Many of us know the frustration of coming home and finding table legs chewed, a couch torn up, or a pair of shoes destroyed. For some dogs, like Dexter, crating just doesn't seem like an option. Dexter was on the verge of injuring himself when he was crated, so that idea was quickly scrapped. So what do you do when leaving your dog home alone gives you as much anxiety as it does them? The solutions are easier than you think, they just take time.
1. Calm down.
Yes, you. If you leave the house in a state of panic, guess who picks up on that. Yep, you guessed it. So what can you do?
Start by ignoring your dog.
He/she needs to learn that the human coming and going is no big deal. When you come home doing the whole high-pitched voice thing (we're all guilty of it, the first step is admitting so) and making a big fuss over your dog, you create an "excited" dog. He'll then come to expect it. This leads to them pacing and waiting anxiously for you to return, not able to relax. Instead, try ignoring them for a few minutes when you come home....don't even look at him/her! Over time, they'll learn that the human coming home is no big deal. The same goes for when you leave. No need for long goodbyes, just ignore them and go. Again, you want your dog to be as calm as possible when you leave and when you return. The result? They'll probably sleep the whole time. If your heart is breaking at the thought of this, then get all your goodbye smushes and hugs out of the way a half hour before you leave. If you have a younger rescue, this may take a few months, as they need to learn to "trust" you. We also make sure to keep the iPad playing 92.1 on low volume while we are gone too. Consistently sticking with these methods has made a world of difference for Dexter.
2. Give your dog something to do!
Boredom, anxiety, and stress will often lead to inappropriate chewing. In our opinion, this is where dog treats should primarily be used. Many toys are now designed to be stuffed with treats, giving your dog a challenge while you are away. Treats can also be hidden around the house, stimulating your dogs sense of smell. You should ONLY give your dog stuffed food toys when he is going to be left alone, that way anxiety and stress will be replaced by excitement as he learns to associate the human leaving with a delicious stuffed toy.
If you aren't sure what treats and toys would work for your dog, please don't hesitate to ask us. We'll be happy to show you some options (sticking a Kong full of peanut butter in the freezer for a few hours before you leave is our favorite).
Another good option to consider is the use of essential oils. Bari from Ashwood Estates Apothecary Naturals has created a fantastic mix of oils to help dogs with anxiety. She has significant experience working with rescues and uses her own blend of lavender and chamomile to help with anxious pups. 15 minutes or so before leaving, simply rub a drop or 2 in your hand. Gently massage the oil into the sides and back of your dogs neck. Bari's Chill Out Dog Anxiety Oil contains a mix of all natural lavender, clary sage, chamomile, and cedarwood. Be sure to stop by and check out our Apothecary at Dexter's Dog Boutique.
Remember, be patient with your pup! This will likely take a while, but once they settle in it's all worth it. We are happy to report that Dexter now has full run of the house for the most part. We close off the bathrooms, bedrooms, and close his baby gate to the kitchen. Dude just sleeps all day, rent free! We always find his warm body imprint on the couch or LoveSac (google this, they are in Danbury and yes they are awesome) as hard evidence. Good luck and don't give up!
Eric and Dana