Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety: small breed dogs and otherwise. There will come a time when you have to leave your dog alone. Know what you can do to prevent the destructive behaviors caused by seperation anxiety.
Why does my dog act out when he's left alone?
You don't like to think of your dog as being spiteful, but that's exactly the way it seems when you come home to see your belongings chewed to bits, houseplants tipped, puddles of pee on the floor and food dishes dumped.
I know how frustrating these behaviors are, but there are ways to control your dog's fear of being left alone.
Crates aren't always the answer.
Many people choose to keep their dogs in crates for long hours everyday because they can't trust Fido to be good, but doing this is actaully detrimental to the mental and physical health of your dog. Being alone in a crate for 8 or 9 hours everyday could actually be causing the neurotic behaviors like chewing, digging, scratching, barking, etc.
If you choose to crate your dog while you're at work, consider hiring a dog walker to give your pet a break from the crate. A simple walk in the afternoon could be all your dog needs to feel better about being home alone.
Here are some great methods (that really work) to keep your dog happy while you're gone...
Starting gradually, get your dog used to the idea of being alone in the house. Train him for this by disappearing for a very short time. Give him something to do while you're gone. Since he can't work cross-word puzzles, leave his toys around for him to play with and give him something safe to chew.
Return quickly and confront him for undesirable behaviors by lowering your voice and saying "no".
Try again in fifteen minutes. Return quickly (within a minute) and confront him again using a displeased tone.
Praise him enthusiastically, give him treats and tell him he's a "good dog" when he behaves.
Also use the term "good dog" when you leave (or whatever term you choose) so he'll have a word to associate with the behavior you expect.
Adjust the time that you leave him according to his destructive routines. If he begins chewing as soon as you leave, only leave for a few seconds.
Repeat this cycle for a couple of days and gradually increase the time that you're gone. Giving him confidence that you'll eventually return is a great way to keep separation anxiety to a minimum.
Here are some other great tips...
Never make a big deal of your departure.
Separation anxiety can also occur before you even leave.
My dogs seem to have a sixth sense for knowing when I'm leaving. They follow me from room to room, whine, jump and bark at me. They love to go bye-bye, but have come to understand that they can't go with me every time I leave the house.
I leave my shoes by the door, otherwise I'd never make it out of my bedroom holding them. Dogs are smart. They will come to associate being left alone with the sound of keys rattling and shoes being put on.
Since you can't always leave your shoes and keys outside, leaving them by the door will keep you from tripping over your dog while you're trying to make your way out.
Don't make an issue out of your leaving by over-comforting your dog. He doesn't know what your saying for the most part, so playing with him before you leave or having long, drawn-out goodbyes will only excite him and leave him that much more worked up and dissapointed when you're gone
A gate set up in door ways limiting their access to certain parts of the house can help to protect some of your possessions from their wrath. A linoleum floor is easier to clean if your dog has an accident that may or may not be caused by separation anxiety.
Don't over exaggerate your excitement on arrival with too many kisses and hugs.
You want your dog to be confident that you're always going to return, no matter how long you must be gone. Making them anxious for your arrival by thinking this is play time will only make their anxiety for your return that much worse.
I don't like to leave my dogs any more than they like to see me leave. I'd love to take them with me, but leaving them in a hot car while I'm in the grocery for an hour, is not only unfair to the dog, it can be dangerous as well. And... Separation anxiety can be displayed on the seats of your car as easy at it can be at home.
These things have worked for me and sharing this information has helped many of my friends with dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. If you have discovered a way to keep your dog from suffering nervous behaviors while you're gone, drop us an Email.
Housebreaking small breed dogs can be difficult. To learn more about housetraining or if you'd like some tips on teaching good behavior, please visit our training page.
If you plan to crate train your dog, Please check out the crate training techniques outlined in this video.