Because they are social animals, dogs hate being left alone. The most common of dog fears is separation anxiety.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, a dog wants to be with her pack, be it you, your family, another dog, a cat, or even a bird.
There is a sense of insecurity and vulnerability when a dog is alone.
Feeling abandoned, some will panic.
By relieving himself all over the house, a dog reassures himself this territory is his.
His path of destruction simply reduces boredom and separation anxiety, and doing so calms dog fears.
Dogs whine, bark, and howl intuitively, hoping you will hear and return to them. When separated in the wild, it is how they find each other. They have no concept of work, shopping, or school.
Understand your dog’s behavior
To your dog, each time you leave the house, you have gone out on a hunt without them and may never return.
A closed door to your dog is equivalent to plopping a boulder at the entrance of their den. Never put your dog in a room with a closed door.
Use a half door (less defining) or baby gate, so they can smell, see, hear, and sense they are not cut off from their comfort zone and environment.
You can take several steps to help your dog feel less anxious while you are gone and reduce dog fears.
First, dog-proof the area, just as you would for a child. Remove anything they can chew or choke on, remove all chemicals, and unplug anything electrical they can access.
They will get into anything when bored or feel anxious.
Most dogs sleep when you are gone in a protected, restricted area or crate.
That’s why they are so energetic when you walk through the door.
Give them a comfy bed, a few safe, tough toys or chew items, a couple of treats, and just enough water to wet their whistle.
10 suggestions to fight dog fears when you leave the house
1. Crate or kennel
A crate is not as cavernous as an empty room or the entire house. Most dogs are pretty comfortable and, surprisingly to some, feel extremely secure in their crate.
Inherently, to them, it’s a sheltered, secure den.
Confident dogs do not mind being restricted as long as they can see what’s happening in the rest of the house.
If that’s the case, a high-quality baby or dog gate is an excellent solution to the problem.
Your dog won’t have the run of the house for a search-and-destroy mission, yet they won’t feel rejected.
A gate is also a great way to keep the dog from being underfoot yet feel included when you have a house full of guests. Ensure your dog learns to respect the gate before leaving them for any extended period.
Another dog would be terrific, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a dog.
Many enjoy the company of any animal, be it a cat, rabbit, or bird. Oddly, while living under the same roof, dogs often bond with these unnatural “pack members.”
Find safe, durable toys or chew items to help keep him occupied.
Rotate the toys you use so your dog looks forward to something “new.
White noise works wonders.
A radio, in another room, with the volume set low, on soft music, a talk show, or even the weather channel, offers your dog a sense of tranquility and human companionship.
It also helps filter distracting outside noises.
6. Obedience training
Find a local trainer who applies positive reinforcement and punishment-free methods of training.
Spend quality time daily working on obedience skills with your dog to build their self-confidence.
They appreciate your undivided focus on them, and you get a well-behaved dog. It’s a win-win situation.
7. Exercise, exercise, exercise
Tire your dog out BEFORE you put them up for the day.
A vigorous 20-30 minute walk or a tiring game of fetch before leaving them will help take the edge off.
A tired dog is a good dog.
Keep the hellos and goodbyes low-keyed.
Don’t make your entrance or exit melodramatic. Your dog feeds off your behavior and emotions.
If they whimper, whine, or bark as you leave, go back, make a firm correction, then ignore them and walk out the door.
9. Change your routine
Nearly all of us are creatures of habit. We don’t realize it, but unconsciously we follow a patterned routine before leaving the house.
Dogs are very tuned in to it. Change your routine daily so your dog does not get anxious, sensing your departure.
Get your keys before your brush your teeth. Put your shoes on, then grab a magazine and act as if you are reading it or pour yourself a cup of coffee and sit.
Then get up and walk out the door. No goodbyes!
They will drop their guard and be less anxious when they see you are not going through your regular departure ritual.
10. Use a dog walker or doggie daycare
If your dog must be left alone for eight or more hours daily, consider using a dog walking service or enrolling them in a doggie daycare at least twice a week.
Not only will your dog appreciate the social interaction with humans and dog playmates, but it will also break the monotony of their day and give them something to look forward to.
Work to build up your dog’s self-confidence and break down dog fears of being left alone through short separation exercises.
Begin with 5-10 minutes; then slowly lengthen the time. It takes a genuine commitment on your part, but it reassures your dog you will return to them.
Bottom line: Fight dog fears
Ultimately, nearly all dogs adjust to human routines. However, a few will never change from being left behind.
Work on crate training to reduce dog fears and keep them, your house, and your belongings safe. Your dog will gradually get adjusted to it.
Karen A. Soukiasian owns Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.