17 November 2010

When the cat's away...

... the mice get separation anxiety.

This post doesn't deal with cats and mice, but with people and their pet dogs. In a past article, To chew or not to chew..., I discussed some of the chewing habits of dogs. One cause that I failed to mention then was owners leaving their dogs home alone. It is a real emotional problem for the dog, who feels abandoned and forgotten. You know how little kids cry on their first day of kindergarten "I want my mommy!"? Your dog would say the same thing when you leave it all alone.

I would also like to link to an article in the Dog Training Classroom, where you can find more details about this issue.

Why is the dog anxious?

Like I've said before, all dogs have different personalities and some might simply be prone to anxiety and insecurity. We can also mention trauma... A dog that has been abandoned once by its pack will be afraid you will do the same, even if you're only leaving to get groceries.

How does this anxiety manifest?

In short, the dog will cling to you when you leave or come back. While you're away, don't be surprised if your dog starts stealing and destroying your things. Most "potty accidents" happen when the dog is left on its own.

Scorp and I also have this problem with Aschiuta. He goes to work almost every day and I stay at home most of the time. When he leaves, she is upset, but not too much, because I'm still around. But when I leave too, it's the end of the world for doggie. We often find things chewed and spread all over the floor and the bed. She chews anything that she can reach: some toys in a shelf, my jewelery, newspapers and lately even a book.

We usually leave her on the balcony, because there are less things to chew on and it's easy to clean if she makes a mess. But one evening, when it was colder, I asked my mom to open the door for her and let her inside. When we came back, disaster... and she hadn't soiled the room's floor for a long while. It seems that the poor dog had a double shock. First we leave the house, then my mom lets her in, only to leave her alone as well.

I still often worry when I leave her alone in the room... This separation anxiety seems to work both ways.

What can be done?

The site I linked to gives a number of ideas and tricks to make it easier for your dog to cope with separation. Mainly, your dog needs to know that you will come back every time.

"Where are you going?"

Don't make a big fuss about leaving and coming back. Aschiuta is all over us when we come home and it's really hard to ignore her, but it has to be done. Also, to get the dog used to the idea of coming and going, do it often and for short periods of time as a training session.

"She is such a good doggie when she's sleeping!" we often say. A tired dog has less energy to destroy things and is likely to nap while you are gone. Playing or walking will help get your dog tired and also in a better mood.

All in all, I hope this little article will help you have a happier dog. I will also try and see how Aschiuta will fare. And remember, patience is the way to go.

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