What do you say a hundred times a day at your house? My grandma’s was “Turn out the lights!”. My mom’s was “Stay out of the candy!” I say, “Lor, I’m just going to the bathroom!” Okay, maybe not a hundred but often enough, you’d think she’d get it by now. I’m not leaving forever! I’m just going to the bathroom and coming right back! Does she care? Of course not. She thinks her world has ended and I’ll never return, so she has to jump up and down by the gate, and whine, “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!” Until I’m out of sight and suddenly she’s quiet. Weird…. Has she figured out I’m just in the bathroom? Or out of sight out of mind? I don’t know!
She left me again….my world has ended…..
Does yours get all upset when you leave? Going to work or to the bathroom or just leaving the room they are in? Some dogs do have true separation anxiety and the ‘cure’ for that is a vet visit and meds. It’s a physical or mental condition, that can be helped but not solved by training, and needs more. I knew a dog once who bloodied themselves, teeth and paws, trying to get of crates, fences, gates, doors, etc to get to their people, or just out. Most dogs, like my Lor, just get anxious. It’s common – we are their world, after all. Take it as a (very annoying) sign of love and devotion.
So what to do about it? I usually just ignore it, mostly. Other than my exasperated, “Lor, I’m just going to the bathroom!” comment. They usually self soothe in a few minutes. Some people have put up nanny cams to prove this to themselves. But if you want to help them out, here are a few tips. Realize dogs can tell time. We all know of the dogs who start going to the door to wait on Dad when it’s time for him to come home for work, or to the end of the drive to wait on the school bus. Plus you do about the same thing, have a routine, when you are getting ready to leave. They don’t realize you have to go to work to play for their fancy dog food, after all – they may be able to tell time, but the money concept evades them. They don’t care why you are going, just that you are.
You still there, Mom?
One thing, if your dog is over reacting to your leaving, is to go more. I know, sounds strange. But when you are home, do your ‘leaving routine’ put your shoes on, shut out the lights, put them up, or whatever you do, get in the car, drive to the end of the drive, and then come right back. Or just step outside the door, and turn around and come back in. The key to doing this – and every single time you come home, for your anxious dog – is to ignore them. Open the crate, snap on the leash and take them out or whatever you do, but don’t go all, “Mommy missed you so much! It was so awful, I love you more than anything,” while you are petting and cuddling and getting both of you all worked up. This increases their anxiety – something happened to mom! What was it? I’m here for you, Mom! If you just stayed here with me, that bad thing wouldn’t have happened. Don’t leave again, okay!
Sure, you are glad to see baby, but be glad more calmly. You are doing your anxious dog no favors by stressing them out more. So, you are going in, going out, going in, going out, and hopefully soon, baby will realize (unlike my Lor) that you will be back. Watch a tv show and do it every commercial. See, they have those in there for a reason! Or every fifteen minutes while you are doing housework. Just repeat it often, over time.
Another thing to do is hit the pet store and buy several ‘leaving toys’. Toys you can fill with peanut butter or their dry kibble, or a puzzle toy, a squeaker toy that would drive you nuts, something they only get when you leave. A new one every day – swap them out, and pick them up as soon as you get back. It is only there when you are gone, and they will soon learn to look forward to it.
Someone say toy?
Just like with coming back, make leaving matter of fact. It’s just what you do, by baby, see you after a bit! The calmer you are about it, the calmer they will (eventually) be. Never ever reassure them, soothingly. “It’s okay, baby, Mommy is coming back. You’ll be fine, I’m sorry.” What they hear when you say that, in that tone is, “What a good dog! You are acting just like mommy wants you to act!” Not your goal at all.
What does yours do? How do they act when you leave? Wanna come watch most of my dogs not care, a couple follow me to the gate and Lor get herself all worked up? Yeah, I’m Just Going To The Bathroom! Again….