Separation anxiety plagues many pooches whose owners are gone at work all day or absent for other reasons. This problem leads to barking, chewing and even destroying things in the household. Some owners crate their dogs to prevent the destructive behavior, and others even resort to medication.
You may be able to head off separation anxiety with your puppy or dog before it has a chance to set in too deeply with one very simple item: a dog toy. Toys are readily available, cost much less than a crate, and create positive associations.
Jay Stutz of Animal Planet's Good Dog U, who has also worked with various show business canines like Benji and Beethoven, advises that many owners leave their dogs' toys out all the time, providing unlimited access. Just as kids get tired of their playthings, canines eventually lose interest, too.
Jay advises making toys "special" by letting your dog play with them for a limited amount of time. "Take the toy away before the dog gets bored with it," he says. "Give a treat when you take the toy and put it away. When the dog sees it again, he'll get excited."
This strategy is easily transferable to leaving the house. Jay recommends getting out your dog's favorite toy just before you leave, and putting it away again when you return. Instead of making separation a traumatic event, this creates a positive experience. Your dog will look forward to getting a plaything when you go.
You can use a wide variety of toys to pique your dog's interest, including:
- Old favorite toys
- New, exciting items
- Treat-dispensing playthings
Don't leave a dog with a brand-new toy, Jay cautions. Give it to your canine a couple of times for brief periods to make sure it's safe.
Your dog may never look forward to your leaving, but dog toys are the perfect product to sooth the trauma with something positive.