To your dog, you are everything. You are more than just the one who feeds him or her. You provide cuddles, you’re a playmate and you happily tag along on all those walks. You are quite simply the centre of their universe.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that some dogs don’t like it when you’re not around. For some dogs this means sitting by the door and waiting for the key to turn before jumping all over you excitedly.
But other dogs suffer so badly from separation anxiety that it results in worrying behaviour (and often serious damage to your home).
There is no doubt among experts that separation anxiety is a serious problem that requires a careful-planned solution. This usually means teaching your dog to be left alone – and to know that you always come back.
But first up, what are the signs that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety? There are three things to look out for:
- Destructive behaviour. This often comes in the form of chewing anything from shoes to furniture – and even through walls.
- This means howling, whining or barking – and it’s usually the one that annoys neighbours the most, for obvious reasons!
- Going to the loo indoors. Anxious dogs are known to wee and poo inside when left alone.
How not to deal with it…
When you come home to find your new sofa has been torn to shreds or there’s wee all over your carpet, it can be really annoying. But it is extremely important not to punish your dog.
Research has proven that punishment is not an effective method of controlling bad behaviours. Instead, the dog just associates being punished with you coming home (not with doing something naughty) and experts believe punishment can actually make the problem worse.
At Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear we are firm believers in positive, reward-based training at all times.
So what can you do?
Finding a way to distract your dog and stop him becoming bored is often the first step towards tackling separation anxiety.
A great way to do this is to have a selection of interactive toys that your dog only gets to play with when he is alone, so he sees them as a special treat.
We’re pleased to sell tried and tested chew toys like the Kong Classic which you can even fill with treats to keep your dog distracted for longer. You could also try the awesome Foobler, a treat dispensing ball that releases treats on a timer which you can control.
As with all dog toys we strongly recommend you read the manufacturers guidelines when choosing items to leave alone with your dog.
Taking your dog for a long walk before you have to leave them is a good way to ensure they are content and tired enough to maybe have a nap. It’s also a chance for them to go to the loo before you go.
It is worth providing your dog with their own safe space within your home. This could be a crate or a bed – but it must be somewhere they feel relaxed in. You could practice leaving your dog in this area for short periods of time. Start by leaving for just a few minutes, building up to half an hour and then an hour and so on.
Finally, lots of dog owners swear by leaving the radio or TV on when they go out to give their dog a bit of ‘company’, so we’d recommend also giving that a try.
For help with dealing with other common dog behaviour problems like barking and aggression, check out this blog from our in-house dog training expert.