People become extremely attached to their dogs – and the feeling is often mutual. Dogs are naturally social animals who thrive on companionship. Remember that you and your family members take the place of your dog’s “pack.”
When you leave your dog alone, even it’s just to go to work for the day, he may experience separation anxiety. This can be highly stressful for a dog and cause him to react by howling, barking or even damaging your home. Some dogs will simply sit and stare at the door all day, longing for the return of their master.
How to Tell If Your Dog Suffers From Separation Anxiety
Since you’re not there to witness your dog’s behavior while you’re away, how do you know if your dog is experiencing separation anxiety? Here are a few telltale signs:
- He acts overly excited and practically bowls you over as soon as you walk in the door
- He defecates or urinates inside your home while you’re away
- You notice scratch marks on doors or other signs of damage
- The neighbors complain about incessant barking or howling
Make It Easier for Your Dog to Deal with Your Absence
While you may not be able to be with your dog all the time, there are some steps you can take to help him deal with the times when you’re away:
- Make the hellos and goodbyes short and sweet. Don’t make a big deal out of greeting or parting with your dog. Instead of long, emotional hugs, just give him a quick, calm pat on the head. Save your heaviest shows of affection for the times when you plan on staying home for a while.
- Teach him a cue. Train your dog by teaching him a special code word you utter just before you leave that lets him know you’ll be back soon.
- Leave him a reminder. Reassure your dog by leaving him a reminder of your presence. Placing a recently worn article of clothing containing your scent in your dog’s bed or other favorite spot will make him think that you’re nearby.
- Take him for a walk. Taking your dog for a long walk just before you leave can have a calming effect. It will also tire him out and put him in a restful, rather than anxious mode.
- Give him plenty to do while you’re gone. Giving your dog lots of toys may distract him and keep him occupied while you’re away, which can alleviate his anxiety.
Handle More Severe Cases of Separation Anxiety
If none of these methods seem to be helping your dog cope, you may need to take more drastic actions. If he’s destructive while you’re away, you may need to place him in a “safe” room and loosely confine him. Choose a room with a window, as the view can serve as a welcome distraction and make him feel less isolated. You can also talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medications that are available for dogs. If all else fails, take your dog with you whenever possible.