Dogs are man’s best friend and don’t want to be anywhere but by your side. While this is one of the best aspects of pet ownership, it’s not possible to be around them all the time.
Your furry friend is a pack animal and may struggle with being alone. Lonely labradors, sad setters and desolate dachshunds can all be victims of separation anxiety.
The resulting agitation can incite dogs to go on a chewing or scratching frenzy, destroying doors, belongings and furniture. They can also start barking or howling, driving the neighbours crazy.
How to reduce separation anxiety in dogs: Create a safe space
To reduce the panic while you’re out of the house, set up somewhere that your dog feels safe and secure. This could be as simple as a corner of the living room to call their own, with a comfy bed and blanket. In some cases, a puppy pen or travel crate can keep smaller to medium sized dogs out of trouble when they’re alone.
When you’re not home, make sure there are lots of toys for your dog to play with. This will help them forget those feelings of loneliness. Nowadays you can even buy automatic devices which will shoot balls across the room — just make sure this won’t lead to accidental destruction!
Another idea is a toy which will only share treats when played with. This can keep your dog entertained (and fed) until you get back.
Show some love
When you are around, your dog needs as much attention as you can give. A dog who is starved for love and playtime is far more likely to be anxious when left alone. Before you set off in the morning, find the time to play and have some fun with your dog so they are ready for a snooze when you’re gone.
With that said, dog training experts recommend against making a fuss of your dog when you come and go as it may make them think being left behind is something they need to be worried about. Find something to occupy your pet and slip away while they’re busy, and take your time to greet them when you get home. Your dog knows you love him and will be happy to see you whether you make a fuss or not.
Come and go, and come and go…
When you leave, your dog has no idea if you will be back and can go into panic mode. Help them understand that your return is imminent by setting aside an afternoon to come and go a few times over.
Grab your jacket and keys, leave the house, then come back two minutes later. Stay a few minutes before stepping out again. Repeat this exercise and extend your ‘outings’ to let Spot know you’ll always be back. Depending on your dog’s anxiety levels, this may be worth going through a few times on different days.
Organise a visitor
If you have a happy, friendly dog, you may be able to engage a dog walker to take your pet out during the day. This can even be a responsible older child from around the neighbourhood who is looking for some pocket money.
A visitor will break up the day and provide your dog with the exercise it needs, even if they only have a quick outing or some playtime in the backyard.
Should you find everything you do has failed to help and your dog is behaving destructively or dangerously to himself or others, it might be time to seek professional help. In some circumstances, your vet may prescribe medication which can reduce your dog’s separation anxiety and help them get through the long days without you.
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