Vet Advice: Back to school and work, how to leave your dog

August 26 2016

After the long summer break many of our dogs will have enjoyed our company far more than usual and for those who have taken on a puppy in the summer this may be the first time your pup will have been left as you go back to your normal work routines.

After the long summer break many of our dogs will have enjoyed our company far more than usual and for those who have taken on a puppy in the summer this may be the first time your pup will have been left as you go back to your normal work routines.

Separation anxiety is an issue that affects many dogs as they become stressed when left at home alone. Signs of stress include pacing or whining as you prepare to leave the house, barking or howling while you are away. Some dogs show destructive behaviour or inappropriate urination or defecation in the house. On the owners return they can show an overenthusiastic greeting even after a very short parting.

So what can you do to help your dog adjust and cope with being alone?

Start by making positive associations for the dog of you leaving the house, leave him with a toy, such as a ‘Kong’ stuffed with something tasty to distract him. Leave the house for short random periods initially and gradually increase the time.

Do not make a fuss about going and try to avoid using routines and triggers such as picking up keys or putting on shoes. When you get back home do not make a big fuss of your dog for 10 minutes or so.

Consider leaving the radio on and leaving an item of your (unwashed) clothing lying around.

Make a den for your dog. Consider using the pheromonal diffuser ‘Adaptil', it provides relief from anxiety and should be placed as close as possible to where your dog rests. It also is available in a collar form that your dog wears at all times.

Exercise your dog before leaving him to allow him to pass urine and faeces and help to tire him out.

Do not punish your dog for destructive behaviour or inappropriate urination or defecation as this will only add to his anxiety.

In severe cases referral to a behavioural specialist may be necessary to develop a program for your dog to help him learn to cope. Occasionally medications are also necessary.

As with all behavioural problems, it is best to prevent the problem in the first place as once a dog is showing a true anxiety then it can take months of hard work to resolve.

If you have any questions please do call us at the surgery for more advice particularly if you are about to take on a new pup or a rescue dog.

 

Nicky Bromhall
Veterinary Surgeon