Is there such a thing as leaving my dog too long alone at home? Is it even allowed? These are just some questions posed by even the most seasoned dog owners. Dogs, like children, have specific needs that have to be adequately addressed.
How long your dog can and should be alone are two different things. Even if there are recommended durations for leaving your dog, that may not apply for every dog. After all, each dog is unique and has its own temperament.
Isolation can be stressful for dogs.
The truth is that most dogs will spend a significant time alone at home on most days, depending on their owners’ lifestyle and schedule. Some dogs end up being home alone for almost half a day, and sometimes, done so without a second thought. Back in the day, some families would leave their dogs for forty-eight hours but nowadays, twelve hours is usually the maximum.
Is twelve hours alone okay for my dog? Honestly, it isn’t – twelve hours is too long for your furry friend to be left home alone. Now, some people might ask, “What’s wrong with it? We’ve done it this way, and it’s always worked!”
Remember, just because you’re used to doing something, doesn’t mean it’s the right way. If your dog had a choice, he wouldn’t want to be cooped up alone for so long. This can become a problem, especially when your dogs develop separation anxiety.
What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
Separation anxiety in dogs can include a variety of destructive behaviours like chewing on furniture, nonstop barking, and running around. This can also happen when a dog becomes too attached to his owner that he becomes pathologically stressed when left alone. It isn’t just a little whining, but enough mischief that causes some owners to give up their dogs. But there are many ways to prevent this from happening.
First, you must understand why your dog is behaving this way. For many, it’s probably because of being left alone for too long; other causes include a change in routine, moving into a new home from the shelter, loss of a family member, or a change in ownership.
What are the symptoms of Separation Anxiety?
Again, the symptoms can vary depending on the dog, but usually include the following:
• Trying to escape
• Howling, barking, or whining too much
• Pacing and running around obsessively
• Chewing on furniture, digging holes, and scratching at doors
• Indoor accidents even for the most trained dogs
When you’re around, your dog probably won’t do all these things. While some dogs may do this once in a while, dogs with separation anxiety do these excessively.
Can you treat Separation Anxiety?
Before jumping to conclusions, consult your veterinarian to ensure that it isn’t a more serious medical problem. Indoor accidents can be a sign of infection, kidney stones, and other conditions. Once your veterinarian has ruled these out, you can consider doing the following:
If your dog’s separation anxiety is mild –
• Try giving him a treat before you leave. It can be his favourite food, toy, or even a puzzle that can keep him busy. Make sure to take away the treat once you get home.
• You can also downplay your comings and goings. There’s no need to make a big fuss about going away and coming home. This will only work up your dog and make it harder for you to leave them.
• Leave your dog some worn-out clothes that smell like you.
• Consider calming supplements (available at your nearest pet store)
More severe cases of separation anxiety won’t be solved by a few treats or old clothes. Once you pick up your keys, your dog might start getting nervous. Try this – pick up your keys, but don’t walk towards the door. Sit down, watch television, and repeat this a couple of times a day. Once your dog starts to adjust to this, modify the routine a little bit and step out of the room, slowly increasing the time that you’re gone.
Are there certain breeds more prone to Separation Anxiety?
This is an important consideration for potential dog owners who might be gone for long periods. However, keep in mind that dogs have a unique personality; it’s possible to have a well-adapted dog that belongs to a breed at “high risk” for separation anxiety.
• Labrador Retrievers are known for being friendly, but recently, they have become quite temperamental. This new development makes them more prone to separation anxiety. But, their social behaviour might leave them struggling when left alone for long.
• Border Collies are one of the most intelligent breeds and like being mentally stimulated. When left alone, they can get easily bored and become prone to destructive behaviour.
• German Shepherds are perhaps the busiest breed and are very much used to working, Like Border Collies, German Shepherds like physical and mental stimulation. Boredom can be quite distressing for them, and long periods of isolation can lead to separation anxiety.
• Jack Russell Terriers are highly energetic and active dogs, meaning they get bored quickly. Without enough human contact, they can get pretty destructive, even for a small dog.
• Vizslas are a hunting breed, and too much downtime can be harmful to them. Too much time without their family and physical activity can be distressing for them.
• Toy poodles, being bred for companionship, have a tough time when separated from their human family.
If you’re looking for a dog that’s less prone to separation anxiety, you can consider a Maltese, French bulldog, Basset hound, or Greyhound. But, remember that no breed exists that is entirely safe from separation anxiety. Breeds that are said to have low separation anxiety can still become distressed when left alone.
A few last words…
Just one more tip – make sure your dog gets enough exercise every day. A tired dog is still a happy dog, but more importantly, a sleepy dog. Try taking your dog for a walk before you leave for the day. He’ll probably be asleep even before your foot is out the door.