Separation anxiety in dogs
There are some dogs that become extremely distressed as soon as the owners leave their homes. The anxiety from being separated from their owner may manifest itself in many forms such as howling, whining, chewing objects in the home, toileting and/or constant pacing. This experience is very traumatic for the dog not knowing if the owner will return.
In these times it is common for the owner to reassure the dog with comments such as “I will be only be an hour” in the hope that the dog understands the owners intentions. Unfortunately the dog does not understand our words as much as we would hope. Rather they analyse our body language and see us communicating with them just before we leave. Communicating to the dog just before the owner leaves sends a confusing message, as it equally would between person to person if they did not know each others language.
No body likes to see separation anxiety in dogs, so to send the correct message to your dog when you leave or return it is best to not say anything to send the message, – I can go in as I please and out as I please and I am not looking to your information on what to do. Then the dog will assess your language and understand that they are not needed.
How long should you leave your dog for?
A client from Kensington and Chelsea recently asked me how long can she leave her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for? The truth is it depends on the dog and each individual situation. The ladies dog would become upset after 10 seconds where other people could leave their dog for three hours and they would be fine.
I explained to the lady that if her dog gets upset after 10 seconds then go out and come back in within 9 seconds without speaking. After she has repeated this a few times then go out for a second or two longer and keep building it up many times throughout the day. The lady agreed and after a few days and many exits and entries she had built up to ten minutes exits without the dog becoming stressed.
The lady noticed that if she could get back in the home before the dogs state began to rise then the undesirable behaviour would not occur. As she built it up the times when staying out whilst ignoring her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel when she left and came back in, she noticed her dog was fine with her leaving.
The dog is a social animal
The dog wants to get the right message but too often we confuse the matter with words that they do not understand. Dogs are social animals and thrive with company but dogs that become upset when we leave immediately are very confused about out relationship. I would recommend to anyone who asks me how long to leave his or her dogs on average for? that 4 hours is an acceptable amount of time to leave their dogs. However if they have separation anxiety to start off leaving for a second and build up the time.
Video underneath with a Staffordshire Bull Terrier with separation anxiety.
Dog Trainer and behaviourist in London helps address all undesirable behaviour in dogs.