Does your dog panic when you leave him behind?
We love our dogs. This is why we take them hiking, hire dog walkers, take them to doggie day care, participate in dog sports and buy them gifts. Unfortunately, we can’t always take them along when we go out. While it can be tough to leave your dog behind, it’s important not to make a fuss about your arrivals and departures, as this can create problems for your pooch. And as the holiday season is upon us, this will be particularly important if we will be forced to leave our pups behind to go visit relatives or attend holiday parties.
When leaving for the day, many loving owners start to leave, turn back and see their dog watching them then return for “one last goodbye”. While I have to confess that I’ve been guilty of this with my niece and nephew when I visit, I make it a point not to do this with my dogs (or my kid), as it can cause anxiety and other problems.
While there are many causes, separation anxiety, may be exacerbated by lengthy goodbye’s and overly exuberant hello’s. When you leave for the day, the dog knows that you are going. If you behave as if it’s not a big deal, the dog will be more likely to believe that all is well. If, however, you make a fuss, he’ll wonder why you are behaving in such a manner. Over time, this could lead to increased levels of anxiety every time that you leave without him. The same is true if you make a fuss when you return, as he’ll get excited at the prospect of your return, and in this excitement may become destructive or anxious.
It is important to note that not all destructiveness is separation anxiety; some dogs simply need more to do, so they destroy things out of sheer boredom when left alone. Typically, separation anxiety also involves stress-related behaviors such as hyper-salivation (you’ll notice wetness below the chin, and sometimes down the dog’s chest), inappropriate elimination (urination or defecation) typically near entryways, and much destruction around entry/exit points such as door jams and window sills. Some dogs will even end up injuring themselves in their desperation to find their people. I know of one dog that jumped through a second story window due to her anxiety when left alone.
Assuming your dog doesn’t already exhibit separation anxiety, what is the best way to leave? Say goodbye in a cheerful voice and walk away. Resist the temptation to look back or to return for one last ear scratch goodbye. When returning home, give a quiet hello as you walk in; ask for a sit or down prior to petting. Save the exuberant greetings for when he does something really great, such as coming when called away from a major distraction.
If you have done all of these things and your dog still suffers from what you feel may be separation anxiety, or even just destructiveness when you are away, contact your local trainer for assistance.