Separation anxiety in dogs is more common than you think. Every time you leave, your dogs have no idea when or if you’re coming back; every dog reacts differently but some get worried and display anxious behaviour.
This can be through howling/barking, destroying bedding/toys/even parts of your house, excessive salivating. They can let out all their worries in different ways. Wilma showed clear signs of this as soon as I brought her home as a pup. I wanted to crate train as it was easiest for me with a tiny puppy and an adult dog. It became quite clear her breeder had never introduced crates to her so it was a whole new experience.
Whenever I left her for short periods of time I would dread what I came back to. At first I would come back to a huge puddle of saliva covering the floor outside of her crate, all of her blankets and bedding would be soaked from it as well. She’d then be panting and be bursting for a drink after emptying her bowl in her crate and had done so much howling and panting. As she grew she started to destroy her bedding alongside this, it was just heartbreaking to see how upset she got when left alone.
Unfortunately crate training wasn’t for her, so after a couple of months I gave up. But it really does work for some dogs so do whatever suits them best. It’s a safe space for them & some enjoy having their own area. I don’t give the dogs the run of the house when home alone, they only have access to the hall which is where their beds are and where they sleep at night. As soon as I left Wilma out of her crate she was so much happier, she could be right next to Woody [Much to his disappointment] and was fine to be left alone with him. The saliva and destruction stopped instantly.
This worked for us but doesn’t mean it will for everyone. Not all dogs can be left out together, some need to be separated or crated for safety, whilst others are only dogs so simply have no other company when you go out. My dogs will always have moments where they get left home alone whilst I take the other out to training or a job, so it’s good for them to be used to staying alone. Woody spent 5 years being an only dog so knew no better, plus he was bred to be a gundog which honestly gave him such a good start in life.
So again leaving Wilma would lead to destructive behaviour, barking and howling which was heartbreaking to hear. She’d rip up the post if she was ever alone when it came, but you can’t tell them off for this as they don’t understand what they’ve done wrong.
So what would I recommend? Every dog is different and it might not work for everyone but here are my top tips that I used with Wilma:
This isn’t going to be fixed overnight, it’s going to take a long time so don’t rush it. Start off working on it for 5 minutes a day, after a week or so increase it to 10 minutes. Rushing it will only make your dog take a step backwards.
Whilst you’re in the house leave your dog in a safe room by itself. So for me I’d put Wilma in my hall as I would if I was going out and Woody & I went in a room upstairs where she couldn’t hear or see me. They are going to bark and whine now but just ignore them. Once 5 minutes are up go back downstairs, open all the doors and walk through ignoring the dog. Making a big fuss and greeting your dog is in a way praising them for all the whining which you don’t want. Carry on life as normal and repeat again the next day. Over the weeks as you increase the time you’ll notice the crying stopping slightly sooner each time, the progress might be slow but it will be there, just remember to carry on as if nothing has happened and don’t make a fuss of their crying.
Some people recommend leaving something for the dog to eat so they don’t notice you’ve gone. If you want to give this a go leave some pate or something else they can lick off a kong or other toy. I would never leave them alone with a chew as i’d be paranoid they’d choke on it. Whenever I leave or put the dogs to bed they get a biscuit when sat on their beds, this gives them a positive representation of being left in bed. You could also leave the radio on for them, then they hear people taking as normal in the background.
Once you’ve cracked it in the house move onto the car and do the same again with you walking away. This is really helpful if like us you go to agility shows, I always have to leave one in the car whilst I run the other. Or if you’re out and about with your dog and you need to pop into a shop or toilet without them.
Please remember never to leave your dog in a car on a hot day.
I hope this can help you with your dogs even if it’s a little improvement,
Thanks for reading,
Megan, Woody & Wilma x