How to Keep Your Dogs Happy While You Are Away
4 February, 2014

Many dog owners worry about leaving their dogs during the day.  Some dogs adjust easily to being alone, while other dogs become very insecure when their parents leave the house. This can be particularly true if the dog has been adopted and feeling anxious in his or her new home.  Separation anxiety is very common in dogs and can be treated with love, practice and patience.

Below are some tips to help you and your dog:

Start slowly with little periods of separation

If your dog’s anxiety falls more on the severe side of things, try getting your dog used to being alone by starting small or desensitizing the cause of his fear. Try starting by introducing several short periods of separation that don’t produce anxiety, and then gradually increase time spent apart over the course of a few weeks.  You can practice on the weekends so when it is time to go to work, they are used to the departure.

Make the departure very mellow

Many dogs know when you’re about to leave the house and will get anxious or try to stop your departure altogether. One way to tackle this problem is to teach your dog that when you pick up your keys or put on your coat, it doesn’t always mean you’re leaving. For example, put on your boots and coat, and then just sit down and watch TV instead of leaving.  And, then, when you do leave, it isn’t as dramatic.

All of your hellos and goodbyes should be conducted in a very calm manner. When saying goodbye, just give your dog a pat on the head, say goodbye and leave. Similarly, when arriving home, say hello to your dog and then don’t pay any more attention to him until he’s calm and relaxed.

Leave toys and chews out for your dog

If your pooch suffers mild separation anxiety, counter conditioning or trying to get your dog to associate being alone with something good, like a tasty treat sometimes can reduce or resolve the problem. To develop this kind of association, offer your dog a food-dispensing toy every time you leave the house.  Or try leaving a Kong out full of your dog’s favorite treat for only when you away during the day.

Make sure to walk your dog before you leave for the day

Exercising and/or walking your dog is a great way to treat many behavioral problems, especially those involving anxiety. Exercise can enrich your dog’s life, decrease stress and provide appropriate outlets for normal behavior. Plus, a tired dog doesn’t have much excess energy to burn when he’s left alone!  He’ll start the day popped out and you will already be away when he wakes up.

Be kind and patient

Anxious behaviors are not the result of disobedience, so don’t scold or punish your dog (ever) if he doesn’t overcome his fear quickly. If you punish him, he may become even more upset and the problem could get worse. Be patient, and work with your dog until he feels comfortable and enjoys spending time alone.

Take your dog to the veterinarian

If none of the above tips help your dog’s separation anxiety decrease, it is recommended to take your dog to the vet to see if there is any underlying medical issue that could be contributing to your dog’s behavior.  For instance, if your dog starts to urinate in the house, he or she might be suffering from a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, diabetes or kidney disease—all of which can cause urinary incontinence in dogs.  Your vet could take tests to see why your dog is seemingly anxious.

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