Greyt Inspirations Life

A little about our life, our business and our pets.

Dogs and Separation Anxiety

I wrote about my boy Blue coming home.  He’s doing well.  He and Pearl are basically tearing up the house.  i caught them in the living room the other night eating a house plant and dancing in the dirt.  They were about to start munching on the root ball before I started having a small fit.  They’ve also carried my house shoes out to the backyard a couple of times.  They’re still wearable but somebody pulled the foam out of the inside of one of them.  Pearl has taught Blue how to hop in the bathtub and try to drink from the faucet.  (Despite the fact that I keep a ten-gallon bucket of water for the dogs in the kitchen.  She thinks it tastes better from the faucet.)  I must be the only person I know who has to clean muddy pawprints out of their bathtub.  So, Blue is settling back into life here at my house.


The only thing that gives him a little trouble is when I have to leave the house.  And, of course, we all have to leave the house at some point.  He runs to the back gate and watches me with anxious eyes.  And I feel guilty for leaving him and the others.



A very sad dog.  Maybe he's waiting for someone to come home.

A very sad dog. Flickr

He doesn’t have full-blown separation anxiety but he’s just come home from being away for a few months and I can tell that it worries him when I leave.  Genuine separation anxiety can be very hard on a dog and on the owner.  The dog may bark, cry and whine when the owner leaves.  The dog also usually wants to be with the owner every second in the house, and in close contact.  They’re afraid to let the owner out of their sight most of the time.  They may be so anxious that the stress will cause them to forget their housetraining and use the bathroom in the house.  They may also chew on the owner’s clothing because of the scent.  They will even destroy the house when the owner is gone.  It’s a true anxiety condition and it usually require behavior therapy from a professional and even medication from a vet before it can be overcome.



I had a dog who had been left alone, tied up in the backyard by his owners, for 14 hours a day while they worked, and then dumped at the night drop at the pound when he was 18 months old.  He was a beautiful, sweet dog, but when I first got him he had separation anxiety.  For months he followed me from room to room, afraid to let me out of his sight.  I took him with me on a trip a couple of years after I got him, thinking he would be all right while I showed another dog.  He was secure in his crate (I thought), surrounded by lots of other people and dogs in the grooming area at the show site.  But when I left him to go to the ring with my other dog, he broke out of his crate and came running across the field to find me.  People had to hold him back because he was trying to get in the show ring to get to me.  Of course, I didn’t know any of this until I finished showing my other dog.  But even after two years and lots of work with him, he didn’t want me to leave him.  He was my special boy all his life.


Blue is nowhere near that state.  When I pull away in the car I see him going off with the other dogs to play or eat, or whatever they do while I’m gone.  And when I come home they all come to the door to greet me.  Nothing is destroyed.  There are no special problems.  I did crate him for the first couple of days when I left the house but he was doing so well that I decided he would be all right uncrated and he’s been doing fine.


If you do have a dog who is upset when you leave the house, it helps to practice leaving and showing your dog that it’s no big deal.  Jangle the keys, start the car and come back in.  Do that a few times over several days until your dog gets used to it.  Give him a biscuit when you come back.  Don’t get emotional when you leave.  Try to minimize the drama.


It also helps to make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise.  Tired dogs are more apt to sleep while you’re gone instead of tearing things up.  You can also make sure your dog has toys and safe things to chew on when you’re not home.  Better to play with his things than yours.


These are just a few things that have worked for me over the years.  I find if I keep things as low key as possible and I don’t make a big production out of leaving that the dogs are usually okay with it.  I think they usually sleep while I’m away.  Sometimes I can come home and I still find them asleep.  They seem almost embarrassed that I caught them.


If you do have a dog with a real separation anxiety problem you should begin by seeing your vet.  He can help rule out other possible problems and discuss possible medication with you.  If it’s really genuine separation anxiety then it’s an anxiety condition, just as people have, and your dog will probably need medication before his mind is able to learn new, more positive behaviors.  Your vet may be able to recommend either behavior therapy you can work on yourself or a good trainer to help you and your dog.

December 3, 2008 Posted by | General | , , , | Leave a comment