My dog seems to be devastated every time I leave him alone. How can I train him to not be so upset and to make him know that I’ll be back later in the day?
From the Editors of The Dog Daily
If your dog seems sad and lonely every time you leave the house, he’s most likely suffering from a behavior called “separation anxiety.” To some extent, that’s not a bad thing, since it shows how much your dog loves you and craves your good company. But reasons for the problem can be even more complex, such as a traumatic event in your dog’s life from the past, or recent changes to his routine that could be causing him anguish.
As you’ve probably learned, dogs with separation anxiety can act out, sometimes in destructive ways. They might repeatedly scratch at doors and windows, howl, bark nonstop, or even exhibit inappropriate elimination.
The good news is that separation anxiety is easily treatable. The Humane Society of the United States offers the following remedies:
- Downplay the times when you leave and return to your home. Try ignoring your dog for a few minutes before petting and vocally soothing him.
- Create a safe place for your dog to chill out. This can be a well-stocked, quiet room full of favorite toys, an old shirt that smells like you, a comfortable place for your dog to rest and more. With sit-stay and down-stay commands, you can reinforce that this is the right space for him to be in, and that he will be safe there until you can spend time with him.
- If you are gone for extended periods throughout the day, consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker. A dog-loving friend or neighbor might be willing to check in on your dog for free.
- If you can, take your dog to work or school with you. Many businesses are becoming more open to this option.
- In more serious cases, your veterinarian might be able to provide anti-anxiety medication.
The key is to desensitize your dog to the misery he now associates with your leaving. Crating or punishing your dog will only make the problem worse. Hopefully one or more of the above suggestions will solve the problem.