Dogs live in social groups naturally. Some are just pairs but others can be up 13 strong. The dog’s ability to socialise is the number one reason that they have through history been an integral part of our families. Recently there are more and more dogs suffering from what is called separation anxiety, I personally believe this is due to working families and also childless couples getting them and treating them like substitute children. I will not lie; this is one of the most difficult problems to successfully over come. It requires patience, organisation and a lengthy process. In this part I am only going to aid in how you can begin this, as so many dogs react differently I cannot give a stage by stage guide.
The anxiety itself can come in many forms from barking to destruction and soiling to self mutilation. It is essential that in the early stages of rehabilitation that you take it slow and make your dog comfortable before moving on. Make your goals small and achievable because as soon as your dog becomes anxious again you are right back to square one.
If you have a dog that soils it is important that you never punish them when you return. Your dog will have no understanding of why you are punishing him and believe that you returning is a negative thing thus making you going away even more stressful. Just clean it up with no fuss.
If you have a barker then you cannot allow them to bark and howl all day without expecting a visit from your local council and facing a fine.
Destruction is not done out of spite, there can be lots of factors for it, boredom or stress. It is essential that your dog is kept in a crate for his own safety (if you have never used a crate please ask for information on this).
To begin with most separation cases what I find is when the owner is actually at home their dog is constantly with them. You leave the room, they leave the room. You can’t even pee without company. If your dog can’t bear to spend five minutes alone then how in god’s name will it cope with an hour? If you have to work for long periods of time then organise a dog walker/sitter or recruit a family member that has the luxury of not working to help. If you have no help then you have to ask yourself the question is this fair on my dog?
Get your dog used to a crate; the crate is going to become your dog’s space. Somewhere safe to be. Make sure that he is comfortable going in and out before you start to leave him. Begin by closing the door of the crate and leaving the room. If your dog starts to cry or become upset do not let him out! You will only reinforce that making a fuss makes you return, ignore him. This could go on for a while but stand firm. Make sure that he can see you, don’t go out of your house and leave him! As soon as he settles (he will), perhaps he may just fall asleep or lie down watching you. Give him three minutes of calm and then open the crate, don’t make a fuss or pet him just walk away. If he stays in the crate that is ok, if he follows you about just ignore him. What you are doing here is showing him that if he howls you are less likely to return. Congratulations you have reached first base. Continue to do this at periods of time that you are around so that you can reinforce calm behaviour gradually extending the time spent in the crate. Once you get up to 1 hour of calm you can then start to leave. When I say an hour I mean he goes to his crate gets in lies down and you close the door. Silence!
Begin leaving him alone in the house in his crate for short periods; Dogs shouldn’t be left alone for anymore than a four hour period anyway! Leave the house and walk around the block. Do not make a fuss when you leave, so many people say “be good mummy won’t be long” to a dog this is “I’m leaving now time to get upset”. When you return to the house again don’t make a fuss, if he is sleeping in the crate then leave well alone if he gets up and is excited to see you then leave him until he calms and then let him out. Again just gradually build up the time you are leaving him. You can provide something to chew in your absence such as a Kong or nylabones. No raw hide or chews of that nature as he could choke on it when you aren’t there.
Work up to 3 hours and then you can try putting him in his crate and not closing the door returning to the very first stages by only doing that when you are around and building on that again. Be cautious not to go to fast. I find that dogs cotton on very quickly to this method and start to view the crate as a good thing. Good luck.