Dear Pet Column,
My dog has a really hard time being left alone at home and becomes destructive in an attempt to escape. It is difficult for me to leave him, and I don’t know what to do.
Anxious Dog Dad
Don’t worry, there is definitely help for both you and your dog. Separation anxiety is one of the most common canine behavioral problems, affecting up to 30 percent of dogs. There is a range of symptoms for this, including hypervigilance and incessant pacing between windows and doors, barking, whining, and a spectrum of destructive behavior (that can be severe enough to lead to injury).
The risks of anxiety disorders in dogs far exceed annoying barking and shoe chewing as it can also lead to chronic physiological stress such as decreased immunity, increased infections, digestive disorders, weight gain, heart disease, etc.
Fortunately, there are a host of methods to address this issue depending upon the severity of the symptoms that usually being with exercise and energy needs. Vigorous exercise before being left at home is a great antidote. Additionally, enrichment activities such as brain engaging treat dispensers and puzzles can really give your pet a positive focus for their energy when alone.
Another focus is on creating a quiet and calm “safe space,” such as a dog crate or quiet room with the blinds drawn allowing your pet to feel safe and relaxed. Classical music promotes the tranquil environment, too (I prefer Bark, I mean Bach). Using calming scents such as lavender on bedding is also effective.
With extreme cases of separation anxiety some veterinarians prescribe medication (hopefully, just temporarily while you work on exercise and calming routines), but I suggest first trying more chemical-free options such as flower remedy essences like Rescue Remedy or canine specific CBD products.
Now let me ask you, does your moniker of Anxious Dog Dad mean dad of an anxious dog or anxious dad of a dog? The answer to this is quite important. You want to make sure you are not apprehensive about leaving your dog, which he will pick up on immediately and foil all your other efforts. You need to let go of your guilt and angst about leaving your dog and feel OK about it so that your dog can do the same.
I suggest establishing a calm routine for preparing your dog (and yourself) to be separated, as well as practicing leaving your dog without any emotional fuss. This allows your dog to feel as though leaving is normal and that you will be back.
Separation anxiety is tough on pets and people. It presents itself in varying levels of severity and can take a big commitment by a dog parent to get a pet through it. If your pet is experiencing problems in this area, give my staff here at Second Chance a call for additional resources and support.
My name is Mesa, a 2-year young cattle dog mix. I’m a bit shy initially, but once familiar with you, I will share my huge personality! I also love to play with dogs, although I don’t care for cats. I’m in search of a family needing a super sweet forever dog that likes to hike and cuddle. I would love to be your Valentine.
Second Chance Humane Society’s Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops have been servicing San Miguel, Ouray and Montrose counties for 27 years. Call 970-626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about our Emergency Response, Community Medical, Spay/Neuter, Volunteer or other services. View our shelter pets and services online at adoptmountainpets.org.