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If you leave your pooch alone for extended periods of time (anywhere from 3-8 hours) on a regular basis, he will likely experience separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is especially prevalent among puppies who were recently taken away from their biological mothers and are adjusting to life outside of the litter.
While it can be heartbreaking to watch a pup suffer from this mental health issue, it can also be destructive to your home and put intense stress on the important relationship you should be building with your pet. Separation anxiety manifests itself in your dog misbehaving in a variety of ways including but not limited to destroying furniture, peeing and pooping in the house in unexpected places, nonstop barking, or all of the above. Given the fact that many people have to leave their dogs unattended for long periods of time due to work obligations or lifestyle, the question then becomes how to work through separation anxiety and make life for your pup (and you) as comfortable as possible.
Select the Breed Carefully
Certain breeds are more prone to anxiety as they require constant companionship. If you don’t have a puppy yet, while you look, ask PuppySpot’s puppy counselors about which breeds are best for you and your family’s personal lifestyle. Be upfront and frank about your regular weekly schedule and how much time you’re able to devote to being present with your pet. This information is crucial in determining the right breed for you.
Wean Your Pooch off Anxiety
If you already have a pup who is battling anxiety, it’s imperative to implement training tactics to get him used to your absence. Start with a few minutes at a time of putting your dog in another room out of sight and then reward him with treats at consistent intervals. Slowly increase alone time to 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes. Then go up 1, 2, 3, 4 hours. If your dog starts to bark or become destructive, don’t show yourself, but rather say “bad dog.” Showing yourself only reinforces the barking and destructive behavior.
Keep Your Pup Well Occupied
Once your pooch gets used to being alone, make sure he has plenty of toys to play with to keep him busy and content. Another trick to help ease your pup’s attachment is to put a used shirt of yours (preferably one you’ve sweated heavily on, then dried) in his space or bed so that he feels you’re close by and is comforted by your scent.
Consider Doggie Daycare
By enrolling your pooch in a doggie daycare program, he will have the opportunity to be immersed in social activity and distracted throughout the day by other dogs and caretakers. While this option can be expensive, if you choose a daycare which doubles as a training center, you may feel it’s worth the investment (and peace of mind).
Go High Tech
Another alternative to help your pup acclimate to his solitary surroundings (and again, to give you peace of mind) is to wire your home for remote camera access. All you need is a personal computer, laptop, or tablet with a camera and internet connectivity. Place it in a location where your dog can easily be visible and equally as important, where the device is visible to your dog. You can then set up a system where you can remotely access the camera of the unit at your home with your PC or mobile device. This way you and your pooch see each other and can interact. For best results, use a web cam that you can remotely manipulate.
When you do finally get home, take your pooch out of his crate or confined space, give him a big hug and immediately take him out for a walk or play with him. Your pooch waited for you and now he deserves your undivided love and attention.