Sunday, 18 November 2007

Don't leave me - part 2

Dogs with separation anxiety exhibit behaviour problems when they are left alone. The most common of these behaviours are: digging, scratching at doors or furniture, howling, barking, urination and defecation. These behaviours are not an attempt by the dog to punish or seek revenge on his owner for leaving him alone. Nor is it boredom. It is part of a panic response.
His anxiety is the result of the separation from his master not merely the result from being left alone. If your dog is a sufferer, these are some simple tips:

What NOT to do?
-Punish the dog as soon as you come into the house. Punishing will actually increase his separation anxiety.
-Getting another pet as a companion. The dog wants his master as a companion not another animal.
-Putting the dog in a crate. This will not calm him but increase his panic responses.
-Training the dog. This is a paradox. Formal training is, of course, a good idea but in this case the dog is not being disobedient nor does he show lack of training. It is a severe panic response.

What to do then?
-Keep arrivals and departures low-key. Ignore the dog – and this is difficult – for a few minutes when you get home before patting him.
-Leave the dog with an item of that smells of you. An old t-shirt you’ve slept in, for instance.
-Leave the radio or television on when you leave the house.
-Train your dog to stay by himself in the house and not to follow your every step. Leave him in another room whilst you do the ironing, for instance.
-Pretend to go out. Put on your coat and take your car keys and go out of the door. Return within the minute. Repeat this frequently during the day. Once the dog has accepted this, increase the time you have gone. Associate this with reassuring words such as “I’ll be back”.

I am often asked about this problem. Invariably this occurs in puppies or young dogs or adopted dogs and which are left alone whilst there owners are at work or out all day.
I do not take very kindly to this. What is the point of having a dog in such a case?
A dog needs companionship, needs to interact with humans, needs to be walked, needs to be stimulated and needs to be safe in the knowledge his master will return.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Excellent post and excellent advice. I am lucky with Simi, I think because at the beginning I instinctively only ever went out for a few minutes at a time and when I was working she accepted it. But if I had to stay on longer for a meeting, I would always ask a nice neighbour to pop in a few times and I did the same for her and her dog. Rescued dogs are difficult, because they have already been through trauma - I once had one who would be fine when I was out but who would get destructive if I was on the phone! - I suppose he rightly thought that once I was home, he should have all my attention! I agree - your dog wants YOU as a companion.

jmb said...

Well I had two dogs while I was working and had no trouble with leaving them. The first one did not travel in the car well so was even left when I had to go out on the weekend. The second one came everywhere with me and stayed in the car happily while I was in the store. However she did migrate to the driver's seat while I was gone.
When my husband retired a year before me, she transferred from being my dog to his dog because he was home all the time.

Winchester whisperer said...

There are quite a few dogwalkers in Hyde Park. They look after about 10 dogs each and those dogs seem to really enjoy being out with one another rather than being cooped up, home alone.

Mopsa said...

The day I started working from home I plotted to get my first dog. Now there are two and they make my heart glad. They don't particularly like being left (a trip in the car is a very favoured activity and they would like to come too, please), but they are fine and settled, and are always delighted to see me home. And I miss them terribly when I go away.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful advice and so very true to my lovely collie, Sparky. I have written about her many times during the past few months, she is now 7 months old, very boisterous and absolutely adorable. She and our other dog, Molly, both border collies, are working dogs, i.e. sheep dogs. Sparky is a red & white and already showing signs of amazing intelligence although we have had some problems with her, ours I think, not hers. Molly is very laid back and a complete peach. Both dogs love us unconditionally as we do them. We will be sending Sparky away for a couple weeks in the near future to be professionally trained as a working dog because neither the farmer or I are qualified and she has such a temperament that really needs to be calmed. Plus she has the makings of a champion. The dog trainer wants one of her litter, we were thinking of breeding from her next year. She is currently in her first season.

I am so glad I have come across your blog, thank you for visiting me.

Best wishes, Crystal xx

Fennie said...

Hello Europdog. Yes I recognise the syndrome. Our lovely Labrador - Tiger - so called because he was long and thin like a Tiger and had a light stripe on his flank, demolished various things as a pup, including some very expensive wallpaper in a friends house. Wish I had then the benefit of your advice. He was fine when he got older, though always sulked if we were out too long.

LittleBrownDog said...

Really interesting - I think with a lot of canine behaviour issues we need to look at the problem from the dog's point of view. Friends sometimes laugh at me for bothering to leave the radio on for my dog, but I really think he appreciates it and recognises certain programmes such as the science programme which comes on on Thursdays before his dog walker arrives to take him out and the five o'clock news programme, which coincides with his supper. I hate to think of the number of dogs left alone for long working days - no company, no fresh water, and they can't even pop out to the loo when they need to.

VioletsVintage said...

Very useful information. Sometimes humans can create a problem when they get a new dog during their vacation. They are home all the time during the animals first week in their new home and then 'poof' the humans disappear. It helps the dogs adjustment to the new environment if you leave him alone during his first days there too!

Hannah Velten said...

I totally agree - why have a dog if you're not going to be around for most of the day? It's a form of cruelty, in my opinion. That's why - unfortunately - I don't have a dog at the moment...

Eurodog said...

Thank you all for your comments.
It seems we all agree on this.