For those of us that have dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, or S.A., really wonder who suffers more our dog or us?! Trapped at home, locking door and cupboards, vet visits for injuries, not to mention all the replacing/repairing of furniture, fixtures, car interiors, carpeting, subfloor, windows, do I need to continue?! OI!
We have fostered a few pups that have shredded couches, bedding, doors, knobs, car seats, crates and more. We have on many occasions taken a S.A. dog along with us to have dinner or go shopping just to keep the peace. So when Ernie walked into our lives we knew we would have our work cut out for us! Ernie is our 2 year old Great Dane. We were warned by one of the 6 homes he was in, that he poops when you leave and is a counter surfer. Well we have weims….we know all about counter surfing. Check that issue off the list. Pooping in the house….believe me I have seen worse! Check that off the list. Well….the list stopped but Ernie showed off a few more tricks when left home alone! We are lucky in that we have 3 other dogs that are very stable in the home when left alone. That energy definitely helps Ernie calm down and realize he is in a safe place AFTER he opens EVERY cupboard, eats every morsel and goes through the trash. So the good news is that after that initial 10-20min, Ernie is able to calm himself down and hang out appropriately with the pack.
What are we doing to help Ernie??
For starters, Ernie is still young (2yrs old) so he has some energy. He walks 3 miles everyday in the morning. That walk needs to be switched up every few days. We never do the same route too many days in a row. It is amazing after just switching up the routine, how mentally stimulating that is. It keeps his mind thinking and he can’t just go through the motions. That mental stimulation is critical! Check out this great article from dogtime.com for more info on mental and physical stimulation for dogs.
Second, this can be the most challenging of the steps….MAKE HIM POOP!! Just the anxiety of me leaving will make him so nervous and upset that he will poop in the house. However, if I make sure he goes before I leave, he is perfect!!! So, yes, sometimes I am late getting some where because I am in the backyard BEGGING Ernie to poop but it is worth saving myself the mess later.
Third, if I walked him in the morning but I don’t leave until afternoon or evening, I make sure he gets outside for a bit. He is not a high energy dog so it does not take much for him to get worn out. One lap around the yard with the weims and he is ready for a nap!
Lastly, getting out the door. I have to be prepared to leave and not come back. When you have a S.A. dog, usually coming back and forth will only trigger them again and again. With Ernie, is issue is right with I leave. So if I leave for an hour and come back and then leave again, I have only flipped that switch again, allowing him to start his anxiety cycle again. So when you leave the house STAY GONE. As I walk out the door, I open all my cupboards and remove the trash. (I have already moved all food to the highest cupboard shelves) So now when Ernie wants to explore the kitchen, my cupboards will survive and my trash will not be strewn throughout the house!!
Below are some great resources that have helped me. I know everyone’s struggle is different and anxiety does not look the same in every dog. If you want to chat more about what I do to help Ernie, please reach out any time!