I was just visiting back home, and enjoyed spending time not only with friends and family, but also their dogs. It was interesting to see the different personalities, and how their different lifestyles affected their pets. Just like I recognize how my pampering has made my dog Kelly, uh…a bit spoiled. (Okay, so we’ll work on that!)
My brother’s dog, Lawrence, loves company. This big lab/akita/? mix welcomes anyone into his home. But try to leave–forget it! The minute you head for the front door, Lawrence starts barking frantically. After observing this behavior a few times, I could see that Lawrence actually started to get anxious the moment we got up and moved to say goodbye. It seems he becomes nervous when people leave, fearing being left home alone.
Separation anxiety is a common problem among dogs. Helping an anxious dog takes consistent work. Depending on the degree of the problem, you may need to consult with your veterinarian or a dog behaviorist. Here are a few tips to try to see how your dog responds. Not everything will work for every dog. Try to be aware of what sets your dog off, and what helps him feel secure.
Don’t Make a Fuss- If you hug and kiss your dog whenever you leave, and say “Oh, poor baby, you have to stay home all alone,” your dog is likely to pick up on your anxiousness. Try to get out the door without the fanfare, even if you’re feeling guilty for leaving your dog alone.
Change Your Routine- Maybe there’s something about your present routine that isn’t working. If getting ready and out the door in the morning is a busy and stressful time, your dog will sense that. Try setting out clothes or packing lunches the night before, or getting up a few minutes earlier, and see if the stress level reduces–for everyone.
Provide a Lovey- Before you leave, be sure you’ve given your dog a security object. An old t-shirt maybe, with your scent on it. This may help her feel you’re close.
Distract- If your dog loves to play, use that to your advantage. Toss him an engaging toy just before you leave. Keep the toys fresh and fun by rotating the supply.
Practice- Consider a helpful routine for your departure. Put your dog on a down somewhere out of view of the door. Spend a few moments calmly giving him attention. Give him a toy or a carrot to chew on. I wouldn’t command your dog to “Stay” because you won’t be home to release him from the stay. If he follows you to the door (and he will!) just calmly continue your routine. Practice the same calm routine every day and it may become familiar and comforting to your dog.
Separation anxiety is difficult to get over, but when both you and your dog feel secure, the process will become easier. Good luck. You can do it!