Dogs are pack animals and are therefore never happier than when they are with their human family. All they want to do is please us and delight in our company.
Whenever possible it is best to take our pooches with us. However with our busy working lives, this is often impossible to achieve. Our pet dogs should never be left alone for more than four hours at a time, otherwise they can develop all sorts of behavioural problems, through their terrible anxiety. This has been caught on television footage, there were some surprised owners who in some cases thought that their pets were fine because neighbours didn’t hear them barking. It made for some distressing viewing. We watched as some dogs paced up and down, over and over. Others would howl almost like wolves. Furniture was gnawed and in some cases, we witnessed anxious pets licking and tugging at their own fur.
Dog walkers have become more and more popular and provide a brilliant solution for working families. The dogs are collected and have a wonderful walk, quite often with other dogs. This gives them lots of needed social interaction. Family, friends and neighbours can all become involved as an alternative to a dog walker.
As soon as we become a puppy or dog owner, it is up to us to pave the way for our necessary separation from them. Try for a few minutes at first and gradually work up to half an hour and so on. Maybe just go into the next room to start with and gradually get to the point of leaving the house. Each time your puppy or dog shows stress – start from the beginning again – until it becomes routine for you to pop out and leave them for a while. Your patience will be rewarded.
Whilst preparing to go out, act and speak in a normal voice. No long speeches about being so sorry to leave them, otherwise our intelligent pets, sensing that something is afoot, will be howling before we shut the door. Just try saying in a matter of fact voice “I am going out now, see you later.”
If we find our pooch upset upon our return, one’s natural reaction would be to go straight to our distressed pet and say “There, there, it is alright” and cuddle them. This will only reinforce their confusion and they will pick up on your anxiety. Be strong – instead of petting and making a fuss of a squealing pet – ignore them. Without rushing, you could switch the kettle on, or just take off your coat – without making eye contact.
Then – the second that your pet quietens and relaxes – go straight to them. Maybe to give them a favourite toy or a healthy doggy treat. It should only take a few repeated scenarios for you to have a calm, contented pet, who seems to realize that being on their own for a short while means a reward of a Doggy chew and play time.
Cats are renowned for being independent, but Ollie, my Ragdoll cat didn’t like being on his own either. Probably because I am with him mostly round the clock. So I go through the same routine with him before going out for a couple of hours. It is wonderful to find his little nose edging round the door when I come back. Then after our reunion – Ollie races to the kitchen and when I get there, he is sitting gazing up at the cupboard where his kitty treats are kept !