Why Your Dog Rips Things Apart When Left Alone
Avert Destructive Dog Behaviour in the Home by Alleviating Separation Anxiety
Many dog owners enjoy sharing stories with family and friends about the daily activities and antics of their pets. These anecdotes often focus on cute or funny little quirks in the dog’s behaviour that bring smiles to the faces of the listeners. And with the technology available today, these stories are frequently accompanied by photos or videos stored on a smartphone or other device.
Unfortunately, not all such stories are of an entertainment variety, as some owners may also relate examples of the property damage done by the dog when it is left home alone. In essence, the owners are describing some of the manifest behaviour of dog anxiety that can occur as a result of extended separation or loneliness.
Dogs are principally pack animals, and when brought into a home, that family becomes their new pack. They thrive and depend on human companionship; therefore, when left alone in the home (i.e. without their pack) they can exhibit signs of stress and anxiety. Such signs will vary based on the dog but might consist of:
- Refusal to eat or drink
- Soiling the carpets or furniture
- Incessant howling and/or barking
- Relentless pacing to the point of exhaustion
- Chewing/ripping furniture, doorjambs, drywall
- Frantic reactions when family members return
Not only are these types of behaviours unwanted and/or destructive, some can certainly be detrimental to the health of the dog as well. And perhaps the most undesirable of any reaction by the dog would be the aggression that is directed at parts of the home or its contents, as this can be both expensive for the owner-family and a health/safety risk for their pet.
There are several actions that dog owners can take to help alleviate/eliminate the types of behaviours that are stimulated or brought on by separation anxiety. The preferred method/methods of modifying such behaviours will depend on owner comfort levels as well as the amount of time and/or money that can be dedicated to one or more of these options:
- Graduate the length of absences
- Leave the dog alone for very brief periods at first (perhaps 5-10 minutes)
- Gradually and regularly increase alone-time over a period of several weeks to desensitize separation anxiety – helps dog learn that owners will be returning
- Modify at-home activities/routines
- Alter habitual behaviours that the dog can associate with its owners going out
- Take the car keys to do the laundry; put shoes on to sit and watch television
- Use dog walker/sitter/daycare services
- Provide opportunities for ‘good’ distractions that keep dog occupied while alone
- Leave different toys, non-edible chew items, and/or a KONG filled with treats
- Engage the dog in regular activities
- Play fetch in the backyard, go for daily walks, visit public dog parks
- Leave and arrive home without fuss or fanfare
- Act nonchalant toward the dog when going out or walking in the door
- Excessive or over-the-top hellos/goodbyes can actually instill anxiety
- Practice and reinforce proper training when at home with the dog
- Monitor activities, praise good behaviour, limit access to certain areas
The intentions of these steps are to suppress or eliminate unwanted dog behaviour that is the result of separation anxiety, either stand-alone or, in many cases, in combination with the boredom of being left home alone for several hours. Dog owners who may not be seeing the results that they would like from such activities are advised to consult with qualified dog trainers like the professionals from Alpha Paws in Newmarket.
Treating Dog Aggression Due to Separation Anxiety May Need Expert Training
Sometimes, despite the best intentions and efforts of the owner-family, dog aggression related to separation anxiety may continue or perhaps even intensify over time. In such instances, there may be other factors at play that might best be assessed and addressed by a professional dog training provider such as Alpha Paws.
An Alpha Paws trainer will conduct an in-home assessment to determine the potential root causes of the aggressive behaviour. Based on their observations, the trainer will in turn consult with the owner-family on the most appropriate course of action to rectify the situation. This can include a dog aggression training program tailored to meet the specific needs of the dog and its owner-family and deliverable in one of these two ways:
- Private Lessons: at the Alpha Paws location or in the owner’s home
If you need expert help to deal with dog behaviour issues related to separation anxiety, call the dog training professionals from Alpha Paws today at either 905-830-9500 or 1-877-868-PAWS (5248) to arrange for an in-home consultation at your convenience.