Yesterday my daughter and I traveled to her college apartment to start bringing some items there in preparation for the start of her third year of college. We were gone for several hours and we arrived home to one stressed and bored dog. Apparently my son’s mixed breed dog, who is the latest addition to our household, decided to destroy her memory foam bed and cover. It brought to mind how home alone time can cause your dog to exhibit stress and boredom – especially this time of year when schedules start to shift back to the end of vacations and the return to school.
Summertime can be the best time for the dog in your family because the kids are out of school and the dog gets more attention than he gets when school is in session. Coupled with other activities, it makes him a very happy puppy. However when September rolls around, and it becomes necessary to leave him home alone for some long lonely, days he may start getting into trouble when he’s alone for several hours after having enjoyed so much time with his family. You may see some behaviors manifest that indicate that he’s extremely unhappy with the change in schedule and the absence of his family. Perhaps he might do some chewing or barking. He may even take something that he never touched before – like a rug in the kitchen or some items off of the kitchen table. These are not necessarily signs of serious separation anxiety, but they certainly seem to indicate signs of boredom on your dog’s part.
How To Help Your Dog Adjust
There are some things that you can do to help alleviate some of the issues. You can make sure to keep arrivals and departures brief and emotion free. You should start practicing a week or two before school actually starts (if you have school-age children) by leaving your dog home for short periods and then increasing the length of time that you’re gone.
Don’t forget to give your dog something to do when you’re gone. There are some great doggy puzzles that you can load with a small amount of kibble inside, so as your dog plays, kibble or treats are dispensed a bit at a time. Perhaps a frozen Kong stuffed with some peanut butter or bananas would a terrific thing to keep your dog occupied. You can also arrange for a dog walker, or perhaps even a retired neighbor or friend to come over and take your dog outside or for a walk if you’re gone for several hours.
Make sure that before you leave, your dog gets plenty of exercise and playtime because a tired dog is a well behaved dog. You should also try leaving a television or radio on – preferably on a talk radio station to keep your dog company.
If you dog should happen to exhibit behavior that is more than just a few barks or soft whining, he may be experiencing some actual separation anxiety behavior. Some dogs experience extreme distress when they’re away from their owners and signs include pacing, barking, destructive chewing, soiling in the house (which had never exhibited prior). Some dogs can get so stressed that they exhibit digging, scratching at doors or windows and will try to escape their crates.
My Final Thoughts
Dogs that experience separation anxiety to a high level may end up injuring themselves in the process. This is because the dog is genuinely upset and needs professional help to cope with being alone. If this happens to be the case with your dog, then a visit to your vet is in order. Your vet may want to refer you to a behaviorist to help you with some desensitization and counter conditioning measures and with more serious cases he may actually prescribe medication to help your dog cope with his anxiety level.
I would love to hear your comments, feedback stories and ideas.
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