If your dog is pacing, whining or barking when left alone, this could be signs of separation anxiety. Consult with your veterinarian regarding options for behavior modification.
Counterconditioning will likely involve gradually building up to shorter absences; you may require assistance from a certified trainer or behaviorist.
1. Keep a close eye on your dog
Separation anxiety is a prevalent behavioral issue in dogs. It often results in distress behaviors when their guardians leave them alone and is one of the main reasons pet parents abandon or surrender their animals.
Symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs vary, but typically include anxiety and/or destructive behavior soon after their owner departs, or even before. Some dogs may also display exuberant greeting behaviors upon returning.
Beginning training sessions by leaving your pet alone for short durations – say just seconds at first – before gradually increasing that period.
2. Take a short walk
An animal that is left alone for too long often develops separation anxiety, which may be precipitated by sudden changes to routine such as returning to work after the pandemic or moving into a new home.
Moderate to severe cases of separation anxiety typically require a desensitization and counterconditioning program, gradually exposing your dog to longer periods of separation by starting with short separations that do not produce an anxious reaction and gradually increasing them over a series of daily sessions.
3. Make sure your dog has access to water
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety often become distressed when their guardians prepare to leave, becoming anxious, barking, whining or chewing frantically before digging and even trying to escape, leading them to break teeth or claws attempting to flee the home and/or try and escape again. They may bark constantly for some time until being calmed by their owner returning, which often ends in severe injuries such as scratches and bite wounds.
One treatment method includes desensitization and counterconditioning training. Introduce your dog to cues that signal that you’re leaving, such as putting on your coat or gathering your keys; gradually increase the time you’re gone until finally return calmly upon return – they may sense how distressed you are!
4. Make sure your dog has a good chew toy
Pets who chew on objects they do not own and attempt to escape when their people leave can show signs of separation anxiety. Other symptoms could include house soiling, excessive barking or excessive licking.
Desensitization and counterconditioning training is key in this regard; start off with short (10 second) separations before gradually increasing them over time. Make it an enjoyable experience by rewarding them when you return and using challenging puzzle toys that dispense food so as to keep your pet engaged during separation periods.
5. Make sure your dog has access to food
It is essential to slowly introduce your dog to alone time by gradually exposing him or her to brief periods of absence without creating anxiety. Avoid overexerting your pup by lengthening their absences – overdoing this may result in anxiety-provoking responses, worsening their anxiety.
Pets who suffer from separation anxiety often exhibit distressing behaviors when left alone, such as excessive barking or meowing, destruction of the home, pacing and house soiling. They may also become restless or shake or salivate and refuse food, prompting their guardians to intervene with a desensitization and counterconditioning program to teach their body that certain places, objects or activities predict good things such as food.
6. Make sure your dog has access to a bed
Ensure your dog has a secure place they can go while you’re gone, in case they exhibit separation anxiety and escape behavior. Try not to place them near windows or doors where they have previously caused destruction such as vocalizing and destruction of household items; doing this may lead to self-injury as well as destruction.
Your vet can refer trainers or animal behavior specialists who can teach you to implement a desensitization and counterconditioning program for your pet. This involves gradually exposing him/her to stimuli that typically trigger negative responses such as picking up coats or getting keys while at the same time making sure their favorite people and objects remain present in their environment.
7. Make sure your dog has access to the bathroom
Many dogs with separation anxiety become upset as soon as their guardians prepare to leave, often becoming aggressive, destructive, or eliminating shortly after leaving. Some even escape their crates when their guardians leave and may chew through doors or windows in an effort to escape from the house.
One approach is to teach your dog that routine cues like brushing their teeth, dressing themselves and gathering up keys or purse don’t always signal that you are leaving. Another technique involves practicing out-of-sight stays with them.