As the nights get longer and the mornings get colder, back-to-school and pumpkin spice lattes are upon us. Autumn is a time of transition for the whole family; including your dog. Going from busy summer days to an empty house can bring out symptoms of separation anxiety that you may need to manage.
It’s not fully understood why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety, and some do not, but it’s important to remember that destructive behaviors are a result of your dog’s panic response. Your dog is not trying to punish you for leaving.
Separation anxiety can be triggered by:
- A dog familiar to having a constant human companion is left alone for the first time, or the first time in a while
- A change in routine or the structure of a family
- A traumatic event occurs from the dog’s point of view (such as a being in a shelter, or boarded up in a kennel)
Although these events may be difficult to avoid, you can use the following tips to help ease your dog’s minor separation anxiety:
Lots of exercise: A tired dog is a happy dog. Get into a routine of exercise before you leave for work or school in the morning to tire your dog out. Exercise creates endorphins in the body, which will give your dog a feeling of happiness to set him/her up nicely for the day.
Be aware of your actions during arrivals and departures: Dogs sense your energy through subtle body cues. If you are anxious about leaving your dog, you can be certain that your dog will pick up on this! As difficult as it may be, try to ignore your dog for a few minutes before leaving and returning home – no touching, no talking, and no eye contact. Save the hugs and petting for a more relaxed time.
Create a safety word: Train your dog to understand that a word like “return” or “relax” paired with closing the front door means that you will be back soon. Practice this with positive reinforcement a few times a day. This may take some time and commitment, but gradually, your dog will learn to be more comfortable with your disappearance.
Turn on an audiobook: Recent studies have shown that audiobooks can have a calming effect on dogs and help reduce stress when their humans are gone.
Invest in doggie day care: The right doggy day care facility can give your dog a lot of exercise and play time while you are away. Even doing this once or twice a week can help with destructive behavior while home alone. Make sure to do your research on the day care before leaving your dog there. You are your dog’s best advocate, so don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.
These recommendations are based on minor separation anxiety. A more severe problem may need some desensitization training. This can take some time, but if you find a great dog trainer, it is worth the investment!
For an inside look at your dog’s world when you aren’t there, check out the Wagz Smart Collar. Live HD video streaming and two-way audio will help you both deal with back to school separation anxiety in a healthy way. www.wagz.com