Far and Away
By Diane Krueger
The saying goes that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but for some dogs absence can make the heart miserable and possibly a tad destructive. Separation anxiety is very real for some dogs. They become so upset that when we leave it can lead to unwanted behavior while we’re gone, such as chewing, barking, pacing, even urinating or defecating. While there’s no hard evidence as to what causes a dog’s separation anxiety, it has been attributed to loss of an important person in his/her life, changes in schedule, moving or changes in the family.
As we know, dogs are smart cookies. I like to say mine is too smart for my own good. They know when we’re getting ready to leave them. For me, mine knows as soon as I leave the bathroom door open upstairs after I turn on the curling iron. She goes to her spot behind the love seat, peeks only her head out watching me upstairs with the saddest little eyes that could make even the hardest of hearts break (but no guilt here, right?). However, there are some things we pet parents can do to help our pups with their anxiety (and possibly assuage some of our guilt).
1. Take a walk with your dog at least 30 to 60 minutes before leaving your dog has time to calm down before you leave.
2. Say good-bye way before you’re ready to leave. The extra attention and affection you give to your dog can get him excited and saying good-bye in advance will give him time to settle back down.
3. When you leave, try not to speak or make eye contact with your dog. But, if you do speak, do so in a calm, assertive tone. Don’t make a big fuss out of leaving. Keep it casual and relaxed.
4. Try leaving some soothing music or an audiobook playing while you’re out. This can help reduce your dog’s anxieties.
5. Practice leaving your pup in increments. You might start with leaving for five minutes and just going in the back yard. Then work your way up to 15 minutes and 30 minutes, just running a quick errand or two.
While it’s unrealistic to never have to leave your dog, it also unrealistic to think all dogs are okay with it. Every dog reacts differently to being left alone. While some are fine, others struggle. Anything we can do to help alleviate their separation anxiety and stress while we are gone, makes like better for them and us.