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Done with Doggie Damage? How to Alleviate Separation Anxiety

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Ever return home from work or an errand and find things not quite how you left them? As in, there was no giant hole in the couch, or the contents of the trash weren’t strewn all over the kitchen, or your favorite shoes weren’t chewed to a pulp? Whether your dog has destroyed things while he’s home alone, gone to bathroom inside, or frustrated the neighbors with incessant barking or howling, you may need to find ways to lessen his distress—for everybody’s sake. Even if it’s not true separation anxiety, it’s behavior that needs to change.

Burn off energy

In the same way that it works for us, exercise is a great way to relax your dog. Try 30 minutes of activity before you head out the door and by the time you leave, someone will be ready for a bowl of food and a nice long nap.

Stay low-key

While it may feel good to you to have long, huggy goodbyes with your dog in the morning, and jumpy, love-fest reunions when you return home, this just reinforces your dog’s perception that things are bad when you’re gone. Keep exits and entrances as chill as you can to minimize their importance.

Master the art of distraction

You know the one toy that keeps your dog busy and focused for long periods—like a puzzle ball filled with a whole-meat treat or a strong chew toy covered in peanut butter? Break that out a few minutes before you leave the house, so that by the time you head for the door, your dog is 100% focused on his own business.

Mix up your routine

Dogs learn quickly from our behavior patterns, so watching your departure routine—even if you don’t realize you have one—may be amplifying his anxiety. Try mixing up the order of things in the morning, including turning on the coffeemaker, eating breakfast, feeding your dog, showering, putting things in the car, and picking up your keys.

Stay present

By leaving your dog with an item that smells like you—like from the laundry—or turning on a TV or radio at a low volume, if that’s something that your dog is used to when your home, you may lessen your dog’s fear of being alone or that you’ll be gone forever.

Talk to your vet

Depending on the severity of your dog’s reactions and behavior when you’re gone, you may want to speak to your vet to make sure nothing else is wrong, and also to determine if your dog may benefit from a calming medication. 

Categories Dogs

10 thoughts on “Done with Doggie Damage? How to Alleviate Separation Anxiety”

  1. Good article – it had a couple of points I hadn’t heard/thought of before. But it left out a couple of things I have had success with (prior to having to medicate). 1) A “thundershirt” has the effect of your pup “wearing a hug” and really helped ours with separation anxiety (along with leaving the TV on). 2) A DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) plug-in (available through any major pet retailer and online) really helped our super anxious rescue dog make the transition to our new home. We used it for about 6 months?

  2. When we first adopted our flat-coated retriever who was approximately 1 year old at the time, she had sever separation anxiety. She tore up a brand new crate and howled. For fear that she would hurt herself we decided to let her have free roam of the house. Yes, initially she tore up some moldings, etc. and you could see that she was experiencing a certain anxiety when she would sense that shw would be left alone. But after about 6 months, her demons were gone. It was an almost overnight switch. We are still not sure what changed, but now she sort of gives you that look/grunt like “Oh, your leaving again, ok I am cool with it. No worries.”

  3. Positively- if and when you have to leave – place an article of your clothes in or near your dog’s bed will help give them comfort – also if you leave during rain or a storm- ask your vet if you can give your dog a half of a benedryl to relax them -leave a radio or tv on with some music and low conversation playing so they think some one is at home with them -hope it works for you like it helped me. sincerely KAY M.

  4. When I leave my dogs, they have a doggie door so they can go out & in. I fill their 4 puzzle toys with healthy treats and put them outside if the weather is nice, so they are focused on them. Another outdoor treat in good weather, simmer large beef bones, so they aren’t bloody. This might not work well if you have dogs that fight one another; you would obviously have to have them separated. I also leave the radio or TV on when I’m gone.
    Doggie day care might also be an option…
    Cheryl K.

  5. My dog is a 5 1/2 year old male blind/deaf Doberman.
    Ever since my other dog (his best friend) passed away Nov.26 2017 he has been a TOTAL RECK, his anxiety level has sored through the roof. He takes 2 Paroxetine a day and still goes crazy if I leave the house. It only takes me about a minute to go to the mailbox and he has puked by the time I get back. I try to take him with me for that but I think you get the jest.
    I have tried the Thundershirt, NO HELP. I have tried a garment of my dirty clothes next to his bed, NO HELP. I have tried Calming Bites, NO HELP. Benadryl, NO HELP. Melatonin, NO HELP. I DON’T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO TRY ?????????
    He is perfectly fine while I’m home.
    I am disabled, so I am home all the time unless I go to the store or Drs. Appointments. It breaks my heart to see him so upset.?????
    I am on a fixed income and really can’t afford another dog, but I have been looking to no avail.
    He was locked away in a crate as a puppy, from the rest of his litter (stupid backyard breeders), so he did not get the chance to learn proper doggy etticate. When he meets a new dog he pushes himself right in their face. This has gotten him bit twice. I got him at 11 weeks, the breeder was going to “dispose” of him.
    He knows all of his obedience commands by touch or vibration or smell. He loves EVERYBODY people, dogs, cats. We have a cat too.
    I thought I found the perfect new friend at a Dobie rescue, but someone got her before I could.
    He ABSOLUTELY HATES riding in a vehicle, so it makes it very hard to do a meet and greet.
    I would appreciate any thoughts you might have.
    THANK YOU & GOD BLESS

  6. Also, dogs are pack animals and feel isolated and lonely when their human leaders are away. Having two dogs has been known to be comforting and can help fill the void.

  7. In the same way that it works for us, exercise is a great way to relax your dog. While it may feel good to you to have long, huggy goodbyes with your dog in the morning, and jumpy, love-fest reunions when you return home, this just reinforces your dog’s perception that things are bad when you’re gone.

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