Overly attached pets can suffer from separation anxiety when left alone at home. This overwhelming fear of isolation can cause them to become destructive and whine, howl, bark, urinate, defecate, and try to escape. The condition is usually triggered when a pet parent prepares to leave home. Some dogs may also get anxious or depressed prior to their guardians’ departure or when their owners aren’t present. If you’ve ruled out medical conditions that may cause such behaviour, then let’s look at fixing it.
Counterconditioning with KONG
The trick here is to associate your leaving your pup with something that is positive. To develop such an association, every time you prepare to leave home, offer your pooch his or her favourite KONG stuffed with his or her favourite treats – make sure it is something healthy (see Superfoods for your KONG) and something that will take your dog hours to clean out from the toy.
The moment you arrive back home, remove the KONG so that your pup realises he only has access to the toy and the high-value treats within when he’s alone.
If you’re worried that you’re giving your dog too many treats, you can also stuff his meals inside the KONG before you leave home. Simply remember to remove the toy when you are around to reinforce the association between being alone and being given good things, like treats and delicious food. However, if your dog begins to get anxious at the sight of the KONG, you can give it to him during a period of time when you do not intend to leave the house. This will prevent him from associating it solely with your absence.
Tip: Freezing the KONG with treats inside will take your dog much longer and thus, better behaved for longer when you’re away.