Oh, such a touchy topic. Every time someone’s dog tears up the house, the phrase “Separation Anxiety” comes right out. Pet owners hate separation anxiety. Dealing with a dog that trashes the house, screams, defecates and urinates all over the house, can cause so many problems. Problems between spouses, repairs, vet bills, and ultimately the dog ending up in rescue or at a shelter, or worse.
I’d like to invite you to check out my e-book on the subject. Treating Separation Anxiety: When Your Dog Can’t Be Alone is my first in what hope will become a whole series on troubleshooting dog issues. It’s completely free with the Kindle Unlimited program. The below article has the major points, but my e-book goes in-depth into the issue. Read the article, and if you think you need more help check out the book.
Not all destruction is separation anxiety.
Nope. Not all, or even most. Some dogs destroy things because it’s fun and there’s no one around to tell them not to. That’s a sign of a dog that isn’t well trained, not a dog that is necessarily upset that he’s been left home alone. Maybe he’s bored and could benefit from some toys for active dogs.
If your dog is defecating and urinating in the house, it might be that he’s not fully housebroken. If he’s not housebroken, buy a crate and work on that before deciding he’s nervous.
Set up a camera, or evaluate your dog’s mood when you arrive home. Obviously he’s happy to see you, but is he showing other stress signs, like ears pulled back, panting, or tense body? Does he scratch at the door after you’ve left, or start pacing as soon as the door is shut?
If you determine that the problem isn’t separation anxiety, you still have to work on that issue. Failure to correct destructive behavior will eventually turn into a form of separation anxiety, and anxiety takes a lot more work to correct than housebreaking.
Separation Anxiety is serious.
Think about it. You’re never going to be able to take your dog everywhere, and separation anxiety means that your dog is going to freak out every single time he’s alone. You’ve got to teach him coping behaviors, because you can’t very well never be apart. He’s going to get worse if he doesn’t get better, and he could really hurt himself or someone else. Plus it can’t be fun to live in such a stressful world.
Lots of families build resentment over the dog’s destructive behavior. Eventually, your family may reach a point where you’re deciding whether to rehome your pet. If he has an ingrained bad behavior, not only will your family eventually find him a new home–but that home might not keep him either!
Start at Step One.
He can’t stand being away from you. So start small. Get a crate, make it comfortable, and get him used to sleeping in it next to your bed or chair. Then move it. Put it in another room. Leave him in there when you go to the restroom, or while you’re cooking. Get him used to the idea of not having an option to be right next to you all the time. Move it around every day. Sometimes he waits in the kitchen while you cook, sometimes he waits in the bedroom.
Up the Ante.
Once he’s good with being in the crate for a whole hour while you’re home, crate him for ten minutes while you leave the house. Put him in his crate with a really high-value treat, like a Kong stuffed with peanut butter. (Pull the car out, if you’ve got a car.) Don’t just stand on the porch, leave the property and go somewhere. If he’s calm when you get home, give yourself a minute at the door before you approach him. He needs to be calm and not waiting for you to get there, so don’t be a big deal when you get home.
What if he’s fussing?
That’s fine; just leave him in his crate until he stops. Remember, he’s used to being in there while you cook. So don’t approach or acknowledge him. The more you make your arrival a big deal, the more anxious he’s going to be about your arrival. So make your arrival “nothing” to him by ignoring him. Get him out when you’re ready and he’s calm.
Keep Upping that Ante.
I know there are days where you’re going to have to leave him—like when you go to work or school. Keep working on the small projects, the little “run to the store” and “I’m cooking dinner” trips. As he gets more comfortable with the short trips, he’ll get better about the long ones. Every success will reduce his long-term anxiety, and anxiety isn’t healthy for him.
Remember he won’t be perfect.
Honestly, you might never be able to leave him loose when you’re not around. He might never get to that level of comfort with being alone. Putting him in a crate instead of letting him act out his anxiety is incredibly better for him. He’s going to be even more anxious if every time you come home, you’re mad at him or just stressed about the hot mess that he’s made. So take your feelings out of the equation, and set yourself up to be happy when you get home.
Can I ask a favor?
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Have experience with separation anxiety? What’s the worst thing your dog has destroyed? (One year my dog ate my birthday cake. I was super unhappy.)
- Why Every Dog Needs a Dog Crate
- Treating Separation Anxiety: When Your Dog Can’t Be Alone
- Five Great Puzzle Toys for Dogs
- Top 8 Toys for Destructive Dogs
- The Destructive Dog: Combating Boredom