Training your dog to stay home alone

Chewing, whether it’s a bone or your shoes, can be one sign of separation anxiety. Image: Pixabay

Dear Paws: My year-old dog “Clemente” gets extremely anxious whenever I leave home and barks nonstop. My neighbor has mentioned it to me repeatedly. I put him in his crate whenever I leave, but it doesn’t matter if I’m gone for 20 minutes or all day – he will not stop barking until I get home.

I tried leaving him out of the crate when I go out for short periods but then he just barks, claws at the door and scatters my shoes everywhere. What else can I do? – Beth N., Brooklyn

Dear Beth: Reducing your pet’s anxiety when you leave home can be really tough. Regardless of his history – whether he was a shelter adoption, or brought home from a litter – Clemente’s perception is that you are leaving, and he doesn’t know why or for how long. How will he eat if you’re gone for days? Why won’t you take him with you? A lot of things are running through his mind.

Even if you just go out of sight for a few minutes, some pets get really worried. I’ve come out of the bathroom to find my dog and cats clustered together, staring up at me mutely with eyes that seem to say, “Where did you GO?”

There are many things to try, all of which involve reassuring Clemente that you will come home. Contact a trainer that specializes in easing anxiety (Clemente’s vet may have some good recommendations). Most importantly, do it soon. Right now, he’s got some anxiety. But that could develop into more destructive behaviors. Now is the time to really build that relationship with your dog and help him feel more confident that you are always there for him.

Once you get a training program under way, you can also try reducing his anxiety using an herbal supplement formulated for pets. Bach’s Rescue Remedy is one of the most relied-upon supplements on the market right now, and the only one I’ll recommend by name because many of my readers swear by it. A few drops added to his water dish each day may help calm him somewhat.

Pets who aren’t helped by herbal supplements may need a stronger anti-anxiety medication prescribed by their veterinarian.

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Originally published June 27, 2016, via King Features Weekly Syndicate.