How do you know that it’s boredom that’s causing your dog to chew up the carpet? Yes, most people blame it all on boredom. But there might be another reason why your dog is acting out when you’re away. When a dog is scared, anxious, or stressed he is most likely to have separation anxiety.
Although, talked about as often as pet boredom, separation anxiety is a behavior issue known to dogs but is usually ignored. According to Nicholas Dodman, certified veterinary behaviorist, about 15% of the population of dogs in the US is known to have separation anxiety.
For dogs with this condition, anxiety hits when they see signs that the person they are attached to is about to leave. You have a daily routine to prepare for work, and your dog also keeps an eye on your actions. Being alone is the worst for a dog that suffers from this condition – they just crumble into a pool of anxiety and then the “bad” behavior starts.
The behavior issue normally goes unnoticed at first. It will start off with pacing, drooling, a little barking and whining when people leave the house. When not addressed, they will start becoming destructive. That’s when they’ll start chomping and scratching the carpet, and chewing up objects. And oh! Not to mention they also pee and poop inside the house when they get anxious. If the dog’s attachment is towards a single person, he may tend to refuse to eat and drink, and just be sad and weak while that person is away.
So how do you help your dog with his separation anxiety? First off, Contact a vet as soon as you notice something off with your dog’s behavior. This way the vet can do a thorough check and make sure that the behavior change is not caused by a bigger medical condition. If the vet confirmed that there aren’t any medical issues that could be causing the odd behavior, then it now lies on getting your dog comfortable even when he’s alone.
One thing you could do is to help him disassociate the departure cues from the actual departure. Let me explain it further for you. My dog reacts when I start putting on my shoes – that is his departure cue. When he sees me putting on my shoes he would get up and start pacing. To disassociate the cue from the actual departure, I had to go back to my room, fix my purse, or watch TV, after I put on my shoes. While I’m doing all those things he starts to calm down. I did this regularly, until he becomes comfortable with me leaving.
Another thing is to get him to like “departure time.” NO, he’s never going to like the fact that you’re leaving again. Make it a bit fun for him. Give him treats that he likes, or give him a toy – this toy should only be available during departure time, to make it more special and exciting. The toy needs to be something he can’t destroy and choke on while you’re away
When coming home and leaving make sure to greet him as calmly as possible. You don’t want him all worked up just before you step out of the house, neither do you want him jumping on you when you get home. Keeping your voice and your energy at a normal level, will help your dog treat arrival and departure as normal parts of the day. Therefore, he won’t feel so sad or upset when you leave.