Does your dog act “over-the-top” when you come home, whether you’ve been gone five minutes or five hours? By over-the-top we mean, jumping, barking frantically, peeing on the floor or being such a velcro dog that you can hardly take a step?
When you’re getting ready to leave for work or to run errands does your dog sense your upcoming departure and start acting nervous. Does she pant, press against your leg, whine, chew or lick her own legs or have other behaviors that aren’t typical?
If you said “yes” to any of these questions or have any of these concerns with your dog’s behavior, the first thing you want to do is visit your veterinarian and have him or her check to make sure your dog is healthy. If your vet says your dog is healthy, the two of you can come up with a plan to help her with her separation anxiety.
Here are some ways to alleviate your dog’s separation anxiety:
- Be calm when you’re getting ready to walk out the door. If you’re anxious and hugging and kissing your dog she will sense your anxiety but not know the cause of it and it will feed into her anxiety. Gather all of the items you need to leave the house, give your dog a loving pat then walk out the door. When you come back home, calmly talk with her instead of making a big deal about your having been gone. If your dog is jumping and frantic when you get home, do your best to ignore her until she calms down. Once she’s calm, pay attention to her and praise her. She will learn that when she’s calm, she gets attention.
- Give her a special toy. When you’re leaving the house, give her a toy or treat she only gets on those occasions. She will begin to equate your leaving with a delicious treat or a toy she doesn’t always get. A food puzzle toy or a Kong toy filled with peanut butter or another treat she loves is ideal.
- Make sure she has access to her crate or another area in which she feels safe when you’re away. If your dog is crate trained, she may welcome time in his crate. If your dog isn’t crate trained, find her a special place in the house and put her toys or a blanket or better yet – a shirt with your scent on it.
- Turn on the television or the radio. Don’t leave your dog home alone in an empty, quiet house. If your house is usually bustling with activity, a silent house may make your dog anxious. With some background noise, she may feel calmer and may not bark at every noise she hears outside.
- Ask a friend or family member – or hire a dog walker or pet sitter – to come by and check on your dog while you’re away for longer than normal periods of time. Maybe she is fine home alone for four hours, but after that, she starts to get anxious. Giving her company or having someone take her for a walk around that time may just calm her down enough to keep her relaxed until you return. Also, a dog who has been exercised might be tired enough to sleep while you’re gone.
Having a dog with separation anxiety is a frustrating and anxiety-inducing event for both her and you. Take steps to work with her to help her relax so you can relax while your running errands or away at work.
Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.