When my family comes home from work or being out, Lucas goes absolutely nuts like he hasn’t seen us in days. No dog likes being alone, but I know that Lucas is never stressed when we leave or get back, and he doesn’t perform any bad behaviors when we are gone, he’s just happy when we’re home. There are dogs that experience true stress when their human is leaving or has left them alone, and if you feel that your dog may be experiencing this, here are a few tips on how to handle separation anxiety.
You will likely notice this type of stressful behavior – salivating, whining, barking, even going to the bathroom in their space – when your dog is a puppy. It can still start at an older age, but likely this behavior manifests itself from humans making too big a deal out of their leaving and coming home, which alerts the dog to something big that then stresses him out in the future. Because you are with your dog so much when they are a puppy, it is hard for them to understand that now all of a sudden you are leaving the house every day and giving lots of hugs and treats and kisses before you leave.
Normally a change in routine can spark this anxiety, for example, just going from the weekend back to the work week, moving house, spending an extended period of time with or without your dog and then going back to normal, etc. Any change in your dog’s routine can stress him out from just a few minutes of whining right after you leave him to hours and hours of barking and whimpering.
When you provide your dog with a balance of love, discipline, and exercise, your dog will continue to gain trust in you, which is a good first step dealing with the elimination of separation anxiety. The more your dog trust you, he will always know that you will come back home to him. Besides this balance, another thing that can be done is leaving your dog alone for period of time even while you are in the house. If you are working on something, crate him or leave him in his “space” while you do so for a little while. By keeping him in his area even when you are home, he will not associate this space just with you leaving, which will eliminate some, if not all, of the stress that manifests itself from being put in that space in the first place. This quiet time and alone time should start when your dog is a puppy.
Normally, when our puppy cries, we pick him up or let him out of his crate and reward this behavior. By ignoring crying from an early age and showing affection only when the dog is not being needy, we can prepare our puppy for being alone and self sufficient. By giving into your dog when they are being needy, even just petting him when he puts his head on your lap, you are encouraging your dog to basically tell you what to do when he wants it done. A balance of discipline and affection is so important in creating that trust I spoke about earlier. Making sure not to give into your dog is a huge step in the right direction and starts from day one.
If your dog is extremely stressed and anxious to the point of worry, bring him to the vet for an opinion on what your next step should be. There are medications, but those medications are not a permanent solution. However, some breeds are more prone to anxiety, in which case your vet can give you more information on moving forward.
By making small changes in routine and making sure your dog is both loved and disciplined, most any dog can overcome separation anxiety and the stress that comes from being left alone. Some breeds and dogs will overcome it sooner, some will never experience it at all, and some may need some time to gain your complete trust and understand that they will be okay, and you will be back. No matter what category your dog falls into, a stress free lifestyle for both you and your pooch is right around the corner.