You’re getting ready for work. Grabbing the keys, drinking some coffee, heading for the door. When you get halfway there, your keys jingle and your dog appears, doing everything he can to make a ruckus. Barking is only the beginning. He’s circling your legs, pawing at your briefcase. When he starts howling, you consider staying home, but there’s a lot to do today. And besides, this happens every morning.
What’s the Holdup?
Separation anxiety is a relatively common condition for modern dogs. Approximately 15 percent of dogs in the United States suffer from it. If your dog has separation anxiety, he becomes deeply distressed when he notices that you are leaving. When you’re away, he may bark (and howl), soil the carpet, and leave your house in shambles. If your dog misbehaves when you’re getting ready to leave or after you’re gone, he may have separation anxiety. Though you may feel upset with your buddy’s behavior, you should breathe and reflect on what the underlying causes might be.
Although this might sound far-fetched, your dog may be afraid that when you leave, you will not return. Dogs who were abandoned before are especially prone to this fear. Another cause might be confusion. Staying home all the time with your new dog (or during vacation) can suggest that you’re always going to be at wag’s reach. If you suddenly go back to work or spend some time away from home, your dog might be surprised by your absence and think you’re not coming back. It may take him a while to learn that you haven’t left him forever.
Overcoming Separation Anxiety
How can you help a dog who gets anxious when you leave? Start by gradually desensitizing him to being left alone. Give him something to occupy his time so that he doesn’t follow you around the house. Jingle your keys or rattle the doorknob without actually leaving so that he stops associating these actions with alone time. When you leave, keep things calm. Walk out the door without talking to or looking at your dog. Leaving the television or radio playing low while you’re gone can help your house seem less empty.
Your dog needs companionship. He cherishes your company and would happily hang around with you every moment of the day. Try to spend at least one or two hours with him every day, playing games, walking through the neighborhood, or simply cuddling. If you think you won’t have enough spare time to give your dog the attention that he needs, you can enroll him in doggy day care or hire a friendly dog walker to check in on him and give him some exercise when you’re away.
Other Helpful Tips
Wild dogs spend their days in packs. Getting the pack back together is as simple as barking and howling. If your dog makes a wild uproar while you’re away, he probably feels lonely and wants to gather his pack. You may be able to ease his separation anxiety by bringing home another dog. This furry companion can comfort your dog when he feels anxious.
Another way to ease separation anxiety (or to prevent your dog from developing it) is training him to perform some basic commands. With obedience skills under his proverbial belt, your dog should naturally develop greater confidence and shed some nagging anxiety.
Seeking Professional Help
Helping your dog overcome separation anxiety can be easy. But if it seems like you’ve been through every method and your dog continues to show problem behaviors, consider professional help. Canine behaviorists and other professionals can work closely with your pet and prescribe medication if necessary. Leaving your dog at home should be an easygoing routine for everyone involved. Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help if things don’t improve.