• Linda Healy

Separation Anxiety

Dogs are companion animals and like to be around their owners. So when you leave the house without your dog, one look in his eyes will tell you he's not happy. Most dogs accept your comings and goings with a sigh, but others might have a hard time understanding why you're there one moment and gone the next. Your dog may feel insecure and worry that you won't come back. And while you're gone, he may bark, whine or howl in fear. Your worried dog may also become destructive, make messes inside the house, refuse to eat or attempt to escape the yard or house.

Missing You: There are several theories why a dog may be afraid of being away from his owner. Dogs that have been abandoned once before are the most likely sufferers of separation anxiety, they'll assume they will be left again by their new owners. Dramatic lifestyle changes, such as moving to a new home or sudden stress in the home, can bring on separation anxiety. And dogs who have had constant contact with their owners (because their owners are retired or work from home) will also find it difficult when their owner has to spend time away from them for some reason.

Ways to overcome it: There are many ways you can do to make your dog feel more secure when you go away. Start by crating him when you are away. Just like some small children who would rather be in their bedroom than wandering around a huge house, many anxious dogs prefer being in a small, confined space. Putting your dog in his crate will help to relax him and will prevent him from pacing about anxiously or trying to escape. He can't destroy the house, either, from inside his crate.

In addition, give your dog more exercise. Hire a dog walker to take him out for an hour run a day. He will have something to look forward to when you're gone and make some doggie friends, as well. You can also, take him to a good dog daycare centre so he won't be alone during the day. Or, if you have to get up earlier in the morning, add a vigorous 20-30 minute running session every day prior to leaving him alone. Not only does this tire your dog out, but it reassures him that you are in charge. And when he trusts you as the leader, he won't worry about what you are up to.

Desensitizing your dog to your comings and goings also helps. Get him accustomed to seeing your routine of locking the door, lowering the drapes or putting on your sweater every time you leave the house. Try leaving the house for just short periods of time. In the beginning, leave for a few seconds and come right back. Don't rush to congratulate him the minute you back in the door- you don't want to make out your absences are a big deal, just an everday occurrence. If he's been quiet, praise him calmly a few minutes after you return.

Once he seems comfortable with this, gradually add another minute to your absences, then five, and practice going out several times a day. It might take a week or even a month or two before your dog feels calm about being apart from you, but once he's secure, he'll be less nervous about being alone.


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