Dogs are herd animals. They naturally live in a pack and they don’t like being on their own. This explains why quite a few dogs have difficulty staying home alone, while cats do not know this problem. If your dog has separation anxiety, it can lead to all kinds of behaviours that are very annoying for both the dog and the owner. Exaggerated barking, gnawing furniture, uncleanlyess in the house, escape attempts, diarrhea and vomiting, shaking, turning circles, excessive licking of the fur, these can all be symptoms of separation anxiety. These anxiety symptoms usually disappear immediately when the owner is home again.
Why do some dogs have this problem and others don’t?
Separation anxiety can have various causes. Asylum dogs and dogs that have been relocated several times often suffer from it. The dog can also be very focused on you and panic if he cannot be with you. Often such a dog will follow you everywhere in the house. A fear of abandonment can also suddenly arise from a traumatic experience, for example a heavy thunderstorm while the dog was home alone. In older dogs, dementia can be the cause of all kinds of behavioural changes, including the occurrence of separation anxiety.
Anxiety is a serious psychological problem that you cannot solve easily. But you can reduce your dog’s feelings of fear – and your own sadness or guilt about your family friend’s suffering.
Act normal when you leave or come home
Don’t give your dog extra attention when you walk out the door or come home. That way you show that nothing special is going on and you won’t make him extra excited.
Do not give departure signals
If you always follow the same routine before you go out, you already frighten your dog before you leave. Remove your coat from the coat rack, check that all doors are closed, lower the thermostat, they are all signs of impending doom. Vary the way you leave, so that your dog cannot adjust to it.
Take a long walk before you leave
Walking your dog before you leave home is of course always wise, but certainly with dogs with separation anxiety. Make him tired, he will feel more relaxed and the fear of being alone will decrease.
A bench can be a solution
It may sound sad to lock up your dog, but for some dogs, such a small cage is like a safe lair. This only works if the dog is used to the bench and has no problems with it.
Install a dog flap
The opposite of a bench can also work: giving more room. When you have a well-fenced garden, a dog flap offers your lonely friend the freedom to wait for your return outside. That provides extra distraction, and you probably would prefer that he digs holes in the garden than demolish your furniture.
Feed before you leave
Give your dog his bowl just before you leave. That will keep him busy while you go out the door. Or give him a dong filled with a treat, so that he has something interesting to focus on for a while.
If the above measures do not have any effect, you may need to resort to a drug that has been specially developed to reduce separation anxiety in dogs, such as Clomicalm. Ask the vet for advice on this.
What you should definitely not do
Punishing your dog when you come across vandalism or signs of uncleanliness is out of the question. Your dog sees no connection between the punishment and the cause and gets even more stressed because he will associate your homecoming with a punishment.