Tips for the Home Alone Dog
According to Dr. Yin, animal behaviorist and veterinarian, separation anxiety comprises 20 – 40% of all canine cases seen by behaviorists in the U.S. And Europe. I hear about this problem from dog owners on almost a daily basis. Here are some suggestions I give owners.
Remember that physical activity relaxes your dog, which will help with stress. Most people feel that their dogs exercise themselves when they are let out in the yard. Research has actually shown that dogs don’t spend much time running around or even walking, when outdoors alone in a fenced in yard. It is tempting to just let your dog out while you get ready for work in the morning, but if you could take a twenty minute fast walk, it would go a long way towards reducing your dog’s anxiety when you walk out the door for work.
Fill a kong toy with canned dog food or peanut butter and freeze it. Give this to your dog before you walk out the door. It helps to mix things up once in awhile. Give him the kong on days when you are not at work and leave the house for only a short time. Another option are “treat balls” that your dog has to roll around to get food out. Fill these with your dog’s dry dog food instead of feeding him in the morning. This along with frozen canned dog food in a kong are enough to occupy your dog. Obviously, these suggestions are less likely to have a great impact on dogs that have dog food available all day long.
Take your dog to day care if you can afford to do it. Even if it is only two days per week, it broadens your dog’s horizons, makes him more confident and less “attached at the hip” to you. It gives him something to look forward to, as well as tiring him out to a degree that you would find difficult to achieve, and a tired dog is a more relaxed dog. Day care can be expensive, but even one to two days per week is very beneficial. My dog has been to several different day cares, and you can tell if your dog is happy and comfortable there if he is excited to get in the door and forgets all about you.
Second best to day care is having a neighbor come to your house once a day and take your dog for a walk, or at least play indoors. There are also professional dog walkers. Once again, this gives your dog something to focus on.
Get a second dog. Nothing keeps a dog company like another dog. However, this may not be an option for everyone, and is not the thing to do if you don’t have any time for your present dog.
Dr. Dodman, Director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine recommends that your dog have a window to watch out to occupy themselves. Put Animal Planet on the television. You can also buy videos for dogs. There is also music designed for dogs. Through a Dog’s Ear and Canine Lullabies are two he recommends.
Separation anxiety can be extremely severe, and may not respond to any of the above suggestions. These cases are not common, but this is when I recommend anti-anxiety drugs. These drugs are usually only effective when used in combination with behavioral modification, and the goal is to reach a point at which these drugs can be discontinued.