Updated: Sep 27, 2019
There are a number of steps you can take to resolve your dog’s separation anxiety behaviour. Your dog’s strong emotional response to being left alone will make any corrective techniques a challenging proposition.
Exercise your dog well before you leave. A tired dog has less energy with which to be anxious and destructive. End exercise sessions 20 to 30 minutes before you go, so they have time to settle down.
Five minutes before you leave, give them a well stuffed Kong or treat bottle toy (more on this later) to take their mind off your imminent departure.
Make your departures and returns completely calm and emotionless. No huggy/ kissy “Mummy loves you” scenes. If they get excited and jump all over you when you return, ignore them!! Turn your back and walk away. ONLY when they finally settle down, say hello and greet them very calmly.
Defuse the pieces of your departure routine by also doing them when you are not leaving: pick up your car keys and sit down on the sofa to watch TV. Dress in your work wear/ uniform and then cook dinner.
Set your alarm for 5 a.m. on a Saturday, then roll over and go back to sleep.
Mix up the pieces of your departure routine when you are leaving, so his anxiety doesn’t build to a fever pitch as he recognizes your departure cues. We are creatures of habit too, so this is hard to do, but can pay off in big dividends. Eat breakfast before you shower instead of after. Pick up your keys and put them in your pocket before you take your dog out for his final potty break. Put your briefcase in the car while you’re still in pajamas. Make the morning as unpredictable as possible. This will not be forever! Just until the situation calms down.
If you are considering adoption of a second dog, try borrowing a calm, stable, compatible dog from a friend, to see if that helps to relieve your dog’s distress.
Remove as many other stressors from your dog’s world as possible to help them maintain their equilibrium in your absence. No choke chains, shock collars, physical or harsh verbal punishment (especially in connection to his anxiety behaviours).
Consider working with a behaviour professional to be sure you’re on the right path.
Fixing separation anxiety is hard work. It’s all too easy to get frustrated with your dog’s destructive behaviour. Remember that they’re not choosing to do it out of spite or malice - they are panicked about their own survival without you. It’s not fun for them, either; they live in the moment, and the moments that you are gone are long and terrifying. If you make the commitment to modify their behaviour and succeed in helping them be brave about being alone, you’ll not only save your home from destruction, you will enhance the quality of your dog’s life immensely - as well as your own - and perhaps save their life as well.
Adapted from The Whole Dog Journal