Does your dog become more alert once your alarm goes off? Does your dog shadow you around while you’re doing your morning weekday ritual of getting ready for work or school? Once you leave, can you hear your dog barking or whining? Do your neighbors complain?
Well, if you answered yes, your dog feels some sort of a way about you leaving. Dogs are sentient beings and they are here in this world to be with us. They definitely don’t want us to go, but there are times when its necessary and its your responsibility to get them to be more settled when you and your furry friend are separated.
How to help your dog feel more settled when you’re away? Well, first, I want to set you up for success. I will tell you will need some time and some patience and these will be the first things in your bag of tricks. Time and patience is necessary for the sheer purposed of creating a calm and less hurried departure. If you are usually rushing around during your work week and leaving abruptly, your dog learned your routine and you will need time desensitizing him to your pre-work day rituals.
Calm and Quiet Behaviors: Take notice of your dog when he’s comfortably laying around in his designated area or in area away from you. You don’t think your dog is doing “anything” when he’s calm and quiet? Think again. Your dog is doing EXACTLY what you’re wanting from him. Now is the time to pour your energy into praising and loving on him when he’s chilling on his own.
Help Your Dog Settle: Making the time alone, the best time. We are now moving into getting the behaviors you want when you’re not home. Create your dog’s down time even when you’re home. The void of your attention being gone is less when you’re in the vicinity. We must build up your dog’s endurance for your being away. First, give your dog his own space and giving attention for calm, quiet behaviors like laying in his own den area can help him know being alone is OK. Also, leaving good stuff to do when he’s in his own space like long lasting chews, kongs with wonderful treats stuffed in it, toys-all of his favorites-will lead him wanting his own space to settle. He will make the mental connection, “when I don’t have my human’s attention, I get all these wonderful things to do. Maybe I WANT my human to leave!”
Goodbyes and Hellos: Other pieces you will want incorporated as part of your dog’s “getting comfortable” plan is making your arrival and departure non-emotional. Amping up the energy when you arrive home while greeting your dog can be perceived by your dog as overwhelming. If your dogs has a history of being destructive, you can arrive home anticipating your favorite shoe being eaten or the garbage tipped over and rummaged through and this most likely has you feeling frustrated and upset even before coming through the door. Our body language changes and our verbal expression may indicate more hostility even when we greet our dogs without anything happening. Your dogs perceive this negatively and become more distressed.
On the flip side, your overly excited or interactive departures can also send the message to your dog “don’t leave, don’t leave”. Giving an abundance of affection and attention is something most dogs crave and love and then for you to leave for any length of time, highlights the void of you not being there. This is also quite distressing for your dog. One moment you’re there giving him all the wonderful things and then the next minute you’re gone and he has nothing to do. Help your dog feel comfortable being alone without feeling lonely.
Time and Patience: Get started now even if you are not sure of the exact day of when you return to work or school. Go slow. Practice leaving your dog with wonderful things to do and leave the room for a few seconds at a time. Return back before your dog realized you left the room. Slowly increase the time of being away. This is not exciting training, but so necessary. Have patience with yourself and your dog will be key