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If you’re a dog owner, you’ll have seen and felt firsthand how special the bond between woman and puppy is. You’re the kind of person that loves a cuddle, a snuggle, and a face lick at the end of the day. And your pooch is an inherently social animal that has become so attached to you it’s borderline obsessive. It’s the best feeling in the world.
But it also makes leaving them home alone more traumatic than an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and it’s worse for them than it is for you.
Believe it or not, a lot of breeds suffer from separation anxiety, which is that inability to be left on their own without doing that tear-jerking whine you can’t resist. It’s also a condition that can actually worsen with time if you don’t learn how to treat it. That whining you can’t bear can turn into excessive barking, vomiting, the destruction of your home and, yup, soiling.
It’s heartbreaking, right? Of course it is. That’s why we’ve been speaking to a few dog whisperers (dog experts) and gotten their top tips on how to reduce the issue of separation so that you can start to leave your dog home alone without hearing both your hearts crack and shatter.
Ease Them Into The Being Alone Thing
One of the worst things you can do is kiss your pup on the head, kiss them goodbye, lock the door behind you and then leave for a full working day. Instead, try and slowly ease your doggy into this new lifestyle. It’s just the best way to start tackling any anxiety issues they may have. Start by leaving them in a room on their own for a few minutes at a time, and then slowly start increasing the amount of time. Leave them in the kitchen for five minutes, then ten, then fifteen, and keeping adding onto the time until you’re able to leave the house for a little bit. Once you’ve got this down, you can then start to leave the house for longer stretches, right up to the point where you can go to work without guilt and they can entertain themselves without shedding a tear.
Dogs Love A Safe Room
We don’t mean you have to create a panic room, where your puppy slaps a big red button on the floor and shutters fall over the windows and a certain room in the house becomes protected by eight-inches of compounded steel. What we mean is: create a place in your home where your dog can feel totally safe when you’re not around. It could be a dog bed under a table with lots of toys, or a crate in the hallway they can cozy up in, or an entire room where they can go from sofa to sofa as happy as Larry. So long as they have somewhere they can feel relaxed and comfy while you’re out, you’ll be onto a winner.
Don’t Keep Them Cooped Up
One of the things that can make a dog feel anxious about being left alone is the fact they can’t get out of the house. They’re cooped up and that can start to make them panic (in the same way it would make you panic). The solution is to make your garden a safe area too, which is easily done by visiting Atkins today and asking them about their invisible, underground pet fencing. It’s a total game changer. Pair it with your current fence or leave it entirely open, it won’t matter with this solution. You’ll be able to pop a dog-flap into your back door and leave safe in the knowledge that your dog will be safe and entertained for the entire time you’re gone. It’s a nice feeling and a great way to overcome any issues of separation anxiety.
Use A Specially Scented Diffuser
There’s a brand out there called Adaptil. If you haven’t heard of them already, you need to write that name on a piece of paper and stick it to the back of your front door. Why? Because they’ve developed a diffuser (and a spray) that’s been scientifically proven to calm dogs that are showing signs of anxiety and separation issues. They get the most out of it, try using their spray to cover their dog bed or safe place, and then plug in the diffuser in the room where your dog tends to spend the most time alone. Just maybe plug it in out of reach, say on a counter or something. That way you won’t run the risk of your destructive dog wrecking it and becoming the master of their own downfall.
Tire Your Pup Out Before You Leave
Despite the obvious, nothing in this world is worse than leaving a bundle of energy locked in a house while you head out for whatever reason. That’s a bad idea. That’s when their energy will turn into anxiety and they’ll start freaking out at your absence. Thankfully, the solution is super-simple. Before you leave the house, get your dog to burn off as much energy as possible. Don’t look for excuses to avoid exercise.
Take them on a nice long stroll. Let them run around in circles. Play a game of tennis ball fetch or put them on a treadmill. Anything that will see them feel shattered by the time you leave. But before you wave goodbye to your panting and lethargic pooch, make sure there are lots of toys left out for them, especially a food puzzle. These things are great at keeping dogs occupied for that little bit longer.
- Pop The Radio On For Them
They probably aren’t that interested in hearing the newest episode of The Archers. Which is because their vocabulary probably doesn’t stretch that far. But they still like their senses to be tickled in order to avoid going mad with boredom. Much like us humans. Podcasts, radio, audiobooks, television, anything that will give them a bit of noise. It’s so much more distracting than silence, that’s for sure. To make this more effective, try using one of these things (preferably the radio one) when you’re doing your training sessions and leaving the room-slash-house for a few minutes at a time. It will help them get used to it. And, who knows, maybe they’ll be really into your favorite shows by the time you get home. That would be cool, huh?
Good Behaviour Deserves A Good Reward
If there is one thing that dogs love more than anything else in this world it’s a doggy treat and a load of praise lavished on to them. It’s the language of dogs. The end. So make sure you throw these kinds of rewards their way whenever they demonstrate relaxed and calm behavior. It will reinforce this is good. Our advice: take them to their safe place, ask them to lie or sit and then give them a tickle under their chin and their favorite snack once they get into this position.
On the other end of the scale, do not punish them for any bad behavior they may have shown while you were out. They miss you when you’re gone, that’s all. That means any reprimanding will have the adverse effect and see their anxious condition get worse. It’ll be totally confusing for them. Instead, run through the reward and praise thing again with them.
Make Coming Home Absolutely Perfect
As hard as it can be, try not to make a fuss about leaving and try not to get too excited about coming home. We know this is going to be more impossible than anything else on earth. But you really need to try and quash your emotions (for now) and make out that neither the leaving or returning is a big deal. The aim is to keep these moments of the day as calm and quiet as humanly possible.
A simple ‘goodbye’ and a kiss on the head when you leave followed by a quiet hello and ruffle of their head when you get back will really help your dog get used to their alone time. It will stop them from feeling sad when you’re gone and help them understand there’s nothing wrong with it. Then, after you’ve been home for about fifteen minutes to a half-hour, you can get all snuggly and cuddly with them like you normally would. That should stop them from joining the dots.
Dogs are emotional creatures. That’s what makes them such amazing companions. It’s what gives them that ability to lift our spirits on our most rubbish days, makes the mornings that little bit more amazing and home that huge bit more homely. It’s their scent, the eyes, the demeanor, love, affection and the way they never judge. They just want to make you happy. That’s what’s so amazing about dogs. But it’s also what makes it so hard to leave them alone. Hopefully, though, the tips above will help. And, if not, you can always get a dog walker or someone you trust to check in on them during the day.