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.
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.
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.