(WTNH) — The whole family’s schedule changes when the kids go back to school. This can be especially difficult on your pet! Rich and Vicki Horowitz of Bark Busters answer questions on preventing separation anxiety.
What should people look for?
Some of the signs that our dog may have some separation anxiety include:
Constantly following you around the house
Persistent barking, howling, chewing or whimpering when you leave
Toileting in the house only when left alone
Seem anxious prior to your leaving
Trying and preventing you from leaving
Pacing back and forth or around in circles
With everyone going to work or school during the day, dogs left alone can become stressed, often resulting in destructive behaviors and endless barking. What can people do to help reduce the potential of separation anxiety?
Pay less attention to to your furry friend. While your dog may be the center of attention when the kids are home all day, you need to change this scenario so that your dog can adjust more quickly to the quiet time.
Begin by separating your dog from the kids and the rest of the family. For example, if you frequently take your dog with you to run errands, leave your dog at home.
Practice leaving the house: Go through the motions of leaving the house, go out the door, but then come right back in again. The dog will cease associating the routine of your leaving the house with your departure. This will help your dog to be more relaxed when you actually leave.
When you leave, don’t confuse your dog by saying in a sweet voice, “It’s okay, we’ll be home soon. Be good.” If the dog is feeling concerned that you’re leaving, your happy, high-pitched voice can make it think it’s okay to feel anxious. Dogs are pack animals and so they expect their leaders to be strong when they leave the pack. Therefore, ignore your dog for several minutes before you leave.
What can people do to avoid or overcome separation anxiety, when children go back to school?
Before you leave the house, do some training to tire your dog mentally. When you get ready to leave, try not to exhibit any guilty or nervous feelings. You want your dog to know you are the leader and are calm and assertive.
When you leave the house, give your dog a favorite toy stuffed with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish. Your dog might like a toy stuffed with frozen 100% canned pumpkin. When you come home, remove this toy so your dog begins to associate your leaving with something enjoyable.
If your dog suffers from more severe separation anxiety, you might need to start with shorter separations and gradually increase the time over many weeks of daily sessions.
Dogs are natural foragers who enjoy looking for food on the ground-and will literally spend hours doing so. Scatter their food around prior to leaving. Try hiding a few treats so your dog spends extra time looking for them. Always provide lots of fresh, clean water to keep your dog well hydrated.
A crate is an excellent tool for training – acclimate your dog to the crate so that your dog sees it as a safe haven. Place comfortable bedding and favorite toys in the crate and continue to crate your dog periodically until it looks at the crate as it’s shelter.