You brought your new puppy home just a couple of weeks ago, and after taking some time off to bond, it’s time for you to go back to work. Unfortunately, your office isn’t pet friendly, so you have to keep your young, hairy charge at home.
You take your puppy out to the side yard you have made for him, complete with a gated fence, patch of grass, water bowl and dog house. You even splurged on a mister so the pup doesn’t get too hot in the summer months. As soon as you lock the gate behind you, he starts to yip that sweet (though shrill) puppy bark. You feel awful leaving him, but you have to get work; you have a fur baby to provide for now!
After a distracted workday wondering how your puppy is doing, you get home to hear your puppy barking and find a note taped to your door: “Your dog barked all day. If it doesn’t stop, I’ll go to the HOA,” signed, annoyed neighbor. Great, your neighbors are heartless cowards (who leaves an anonymous note?!) and your dog had a bad day.
After bringing him in from the side yard, your pup has velcroed himself to you; you can’t even go to the bathroom without him crying and pawing at the closed door. Now you know: your dog has separation anxiety.
Here are three ways to help your dog conquer his separation anxiety, not to mention get your neighbors off your back.
To your puppy, your leaving him alone is a negative experience that causes anxiety. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) writes that “counterconditioning is a treatment process that changes an animal’s fearful, anxious or aggressive reaction to a pleasant, relaxed one instead. It’s done by associating the sight or presence of a feared or disliked person, animal, place or situation with something really good, something the dog loves. Over time, the dog learns that whatever he fears actually predicts good things for him.”
To help condition your puppy to feel calm and comfortable with you leaving the house, you can place in the side yard a new toy, preferably one that rewards him. There are several dog toy puzzles that once completed reward the pup with a treat. If the puppy gets a treat when you leave, he’ll be more excited about the treat than worried about you leaving.
Surround Your Dog with the Familiar
Dogs, much like human children, thrive on routine and the familiar. If you put your dog in a space associated with discipline or loneliness, they will suffer from anxiety. Fill the space with your pup’s favorite toys. Get your dog matching dog beds for each area in the house; that way it feels like it’s his space too. To help him further, put down blankets or other items that smell like you. By laying down an old shirt or blanket you cuddle under together, your puppy will feel more comfortable because it will feel like you are there with him. PAWS New England says that this helps with crate training too!
See a Veterinarian
Some dogs are more prone to separation than others, and no matter how many different things you try to settle their nerves, it can seem like nothing is working. If this is the case with your dog, it’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your dog’s vet will be able to prescribe an exercise regimen or medication (maybe both) that’ll help your dog quiet his mind and get back to feeling like the happy-go-lucky mutt he is!
Our dogs are family. If your pup is exhibiting signs of separation anxiety, try the tips above to help him beat it!