy him while you are away.
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise before you leave for the day — tired pets are happier pets!
- If your dog is a puppy or youngster, he may have to outgrow his boredom-related behaviors. You can prevent most issues by crating him or confining him to a certain area.
- Your dog may be reacting to noises outside your home and barking in response. Try playing quiet classical music or leaving the TV on to mask these noises, calm your pet and keep your neighbors happy.
- In some cases, providing an appropriate companion animal may alleviate loneliness.
If your dog exhibits destructive behavior, has accidents, leaves puddles of saliva or injures himself while you are away, you may be dealing with true separation anxiety. How do you know? Leave your pet alone for 30 minutes and if you find a problem, your dog probably is suffering from separation anxiety.
What can you do for separation anxiety?
- Don’t punish your dog. Punishment doesn’t correct the behavior, but rather will increase the anxiety and worsen the situation.
- Change your behaviors or routine. To get your dog accustomed to your leaving, pick up your keys and walk toward the door; but don’t leave the house. Put on your shoes and jacket, but don’t leave. Walk out the door, but come right back. Do this several times until your dog no longer exhibits anxious behavior.
- Don’t make a big deal out of leaving, and then leave the house for a few minutes at a time. If your dog does not display any anxious behavior, you can gradually increase these planned absences so that your dog never has a chance to show any separation anxiety.
- Greet your dog briefly when you return (don’t gush), and then resume your normal activities.