10 ways to help your dog overcome the fear of being alone
Being social animals, dogs HATE being left alone. There are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, a dog wants to be with his pack, be it you, your family, another dog, a cat, or even a bird. There is a feeling of insecurity and vulnerability when left alone. Some will feel abandoned and panic. By relieving himself throughout the house, a dog ensures that this territory is his. Your path of destruction is simply a way to reduce boredom and separation anxiety.
Dogs whine, bark, and howl intuitively, hoping you’ll hear them and get back to them. When they are separated in the wild, this is how they meet. They have no concept of work, shopping or school. For your dog, every time you leave the house, you have gone hunting without them and you may never return.
A closed door for your dog is equivalent to dropping a rock at the entrance of his den. NEVER put your dog in a room with the door closed. Use a half door (it is less defining) or a baby door, so that they can smell, see, hear and feel that they are not totally separated from their comfort zone and their surroundings.
There are a number of steps you can take to help your dog feel less anxious while you are away. First, protect the area for dogs, just as you would for a child. Remove anything that can chew or choke, remove all chemicals, lift cords, unplug anything electrical you have access to. They will get into anything when they get bored or anxious. Most dogs sleep practically the entire time you are away, when they are in a restricted protected area or in a cage. This is why they are so full of energy when you walk through the door! Give them a comfortable bed, some safe and sturdy toys or chew items, a couple of treats, and just enough water to wet their whistle.
10 tips to help your dog feel less anxious when he leaves the house are:
1. BOX / WIRE – A box is not as cavernous as an empty room or the whole house. Most dogs are quite comfortable, and surprisingly for some, they feel extremely safe in their crate. Inherently, for them it is a protected and safe lair.
2. DOOR: Some dogs don’t mind being restrained, as long as they can see what’s going on in the rest of the house. If that’s the case, a high-quality baby or dog gate is a great solution to the problem. Your dog won’t run around the house for a search and destroy mission, but he won’t feel rejected. It’s also a great way to keep the dog from getting underfoot, but feel included, when you have a house full of guests. Make sure your dog learns to respect the door before leaving him for an extended period of time.
3. PARTNER – Another dog would be great, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a dog. Many enjoy the company of any animal, be it a cat, a rabbit, or a bird. Interestingly, while living under the same roof, dogs often bond with these unnatural “members of the pack.”
4. ENTERTAINMENT: Find safe, quality, durable toys or chews to keep you busy. Rotate them so your dog expects something “new”.
5. NOISE – White noise works wonders. A radio, in another room, with the volume low, with soft music, a talk show or even the weather channel, gives your dog a feeling of calm and human companionship. It also helps filter out distracting outside noises.
6. OBEDIENCE TRAINING – Find a local trainer who applies training methods without positive reinforcement and without punishment. Spend quality time every day working on obedience skills with your dog, to build his self-confidence. They appreciate your undivided focus on them, and you get a well-behaved dog. It is a win-win situation.
7. EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE! – Tires your dog BEFORE putting him to sleep for the day. A brisk walk for 20 to 30 minutes, or a strenuous game of “FETCH” before quitting, will help you relax. A tired dog is a good dog!
8. HELLOS & GOOD BYES – Keep greetings and goodbyes quiet. Don’t make your entrance and exit melodramatic. Your dog feeds on your behavior and emotions. If they whine, whine, or bark when you leave, go back, make a firm correction, ignore them, and walk out the door.
9. CHANGE YOUR ROUTINE – Most of us are creatures of habit. We do not realize it, but unconsciously we follow a prescribed routine, before leaving the house. Dogs are very in tune with him. Change your routine daily, so that your dog does not get anxious, feeling your departure. Get your braces BEFORE you brush your teeth. Put on your shoes, then grab a magazine and act like you’re reading it or pour yourself a cup of coffee and sit down. Then get up and walk out the door. No goodbyes! When they see that you are not following your usual exit ritual, they will lower their guard and be less anxious.
10. DOG WALKER / DOG DAYCARE – If your dog must be left alone for 8 hours or more per day, consider using a dog walking service and / or enrolling him in a doggie daycare at least twice a week. Your dog will not only appreciate social interaction with humans and his playmates; breaks the monotony of their day and gives them something to look forward to.
Work to build your dog’s self-confidence and undo his anxiety of being left alone with brief separation exercises. Start with 5-10 minutes; then slowly lengthen the time. It takes a fervent commitment on your part, but reassure your dog, you will return to him.
SUMMARY: Ultimately, almost all dogs adapt to human routines. However, there are some who will never adapt to being left behind. To keep them, your house and belongings safe, definitely work on wire cage / kennel training. Your dog will gradually adapt.