Canine separation anxiety is not an issue that you should take lightly. A dog that doesn’t feel comfortable and safe when left alone in the house can show destructive behavior. You’ll be coming to a house that’s in complete disarray as if a tornado passed right through the living room. Neighbors will complain about the incessant barking of your dog while you are away. There can be stinky accidents everywhere, leading to an emergency cleanup instead of resting from work. Pieces of furniture can be disemboweled and upholstery shredded to bits.
These are all manifestations of a dog that feels so stressed out every time it is left home alone. Don’t worry as we’ve got a few tips and tricks on how you can help your canine friend feel less stressed whenever it’s all by itself at home.
Train Your Dog
Training a dog to remain calm whenever you go outside the house can be a very tricky endeavor. In general, pet owners should train any new dog or puppy that arrives in their home. This is to avert any unnecessary behavioral problems such as canine separation anxiety. Given that the dog is already in your home, you can still train it to remain calm and relaxed when you’re away.
It is understandable that the dog will feel very unsafe and vulnerable every time it doesn’t see you. Dogs have the natural tendency to look up to their pack leaders for protection. You are this pack leader and they expect you to keep them safe. Unfortunately, the moment you step outside the house, they no longer have this sense of security. Hence, they feel very stressed.
It takes time to train a dog to learn to stay calm when it’s all alone in the house. The best way to go about it is by starting with very brief periods of dog alone time. For instance, leave the dog home alone for about 5 minutes. Pretend that you are going to work. Instead, walk around the block and then return home. If the dog is able to stay calm within this period of your absence, you can increase the amount of time to 10 minutes. It’s important to gradually increase the length of time that the dog is home alone.
Establish a Safe Zone
In their natural environment, wild dogs often have a place that they consider as a safe haven. It’s their refuge, a place where they feel most secure. That is why it is also important to train your dog to love its pet crate.
For some dog owners, putting the dog in a crate is like putting someone important in their lives behind bars. What they fail to realize is that dogs feel a lot safer if they stay in a confined space. The pet crate serves as their den in pretty much the same way as their wolf-like ancestors used caves to hide from larger predators. Crate training is important if you want your dog to feel safe and calm. This can also address its separation anxiety.
If you are averse to the use of pet crates, there is another solution. Many pet parents today use dog doors or dog gates. These are devices that look like a fence with a gate already attached. Dog owners can install these devices in hallways, pathways, and doorways. For pet parents with a two-story home, the dog gate is often installed at the top of the stairs if they want the dog to stay on the second floor. Others may place it at the bottom of the stairs if the dog is to stay on the ground floor.
There are also dog enclosures that are similar to a child’s playpen. These look like large cages that do not have a cover.
In choosing the area to be your dog’s sanctuary, it should be in a location where it is quiet and comfortable. Keep in mind that the idea of a safe haven for dogs is to help them feel more secure.
Exercise Your Dog before Leaving the House
One possible reason why dogs can cause so much destruction in the house whenever it’s left alone is that it has pent-up energy. This is very true in the case of highly-active dog breeds or those that were bred to work. Whenever they are alone in the home, they don’t have anyone to play with. There’s no one that can toss the ball for them or give them something to do. As such, the dog will try to use its energy to entertain itself and keep it busy.
This is one of the reasons why it is always a good idea to walk your dog before you leave the house for work. Large and highly-active hounds need at least 45 minutes of vigorous walking to help it spend its energy. For smaller dogs, a 30-minute walk is often enough to spend its energy. Walking our canine friends helps them feel more relaxed. Sure, they may feel tired afterwards, but this is good news for the owner. The pet will no longer have the energy to engage in other activities once you’re already away.
Some dog owners fail to recognize the uncanny ability of dogs to perceive human emotions and mood. They have this remarkable organ in their noses that allow our canine friends to detect unseen signals in the air. Hence, they know if their owners are anxious, worried, or stressed out, too. It’s important to remember that the dog sees you as its pack leader. It wants you to be strong for the pack. If it senses that you are unsure, worried, or anxious, then the dog starts to worry, too.
The key to helping your dog stay calm when left alone in the house is for you to leave in a calm manner. Most pet parents often treat their dogs as kids. They pet them and hug them as owners bid them farewell for the day. Skip this part and walk through the front door without ever saying goodbye to your dog. It may seem cruel at first, but you are teaching your dog that this is a normal part of its existence.
Ignore your dog for about 5 minutes before you head out through the door. This can help convey to the dog that you’re not anxious or worried about leaving. Hence, it shouldn’t feel anxious, too.
Provide a More Comforting Dog Entertainment
A dog that is alone in the home will feel bored as the day goes by. There is no one to play with. It doesn’t have anyone to see it perform tricks. No one will give it treats or praise. And when it wants to play with its favorite dog toys, it cannot do so because they’re all stored in a safe place.
This is where modern canine technologies come in. One of the most popular devices any pet parent can have today is dog cameras. For the most basic setup, these devices connect to the internet to allow pet parents to see their dogs in the home. The gadget comes with a high-definition camera complete with zoom and night vision capabilities.
More advanced pet camera systems come integrated with two-way communications technology. Some can have a large screen so that the dog will also see its owner. This works well with a two-way audio platform. Owners can speak on their mobile devices so that their dogs will hear their voice through the gadget in the house. The dog can also bark at the device which sends a notification on the owner’s mobile device. The owner can then “converse” with his or her dog.
There are also units that come with food and treat dispensers. Some are programmable so that the dog will enjoy its meal at a predetermined time. The dispensing of treats can also be either programmed or manually activated. The latter is perfect for interacting with the dog.
Pet parents also find leaving dog toys effective in making dogs feel less stressed when home alone. Indestructible dog chew toys can help keep canine boredom at bay. Interactive dog puzzle toys can also help stimulate the animal’s cognitive skills while keeping it focused on the task.
One can also leave behind old clothing like a shirt or pants. These items still have your scent on them. Putting these in your dog’s pet crate or its safe haven can help increase the dog’s level of comfort. It can “sense” that you are still there.
Dogs today can also feel less bored and less anxious by giving them something more worthwhile to watch. Some companies are offering TV shows and videos that are designed specifically for dogs. In addition to dog-friendly channels, there are also companies that provide audiobooks. Dog owners can play these products for their pets to listen to when they’re home alone.
Managing separation anxiety in dogs requires a basic understanding of why dogs may feel very anxious every time they’re left alone in the house. Pet owners who understand this can then pick the right course of action to make being home alone less stressful for their dogs.