Do you come home to an anxious dog or the trash can knocked over and its contents laid out across the kitchen floor? Boredom and separation anxiety in dogs may have similar behaviors, but are truly different problems requiring different solutions. It’s one of the main reasons why dogs are relinquished to shelters every year. Having a well structured routine may help to break the cycle of boredom and anxiety if used consistently.
Just like people, dogs can get bored with the same routine day after day. Dogs who are bored often look to engage themselves in activities to amuse themselves, which may lead to destruction such as chewing on furniture, ripping up wall-to-wall carpet (which I have personally dealt with) or getting into the trash.
Separation anxiety is your dog’s panic response to being left alone and may show signs of nervousness. Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety may be clingy, following their owner around the house, never leaving their side. They often greet their owners overly enthusiastically or show other signs such as: pacing, howling, barking or scratching at the door when you leave. They may have loose stools or eliminate in the home, have no interest in food while you are away, try to escape or exhibit excessive licking or body scratching.
The key is to start teaching your dog that leaving him alone can be a good thing. Some effective techniques include:
Departure & Arrivals – Don’t make a big deal before leaving or returning home. It’s much easier for them if you keep your departure and arrival low-key, calm, controlled and short. Offer a treat, say goodbye and leave.
Exercise – Every dog needs to receive appropriate physical and mental exercise daily. A nice, long walk or a hearty game of fetch will increase his ability to cope more and be more content to sleeping or relaxing while you are away.
Play Time – Hide small treats around the house and move his toys around, tucked into places he’ll search. This gives your dog an opportunity to do something while you’re gone and help eliminate boredom.
Kong Toys – Leave Kong toys stuffed with a variety of foods for him to enjoy as soon as you leave can help to re-focus his mind. You can find several recipes online. Some of my favorites include: peanut butter, cottage cheese and plain Greek yogurt. You can add in special treats for variety; bite size pieces of apple, cheese, frozen peas, green beans or dog treats. During hot summer days, pop one in the freezer, leave it overnight and offer it the next day as a cool treat. The possibilities are endless, just make certain you use dog friendly treats.
Feedings – Instead of placing a bowl of food down for you dog to dive in to, divide your dog’s meal into a couple of interactive puzzle toys. They are designed to release food gradually as your pet interacts with the toys and not only engages them in good physical activity but also provides some mental activity while they try to figure how to get the food out.
Crates – A crate can be a preventive tool. Introduced properly, dogs tend to feel safe and secure. Begin with a slow introduction. Leave the door open to allow for your dog to explore freely. Then move on to short episodes by closing the door with the dog inside and leaving the room. Slowly build up time, beginning with one minute and working up to 15-30 minutes.
Punishment – Punishment is never the answer, kindness is powerful.
Scent – Leave your dog a blanket or article of clothing that has your scent on it. This may comfort him, however, make sure it’s something you don’t mind being torn up.
Radio/TV – Leaving a home in silence is a signal to your dog. Before you depart, leave a light on along with a radio or TV with its volume on low, to provide some familiar sounds which may make your pet feel more comfortable.
Hire A Pet Sitter/Dog Walker – If your dog’s home alone for long periods of time, consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker to come in and play, give belly rubs or take your dog for a nice walk to break up his day.
Implementing some or all of the above diligently can be highly effective in producing a more relaxed and content pet. It’s also important to know that some medical conditions may cause many of the symptoms described and should be discussed with a professional for diagnosis.
Totally Tails Pet Care Services is a pet care company servicing Stanwood, Camano Island & Arlington, WA.