Dog Separation Anxiety
Dog destroying the house when you leave
Ways to cure or reduce your dog's separation anxiety
1. Give them plenty of exercise
2. Crate your dog if needed
3. Give them an indestructible toy when you leave
4. Medicate as a last resort
Dog separation anxiety is becoming a more common complaint among dog owners. It is not known what exactly causes separation anxiety in dogs but it could be partly due to the busy lifestyles most of us live. In years past, dogs worked for the family and didnít spend as much time with their owners indoors, lounging on the couch. They were used for herding, guarding, and even pulling heavy loads. The dogs in days gone by were not considered family members as we consider them today. They were valued for their usefulness to their owners but were treated as dogs.
A Change in job description for dogs- from working to family members
In present time, more and more dogs are living their lives indoors and on the laps of their owners. They develop a much closer bond with their owners and essentially, donít have a job. I believe that a dog that doesnít have anything to do will develop bad habits due to boredom or excess of energy. Combine that with the owners working 8-10 hours a day and the dog begins to develop neuroses. That is not to say that a dog that receives tons of exercise all day long cannot develop separation anxiety but it is less likely in my opinion. Whatever the cause, if you have a dog with separation anxiety, you know the frustration and damage that can result.
Dog Separation anxiety manifests itself in destructive behaviors occurring when the dog is left alone. Some of these behaviors are chewing, digging, pawing at doors or windows, barking, howling and even urinating and defecating. The behaviors generally happen within the first 15 to 30 minutes after the departure of the last person but tend to cease after the 45-minute mark. It is important to note here that a dog with separation anxiety is not doing these behaviors to exact revenge on his owners for leaving. The dog is truly in a state of panic and fear and is simply responding to those feelings.
Get Them Exercise!
So, what can you do, as an owner, to help eliminate separation anxiety from your dogís life? My first recommendation is to make sure your dog is getting enough exercise. A simple 15-minute walk around the block will not be enough. Your dog, depending on his size and breed, will need a minimum of 30-60 minutes of exercise a day. A good rule of thumb is that your dog should be tired at the end of the exercise and should be moving slower than usual. Be careful of weather and donít exercise outside in too hot or too cold weather without taking the proper precautions first. Throwing a tennis ball, Frisbee, or retrieving dummy is one example of good exercise. Swimming is another great way to help your dog burn energy as long as weather permits. If you are a runner, biker, or roller blader, take your dog with you. Gradually build up the length you travel so as not to overexert your dog. Get creative and get moving; it will be good for both of you!
Crating your dog
Second, I recommend crating your dog when you leave. If you donít already have one, see the Puppy Crates and Crate Familiarization sections on this website to get your dog comfortable in a crate
The crate will prevent your dog from doing any destructive chewing to your furniture, valuables, or even baseboards and banisters. Once your dog is getting a sufficient amount of exercise each day and is comfortable in his crate, I think you will find that the destructive behavior is minimal.
Also, practice putting your dog in his crate for various intervals of time and not just when you are leaving. Try putting him in the crate for five minutes while you walk to the mailbox and then return, letting him out of his crate.
Next time, try leaving for twenty or thirty minutes, then return and let him out. If your dog only goes into his crate when you are going to be gone all day, of course the crate and routine will make him anxious. But, if you vary the amount of time he stays in his crate from minutes to hours, you will teach him that going in the crate doesnít necessarily mean he will be locked up for a long time.
This should also help alleviate some of the stress he may feel every time you leave. If your dog is still exhibiting anxiety, say by chewing his bedding or crate, or even himself, you should introduce a distraction to help your dog with your leaving.
Thirdly, I recommend giving your dog an indestructible toy that he can use to entertain himself while you are away. A Kong (see Puppy toys) is a great chew toy that is hollow where you can stuff treats inside, or better yet, smear peanut butter or squeeze cheese around the inside of the Kong and then stick it in the freezer.
After you put your dog in his crate, give him the treat filled Kong and then, leave the house. This will begin an association that whenever you leave the home, something good happens to your dog (he gets a yummy treat). It will also reinforce the crate as a positive area to be.
When you come home, let your dog out of the crate and make sure to take up the Kong so that your dog only has access to it when you are away. This will keep the Kong novel and will prevent your dog becoming bored with it.
Medication as a last resort
If your tired, crated and Kong entertained dog is still suffering from anxiety, you may need to consider medication. I usually only go to medication as a last resort but in some cases, it may be necessary.
If your dog is causing damage and injuries to themselves while in the crate, medication should definitely be considered. Discuss with your veterinarian the different types of anti-anxiety medications and work with him to come up with a dosage low enough to take the edge off but not sedate them.
The hope is to someday wean your dog off of the medication completely so, the lower the dose you begin with, the quicker the weaning process will occur.
Dog Separation Anxiety
I fully believe that if you do a combination of all of these tips (save the medication for severe cases only), you will virtually eliminate Dog Separation Anxiety and the stress you and your dog both feel when you get ready to leave and your house will remain intact.