There are times when you have to go out and leave your dog home alone for long periods of time, which isn’t only difficult for you but also for your dog. While we tend to feel guilty for leaving them alone, our dogs can become anxious and lonely, causing them to act out by chewing on furniture, barking, urinating, and even defecating around the house.
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When this happens, it’s likely caused by separation anxiety, which is fairly common in dogs. It can usually be triggered by certain situations, such as when a dog who feels extremely attached to its owner experiences extreme stress from the time they’re left alone to the time you come back home.
This emotional disorder can be caused by being abandoned by a previous owner, a change in environment or routine, or the sudden absence of a family member that they’re used to seeing.
Fortunately, this is something that you can help your pup get through with a little effort, training, and love.
Signs that Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Before you learn how to treat your pup’s separation anxiety, it’s important to know the symptoms so you can spot them easily and work on them as soon as possible.
They Start Barking and Howling
If your dog has separation anxiety, it might start barking and howling even as you step out of your home and won’t stop until you’re back inside. If you notice that your dog rarely barks or howls but seems to persistently do so every time you’re out, this can be a sign of separation anxiety.
They Pace Around the House
Even for people, pacing around a room is a sign of anxiety or distress. Dogs with separation anxiety may mimic this by pacing around in circles or walking back and forth continuously. In most cases, dogs who don’t do this when their owner is around may also suffer from separation anxiety.
They Try to Escape
When we feel like we’re in a dangerous or worrying situation, this triggers a fight-or-flight response in us humans. On the other hand, dogs might react by trying to escape the house by digging through doors and windows. This can result in your pup getting broken teeth, damaged nails, or wounding their paws. By doing this, they can also end up damaging your doors and leaving scratches in different areas of your home.
They Experience Coprophagia
Also known as coprophagy, this is when your dog defecates then proceeds to eat his or her feces out of anxiety and stress. Some dogs with separation anxiety can end up doing this when their owner isn’t around, making them sick.
They Destroy Household Objects or Chew on Furniture
Dogs may dig, scratch, and chew on household objects or furniture, which can damage your house in the process. Similar to dogs trying to escape the home, it can cause them to injure themselves in the process.
How to Help Manage Your Dog’s Anxiety and Redirect Their Habits
There are different ways to help your dog feel less anxious when they’re left alone at home, but one of the most effective ways of doing so is by training your dog to feel comfortable when you’re away and letting them know that you aren’t leaving forever.
Tire Out Your Dog Before Leaving
Before you leave, consider taking your dog to the park or on a short walk to tire him or her out once you get home. You can also make them engage in different activities that can tire him or her out mentally. These include puzzles that can also help you keep your pup occupied while you’re away.
Slowly Get Them Used to Being Alone at Home
While this may take some time, you can slowly ease your pup into being left alone for long periods of time. You can do this by starting small and leaving them alone for 5 seconds, and as your pup starts getting used to it, you can extend the time until you can easily leave the house without your dog making a fuss.
It also helps to desensitize them from the actions that signify that you’ll be going out, like putting on your shoes, wearing your coat, grabbing the keys, etc. You can do this by reenacting what you do before you leave, but not actually leaving and instead, spending time at home dressed up like you’re prepared to go out.
Battle Excessive Clinginess
Clinginess can be an endearing trait for pet owners, but sometimes you may feel like you want to be left alone. One way to make your pup less clingy is by teaching them to stay properly and rewarding them when they do so successfully. You can also allow them to be more independent by placing them in their own area of the house even when you’re at home.
There will be times when you have no other choice but to leave your dog home alone for short or long periods of time, whether it’s to go on a short trip or to visit the grocery store. Knowing how to manage your pup’s anxiety by making being home alone comfortable for them will help you feel less guilty whenever you leave the house and allow your dog to feel more reassured that you’re going to be back for him or her soon enough.