When you left the house to go to work that morning, you paid absolutely no attention to what might happen in your absence. But when you got back home that night, you were devastated upon knowing what did happen. First, there’s the second floor lady who complained the minute you parked your car in the driveway that your dog kept barking all day long and disturbed her big time. Then, as you turned the key into the lock and opened the squeaky door, you were shocked and understood you would have a ‘fun’ evening cleaning the mess. Your sweet little dog had turned into a monster during the day and ruined the sofa, chewed on your favorite shoes, peed on the rug, pulled the curtains on the floor and spread the whole content of the trash can in the kitchen...
If you ever felt that way, don’t despair. You are not alone. Thousands of dogs act that frustrating way while their master is away. And unfortunately, this is one the main reasons why so many masters abandon their pet.
First thing first, when you label a disorder, it’s already of some relief. That means the problem does exist and others have gone through the same... This problem is called separation anxiety. Now, here are a few tips to help you survive this nightmare and train your dog to your absence.
1) Do not punish your dog for what he did.
The first normal reaction a tired person coming home from work (and even a very rested and positive person!) would be tempted to have is anger. You might want to yell at the dog or punish him for all the mess he has caused in the house. So, here is my advice: please control yourself. No matter how upset you may be, punishing your dog will not only be useless because he won’t remember why he is being punished but is also very likely to aggravate the problem.
2) Acknowledge that this is a real problem to the dog as well.
Your dog is not faking it: He really misses you and he is bored in your absence. So he tries whatever he can to get your attention... and it works!!! In some way... So, knowing that your dog is suffering from a real disorder might help you control your temper when he misbehaves...
3) Do not let the dog sleep in your room.
He has to understand step by step (and it can be a long process, so please be patient!) that he cannot be with you 24 / 7. Train him to sleep in a different room. Make sure he is comfortable (give him a blanket, a basket, toys...) When you are about to go to bed, set him in that room, stay with him a little bit and leave. Now, here is the hardest part: if he whines, barks, cries, or all of the above, do not come back. Be firm. Be determined. He needs to understand that you too have a life and though you love him very much, your life does not necessarily revolves around his tiniest/fanciest(?) whims...
4) Before you leave the house or when you get home, ignore him.
Okay, that sounds cruel but it is not! If you are very excited to see him when you come home, it will only make your departure worse the next morning. If you realize you have a very specific routine every morning before you leave, fool your dog! Change the order in which you do things and then leave. Upon arrival, pretend he is invisible for half an hour. Make your departures and arrivals as little ritualistic as possible.
5) Be patient, be patient and yet again, be patient!
This kind of disorder can take a while to fade away. But be positive. Rejoice over any improvement. And quite honestly, there are many people out there who successfully trained their dogs to be independent enough when they are not home. So, lock your shoes in your bedroom, hide the trash can and buy second hand furniture in the meantime!
6) Get professional help.
If points 1 to 5 have not worked out well over a reasonable period of time, consult a professional dog trainer or ask your veterinarian for more tips and suggestions.
I have no doubt you love your dog but you do not want him to drive you crazy under any circumstances. So, apply these tips and you might see a big chunk of blue sky after the everlasting storm you think you are in...
Now, the ball is in your court. Have you ever experienced such a distressing situation with your dog? Have you tried some of the tips mentioned above? How successful have you been in the solving of that problem?