Many people do not realize that their dogs can actually get depressed. If you think about it, our dogs show their emotions much as we do. They get excited when they are happy and their whole body shows it just as ours does. They perk up, get hyper, wag their tails and sometimes you can even see them smile. They also show other emotions, such as being sad and they may show signs of depression or anxiety.
Separation anxiety is common in dogs and it can cause them great distress. If your dog howls when you leave the house and you can hear him doing this for quite some time after you walk out the door, calming down to a whine rather than silence, chances are your dog suffers with separation anxiety. Some dogs get so distressed that they tear things up in the house while you are gone to show you that they are unhappy when you leave them. Items being pulled out of the trash and torn up, such as tissues, is a common to see when you return home.
You dog loves you dearly and feels very close to you, so when you leave him, he is actually lonely and worries that you are not returning. While this is easy to diagnose, treatment can be a bit challenging; however, it can be treated. It takes time, patience and repetition with your pet to help him get over his separation anxiety. You can think of it as a training experience and it is important to be calm with your pooch through this process so you do not make matters worse.
The first thing you need to do is work on preparing your dog for when you have to leave him. You can do this by changing the way you treat your dog before you leave. Many people give their pet extra love and attention before they leave the house and this is like an alarm clock going off letting your dog know that you will be leaving soon. You need to decrease the amount of time and attention you spend with your pet before you leave. It works best to do this gradually so you do not take away the attention all at once. This will help to lessen the anxiety when you have to leave.
It is good to do something that will distract your dog immediately, giving him something to occupy him while you step out. You can use a new toy or a chewy treat, such as a rawhide bone. The idea is to find something that will distract him for longer than a minute. This will help to teach your pet that it is not a bad thing when you leave; it is actually a good time as he gets a special treat. Eventually, he will look forward to these treats and expect them when you get ready to depart.
Giving your dog some type of simulated human contact can also be extremely helpful. This can be as simple as just leaving the radio or television on for your pet so he can hear the voices and not feel so alone. Be consistent with the training and remember to be very patient, as your dog needs to know that you love him and that everything is going to be OK. You will soon find that your pooch is OK when you leave the house and the howling and whining will come to an end.
How to Cure Your Dog's Separation Anxiety By Brian Kilcommons, ABC News, Sept. 2006
Separation Anxiety, The Humane Society of the United States, Unattributed, Nov. 2009
Dog Separation Anxiety, http://www.dogseparationanxietyhelp.com/
Canine Separation Anxiety by Pat Miller, CPDT, July 2008
Destructive Behavior In Dogs by Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Denver Dumb Friends League (Humane Society of Denver)