We love our pets despite all of their weird, crazy habits, but it’s understandably hard to love them sometimes when they destroy our house every time we leave. If you have a puppy or are providing your dog with their first home ever, then they may be damaging only because they haven’t been taught house manors yet. However, your dog may be doing things like tearing up your furniture, excessively barking and howling and using the bathroom in the house because they have separation anxiety. The difference between untrained dogs and dogs with separation anxiety is that an anxious dog will do things like drool or show other stress responses while you are preparing to leave. Thankfully, this is a relatively common trait in dogs, so there are some possible solutions that you can use to help your dog feel better about being left at home.
Take your dog to a sitter or a doggy daycare.
Understandably this may not be an option for everyone, but most of the time, when your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, they just need someone to be with them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be you. Taking them to stay with a dog sitter or at a doggy daycare is not only a great way to keep them from destroying your house but also gives your dog time to socialize with other pets as well as get lots of playtime in while you’re at work. Another option would be to take them to stay at a friend or relative’s house who doesn’t mind watching your fur baby while you’re away.
Exercise your dog before you leave
Whether you’re taking them into the backyard for a round of fetch or playing tug of war in the living room, exercising your dog for at least 30 minutes before you leave can help them relax while you’re gone. By burning off all that energy beforehand, they have less to spend on chewing at the door and trying to escape.
Provide your dog with distractions
Puzzle food toys are great for providing your dog with a distraction that could last for hours, whether you’re filling them with kibble, treats, or even peanut butter. You should also have edible things for your dog to chew on, like dental chews and inedible things like rubber toys. Chewing is a calming activity for dogs that can help them relax, so having a few toy alternatives might just save your furniture.
Give the dog things that smell like you.
Whether you’re leaving them with clothes or a blanket you sleep with, your scent helps your dog calm down and feel safe even though you’re gone. We recommend a rotation of wearing/sleeping with something, giving it to your dog for a few days, washing it, and repeating.
Don’t make a big deal out of departures and arrivals.
When your dog has separation anxiety, they’ll often act like they haven’t seen you in years every time you come home, even if you’ve been gone for just a few hours. If you greet them with that same energy, then you can potentially exacerbate the problem. The best thing to do is to ignore your dog for the first few minutes after coming home before calmly petting them and greeting them.
Give your dog a safe, contained space.
You may have heard of people putting their dogs in their kennel all day to limit their destruction. However, dogs will still display destructive behaviors whether they’ve been crated or not, and they can potentially hurt themselves when trying to escape their kennel. Instead, confine your dog loosely to an area of the house safe for them, such as a room with a window, so that they won’t feel completely isolated. Make sure they have toys to keep them occupied in this room and a comfy place to lay down and access to water.
Ask your vet about calming medication.
Suppose comfort types aren’t working. In that case, it might be best to see if your vet has any over the counter calming medication, or if your dog’s anxiety is severe enough, they may need to be put on anxiety medication. Let your vet know the symptoms your dog is displaying and how they’ve reacted to other preventative measures and see what they suggest.
Do not scold or punish your dog.
Your dog isn’t destructive because they’re trying to be disobedient, but they are reacting to high amounts of stress. Punishing your dog for this behavior will only add more stress and will likely only make the situation worse. Though it may be frustrating to come home and find your throw pillows have been chewed up again, remember that you love your dog and show them the same patience you would want someone to have with you.