Separation anxiety in dogs can manifest in fairly innocuous clues like flattened ears when you come home, or more distressing things like urination or destruction. Some symptoms of separation anxiety can be similar to medical issues, so it is important to rule these out. If the destruction is caused by anxiety, the dog may have been trying to escape to join the pack. Urination and other disorders are often symptoms of fear and confusion.
As pack animals, dogs have a strong desire to be with other pack members. They are well suited to provide company and companionship because it fulfills their own innate needs. Dogs also like predictability, routine, and to understand their role within the pack.
Maintaining one’s role in any social order is a critical element in the development of confidence for any being, and dogs are no different in this. Understanding these facts contributes to addressing separation anxiety in dogs.
First, establishing a predictable routine, which answers the dog’s basic needs and gives them a sense of stability, is key.
Most people have to go out to work and can’t take their dogs with them as they go. Often, this leaves no one at home to socialize with the dog. Fortunately, they sleep up to 14 hours a day and careful planning can work this to advantage.
It is important that the dog has its own bed and knows where that is. It should be unobstructed so that they can easily get into it. That might seem obvious, but it’s easy to overlook the heavy bag put down just a bit too close to the bed for the dog’s comfort. Again, confidence is key. Dogs are pretty smart, and certainly smart enough to feel concerned about their position if something encroaches on their space.
If possible, don’t wake your dog immediately when you get up, start your own breakfast and morning routine, while you prepare the dog’s food and water dishes. Feed your dog while getting ready to go out for his walk, and make sure the walk is as active as possible. This is really the most important exercise of the day, as you want the dog to rest again when you leave for work. Note: to avoid a medical condition called Bloat, a dog should be allowed to rest for 30 minutes before any vigorous exercise.
A ball launcher is exceptionally useful at this time, allowing you to fully exercise the dog even in a small space. The dog runs, but you don’t have to.
Second, manage your own behavior with respect to the dog. Don’t treat your departure like anything remarkable. It makes YOU appear anxious, but you’re the pack leader, so how is the dog supposed to feel? This is true both when you leave the house, and when you arrive.
When you leave, simply spend a moment with your dog assuring them that they are the best of all possible dogs, and instruct them to lie down. Be sure they are properly on the bed and have submitted to rest. Leave without fanfare and especially without exciting the dog.
Arrive home in the same way. Of course, it is good to let dogs know they matter with a greeting, it’s just best to keep it calm. Dogs like to reward us with obedience, so if your dog thinks that neurotic behavior is desired, they will provide it.
Note: Prescription and nonprescription anxiety relievers (e.g., medications, nutritional supplements, pheromone products and CBD Oil) can also help, but should be viewed as a way of enhancing the effectiveness of, rather than replacing behavioral modification techniques. A dog’s primary care veterinarian can usually make recommendations for handling mild or moderate cases of separation anxiety.
Perfection, for a dog, is to have their pack around them at all times, to have a secure position, and to understand the rules they live by. That requires teaching them discipline and maintaining your own.