Have you ever had a velcro-dog?
Or know of someone who has?
I mean the type of dog who, if left outside, will follow you around the house, jumping up at window sills trying to catch a glimpse of you through the glass.
The type who might bark or whine incessantly, tear the clothes from the clothes line, eat everything they can get their teeth into or rip up your mattress when you leave the house.
There can also be wider issues associated with constant barking which can get the neighbours offside.
We breed our dogs to idolise us then head off to work or social engagements, leaving them pining and alone for much of their lives.
So it’s not surprising that separation anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses of dogs. Sadly, many of these dogs end up abandoned in shelters - alone!
Luckily, separation anxiety is manageable and to some extent preventable.
Treatment focuses on enrichment and relaxation and every dog needs a tailored approach.
However, there are some key principles of helping your canine friend to come to terms with your absence:
- Start with a tired dog who feels like they’ve engaged with the world. Before you leave, take your dog out of the house to meet other dogs, chase a ball, or just sniff around.
- Prevent anxiety wind-up by mixing up your leaving routine. Pick up the keys while giving your dog a treat when you don’t have to go anywhere.
- Set up a safe den - a quiet room or a crate with your old jumper in it. The less stimulus here the better. Play classical music to dull the intrusion of outside noise.
- Anytime your dog is left alone, hide toys and food puzzles around the home and garden. Before you leave, make your dog ‘Sit, stay…’ Then - ‘Okay!’ - you release them as you calmly head out the door. If their main meal is contained within these puzzle toys, or hidden about the garden, all the better. Make sure you remove these toys as soon as you come home to maintain novelty.
- Break up the week with doggie day care, dog walkers, or dog sharing days.
- Consider medication to reduce anxiety if your dog is severely affected. As part of a larger treatment regime, it can be very helpful.
Generally, the sooner you intervene, the happier you’ll both be.
For more animal and pet advice contact your local vet clinic.