Separation Anxiety

All by my relf…don’t want to be.

Leaving your puppy home alone – even if you’re picturing Ma-Collie Culkin right now – can be doggone stressful for everyone involved.

Even if you’ve arrived home to a dog who thinks ‘it’s Santa – AGAIN’, you’re instead focused on finding out what’s been destroyed today. Will it be the leather belt or pleather shoes? And that’s not the whole kit-and-ka-poodle. Your neighbour’s called again to say your poor pooch has been howling the whole time you were away. If you can picture this as well as the Ma-Collie Culkin poster, your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety.

Sure you’d have wanted to gradually introduce your dog to being home alone, as a puppy. But life has its dog days, and this isn’t always possible. That’s why we’ve sniffed out the five best tips to ease your furry friend’s separation anxiety:

1. Before you run off, take Scooter for a walk.

Start your day by taking ol’ Barkley for a brisk walk. Since dogs wake up with lots of energy, this will allow him to get it out of his system in the park, rather than your cupboard.

Forgive us, this may mean getting out of bed an hour earlier, but it’s worth the calm state your dog will be in, all day. Without the energy to worry, he’ll spend his day doing the downward dog.

2. Leave the touch, talk and eye contact behind.

Is it a big production for Butch when you leave the house or arrive home from work? As in, lots of hugs, big goodbyes, waving handkerchiefs, etc.? If so, your dog will assume these events are deeply affecting his rife, and begin to feel stressed.

So, the next time you leave or return home from work, try not to make a big deal of it. This way, you’re telling your waggety pal that his life is in no way rolling over, and it’s business as usual. Depending on how bad your dog’s anxiety is, you may need to practice this rule for five minutes, or up to an hour, before you leave and when you get back.

3. Say your goodbyes loooong before you go.

Having trouble practicing “no touch, no talk, no eye contact”? Take a moment to have some cuddles and tell your dog that you will miss him way before you actually leave. Keep in mind that this display is for you – not your dog! Your dog won’t have his feelings hurt if you didn’t say goodbye.

Having trouble with the all business and no lovey-doggy? That’s completely understandable, and there’s no need to give up the love fest completely. Instead, take a moment to give Cuddles a cuddle and tell him how much you’ll miss his smile – but loooong before you leave. If it makes you feel any better, this little display is actually for you and not your dog. In reality, his feelings wouldn’t be hurt if you didn’t say goodbye. Roolly!

4. Stay calm and be assertive. It’s roh-kay.

When you’re ready to head off to work, leave those guilty, nervous and worried feelings at the door. Instead calmly and soothingly let your dog know that everything is going to be roh-kay. Because it is. Being relaxed and assertive can ease separation anxiety for all involved.

5. Start with short times away, for a big difference.

Start leaving your dog alone for short periods, gradually increasing your time away. A five-minute separation is a good start. Then extend the time to 20 minutes; then an hour. Each time you return, reward your good little ‘watchdog’ with his favourite treat and TLC, if he’s been lying quietly. Continue to spend longer and longer times away, until you can leave your canine companion for a full eight hours – without a hitch.

Now, if you’re already working an eight-hour day and your schedule’s a bit inflexible, consider a walker to give your dog a mid-day break, or, look into a doggy daycare.

Workday getting in the way of training?

If your workday is really dogging your pet’s separation anxiety training, try practicing on the weekend, instead.

For example, start off your Saturday as though it were a workday. Leave your Labrador for five minutes, then return to the house, following the relevant steps above. Take lots of breathers for an hour to calm your companion. Once he’s roolly relaxed, simply head out again for a longer period.

When you return, remember not to make a grand production of it – even if it’s Cats. Instead of throwing yourself straight into his paws or giving him a huge ‘hello’ cuddle, try to wait until he’s calm and quiet. Then, casually greet him like he’s Joe Cool, and praise him because he’s been such a good boy.

Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be the weekend to practice separation anxiety training – in fact, you can practice anytime with Rover, without even leaving your home. For example, are you someone who goes to the toilet with an audience? If the answer is ‘yip’, simply get your curious Cairn Terrier to sit and stay – away from the door. Then do your business without your partner. Easy beagles!

Ways to lend a paw if Spot’s still stressed.

If your Havanese just isn’t having your absence, it might be best to call a qualified dog trainer or behaviour professional.
Other good pointers include:

  • Enrolling your lonely Lowchen into a doggie daycare.
  • Leaving your pet with a friend or relative who’s home all day.
  • Working from home.
  • Starting crate training.
  • Getting your Canaan dog a cosy kennel, particularly if he’s being left alone outside.

At the end of the day, always remember there is nothing wrong with you, or your four-legged favourite. Fact is, your dog just wants to be with you, and needs to learn how to be alone. It’s rrrrall good.