Dog Separation Anxiety from Leaving Dog Alone

By Joe Wilkes

Dogs are very social animals, and they would like nothing more than to be by your side 24/7. But we know (even if they don’t) that dog food doesn’t buy itself, and that may entail you having to leave them home alone while you go off to bring home the bacon (and the dog treats).

We might imagine our dogs gleefully doing the Tom Cruise Risky Business slide when we shut the door behind us in the morning, but the more likely scenario is that the dog is experiencing some level of separation anxiety. This separation anxiety might manifest itself as anything from nuisance barking or whining (unpleasant for the neighbors) to stinky surprises left for you when you return home (unpleasant for you). If your dog is one to chew his feelings, you may also find some prized possessions or furniture vandalized during your absence.

What to do? Staying home to watch Judge Judy with your lonely pooch every day probably isn’t a pragmatic long-term solution. So how do you help ease dog separation anxiety so you can go about your day without feeling like a monster and he can relax so you come home to man’s best friend instead of man’s craziest codependent roommate? Read on for practical tips to help ease dog separation anxiety.

Help separation anxiety by putting your dog to sleep (in a good way)

If you want a calm dog, it doesn’t get any calmer than sleep. Before you leave the house, make sure you schedule time for a brisk walk or a vigorous game of fetch in the backyard or nearby dog park. Having an anxious dog home alone is bad enough. Having a dog that is anxious and hyper is a recipe for disaster. Exercise helps calm your dog down in two ways. Physically, it tires your dog out, so he might be up for a nap while you’re away; and emotionally, exercise can level out your dog’s brain chemistry in the same way a good workout can leave humans exhilarated.

Hire a dog walker for dog exercise

The best-case scenario is you can come home for lunch and spend a little quality time to break up your dog’s day. But if your schedule or commute doesn’t always allow that, it may take a village. If you have someone close by with pets, this is a great time to encourage some neighborly reciprocity, where you can arrange to let each other’s pets out when the other one isn’t home. You could also pay the going child-labor rate to hire a trustworthy neighborhood kid to come by during the day to give your dog a little exercise and company. A more upscale option is to hire a local dog walker to come by and provide a professional field trip.

More dog toys, less noise

A bored dog left to his own devices may act out by chewing up your devices. Boredom can be as much of a cause for acting out as separation anxiety. For this reason, it’s vital to leave out your dog’s favorite toys and anything else you can think of that he can use to entertain himself in your absence. Dog toys make great diversions. Aside from keeping him away from your toys, you’ll provide distraction for your dog during the day, so he won’t be as anxious about you being gone. One word of caution: don’t rely on toys with treats hidden in them. Once the dog eats the treat (which could be in minutes), he’ll grow bored and move on to the furniture.

Are two dogs company or double trouble for separation anxiety?

A common solution that many pet owners advocate is to adopt a second dog to keep the first dog company. This can be a great idea or a bigger dog problem. There are many variables to consider, including the size, gender, breed, and temperament of your dog and of the potential new dog. Talk to your veterinarian about whether a second dog is a good idea for your current dog and what you should look for in a new companion. Adopting a second dog can bring a lot of happiness into everyone’s life, but it isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. You don’t want to be faced with a situation where you have fighting dogs or be forced to re-home a second dog who didn’t work out.

If you currently don’t have a dog, and you’re considering adopting one, think about whether your lifestyle is conducive to sharing your life with a dog. If you think your potential dog might be spending time home alone, that should factor in your decision when choosing your new friend. Look at breeds that are more low-energy and don’t need as much exercise or outdoor time. Better yet, consider adopting an older dog. Many older dogs have difficulty being re-homed, but can be a perfect fit for you. They typically are much calmer than puppies, and many are already housebroken. So don’t pass up a dog just because he’s been around the block a couple of times—it may mean he’s ready to take it easy.

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 On Feb. 21, 2014, a sanitation worker from Fairfield County, Ohio, discovered a black Dachshund inside a dumpster located in a Roosters Wings restaurant. Thankfully, the dog was found before the garbage and the dog were crushed and send off to a landfill.

The hero sanitation worker took the dog inside the restaurant and manager Dusti Thompson-Wears rushed over to cover the pet with a restaurant T-shirt.

“I got him one of our Roosters’ T-shirts and wrapped him up, just because he was shivering and scared,” Thompson-Wears told 10 TV News.

Dusty was saved from a dumpster.

Dusty was saved from a dumpster.

Restaurant employees contacted the Fairfield Area Humane Society to have the canine rescued. The animal organization believes the dog was purposely placed inside the dumpster by someone, but they have no idea why someone would do such thing to this sweet pup.

The canine was found in good health, yet he had no microchip to help identify his owners. Dusty was placed on hold for 72 hours, and after no one came forward to claim him, he was made available for adoption.

On Feb 24, 2014, the Fairfield Area Humane Society posted on their Facebook wall that thanks to the large number of inquiries they received for the dumpster dog, they had been able to find Dusty a loving forever home.

“Thank you everyone who has expressed interest and well wishes on Dusty!” read the post. “We have found him an excellent home and he is at our vet being neutered and prepped for his new home. Thank you for your support and please consider adoption as there are plenty of animals looking for great homes.”

Dusty we wish you the best in your forever home. May you never be dumped again!

This is a Lovely Story - Must read !

Dominic, a pit bull puppy, was rescued and taken in by a vet tech in Eaton, Colorado. As Dominic spent more time at the clinic it became clear he had a special gift for comforting the dogs who were recovering at the clinic.

Police found Dominic and his litter in a Denver home during a raid. Since Denver has a ban on pit bulls animal shelters in the area had to work quickly to find Dominic and his littermates a place outside of Denver.

Denkai Community Veterinary Clinic took the puppies in and vet tech Stephany Haswell offered to foster a few of the puppies, including Dominic. She already had three dogs and wasn’t planning on keeping any of the puppies, but her family fell in love with Dominic.

Dominic got along great with her other dogs, which normally don’t pay much attention to dogs she fosters. Though he fit in great at home, Dominic had a lot of energy as a puppy and Haswell started bringing him to work because her other dogs needed a break from his constant attempts at playing.

One morning a dog that just got out of surgery was placed on Dominic’s huge red pillow just outside the operating room. Dominic’s reaction was to immediately come and cuddle with the dog. Haswell didn't think much of it, Dominic loves cuddling with everyone.

Later that day though Dominic lay with some dogs that were recovering from surgery and rested his head on their bodies whenever they would cry. The more a dog cried the more attention Dominic would pay to it. It became clear that Dominic had a special gift for comforting others.

Dominic now helps comfort and calms the dogs, and even some of the cats, after surgery. Dogs sometimes come out of surgery aggressively, occasionally biting, but with Dominic by their side the dogs wake up calm and happy.

“I've never, ever seen anything like this,” said Floss Blackburn, founder of Denkai. “He’s got such a sweet heart.”


CHINESE dog breeder sells Tibetan mastiff twins for £1.8m

Purchase of twin males dogs highlights extent to which breed has become status symbol for China's ultra-rich
China, Tibetan mastiffs
One of the twins – a golden-haired Tibetan mastiff – was sold for 12m yuan, and his red-haired brother went for 6m yuan. Photograph: Str/AFP/Getty Images

A Chinese dog breeder has said that a property developer paid him 18m yuan (£1.8m) for Tibetan mastiff twins, highlighting how the breed has become a status symbol for China's rich.

The large, slobbery dog with massive amounts of hair used to be best known for herding sheep in Tibet, but has now become a luxury for the ultra-rich who want to spread their wealth beyond stocks and real estate.

Breeder Zhang Gengyun said he sold the 1-year-old twin male dogs to a single buyer at a luxury dog fair on Tuesday in wealthy Zhejiang province, located on China's east coast. The sales were reported by the local Qianjiang Evening News.

One of the twins – a golden-haired Tibetan mastiff – was sold for 12m yuan, and his red-haired brother went for 6m yuan.

Zhang said the buyer, from eastern Shandong province, paid him the 18m yuan with his credit card.

Zhang denied the sale was a ploy by breeders to hype the price of Tibetan mastiffs and said he was reluctant to sell the twins. "It's a real deal," he said.

The more expensive golden-haired dog was 80 centimetres (31.5in) tall and weighed 90kg (200lb).

"His hair is bright and he has a dead-drop gorgeous face," said the breeder. "Usually he's quiet and gentle, but when a stranger shows up, he could bark endlessly and bite."

Zhang said the unnamed buyer might start breeding Tibetan mastiffs himself.

"The Tibetan mastiff is as treasured in China as the giant panda, so people consider it a symbol of higher social status," he said.

Liu Na, organiser of a Tibetan mastiff fair in Beijing, said the average price for one of the dogs is several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The price tag usually depends on the breeder's expectations, the buyer's appreciation of the dog and the bargaining between the two, she said.

"It's just like deals done when buying antiques," Liu said. "But it isn't uncommon for a breeder to hype a price in order to raise his profile in the industry, just like a celebrity can inflate his or her appearance fee."

Dogs love us, says science – so we have to love them back

New research on canine sentience will come as no surprise to dog lovers, but it may be a game-changer in the quest for dogs’ rights.

Susan McDonald's Jack Russell
A dog’s life: Susan McDonald's Jack Russell, CC. Photograph: Susan McDonald for the Guardian

The park can be a dangerous place, and I'm not talking about vicious dogs. It’s the two-legged beasts you have to watch out for.

I was there the other day with my Jack Russell, who spotted a jogger and took off behind him, yapping. A soothing voice would have calmed him but instead came a tirade of abuse (barking, you could say) directed first at the dog, then at me. The dog responded in kind and the jogger promptly kicked him. Then he stormed in my direction. I said, “Are you going to kick me?”, which brought a pause to his fury, long enough for the dog and me to run for the car.

It was all so unnecessary, so disproportionate. My little dog barks too much for his own good, but he will respond gently if gentleness is offered. As will most dogs, given half a chance.

You don’t have to take my word for it: science says so, too. A recent series of studies in the US suggest that dogs recognise kindness and give trust in return; that they experience emotions like love and attachment, like humans.

Unlike previous research into canine sentience, this time researchers were able to use an MRI. No mean feat when you remember that the subject must be awake; you can’t map brain activity in an anaesthetised dog. Uncomfortable as the scan is, even for humans, unrestrained dogs were trained to sit rock-still – and even more remarkably, this was achieved using only positive training methods based on trust. The dogs were treated as human children would be: their owners had to sign a consent form to enable them to participate, and the dogs were allowed to leave if they wanted.

As if any further evidence was needed of the dogs’ sentience, the scan enabled the researchers to map activity in the caudate nucleus - that area of the brain where emotions can be measured in dogs as in humans. They found that activity increased in response to hand signals indicating food, smells of familiar dogs and people, and the return of a familiar human. A subsequent experiment showed activity increased when dogs heard the voice of someone familiar (and no, not just the person who fed them).

The inescapable conclusion, wrote one of the researchers, Gregory Burns, in an op-ed in the New York Times, was that “dogs are people, too”.

This will come as no surprise to dog lovers. We’ve always felt that, at some level, our dogs love us back. But it is evidence “we can no longer hide from”, wrote Burns. “Dogs, and probably many other animals (especially our closest primate relatives) seem to have emotions just like us.”

I wonder what the jogger would think. His mind seemed made up about dogs and about his right to treat them how he wished. He’s not the only one. Even in a supposedly dog-loving country like Australia, in which 40% of households have a dog, many people treat them badly and think nothing of it – in research laboratories, in commercial breeding operations known as puppy farms, at the dog racing track. Otherwise law-abiding people keep dogs chained, leave them alone in apartments, or abandon them when they are deemed too difficult. Then they’re put down at the pound because people prefer to get a dog from a puppy farm by way of a pet shop.

Of course, dog lovers have minor victories. Look at the good news story of Sochi’s strays. Sentenced by the city to be culled in the leadup to the winter Olympics, their plight caused outrage on social media and many were rescued. Some were adopted, others housed in a newly built shelter. It was a kind response to what is a worldwide epidemic, estimates putting the global number of stray dogs at about 300 million.

Social media can’t solve a problem that big; they can’t all be adopted. There needs to be a sea change in the way we think about dogs. Sporadic waves of sentiment aren’t enough.

That’s why the latest research is so important. If Canis lupus familiaris can be shown to have emotions, and a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child, there is a moral imperative to reassess how they are treated under law.

“We must reconsider their treatment as property,” says Burns.

Dogs are not property. They are loyal, loving companions who reward kindness and consistency with devoted service. WH Auden was right: “In dark hours their silence may be of more help than many two-legged comforters.” That gives them a special place in our lives and the right not to be abandoned, enslaved, demonised, turned into vicious guards or even treated as fashion accessories. (Auden noted the debasement of dogs by “those who crave a querulous permanent baby or a little detachable penis.”)

They deserve respect. And their rights are not lesser rights, separate from human rights; giving dogs the protection they deserve adds to our humanity. As Ghandi said, it’s an indicator of a nation’s moral progress.

Burns suggests a legal guardianship of dogs to replace ownership. Such a reclassification would provide dogs with a much greater right to protection and could become the legal underpinning of stricter regulation over their use in research, racing and breeding; harsher penalties for abuse; and more protection for strays.

Several US cities, including Los Angeles, have already enacted laws that require pet shops to source dogs from shelters rather than puppy farms. That would be a good place for Australia to start.

And more such reform must follow. If dogs are people, they must have rights too.

  • This article was amended on 18 March 2014. In the editing process, “dog park” was changed to park. In a dog park, dogs are allowed to roam free.