By Terri Bright, Ph.D., BCBA-D, CAAB
If your family’s routine is about to change – children going off to college or family members taking on a full-time job – so that your dog will be home alone for many hours for the first time in memory, you can prevent problems by making this a great one for your dog, too. Here are some simple tips to ease the transition into fall for your dog and your family:
- If your dog is normally crated and loves their crate, don’t change a thing.
- If they are used to going out in the middle of the day, hire a dog walker.
- If the family dog typically kicks around the house with you, leave them their meal stuffed into a Kong. Freeze it, and give it to them before you leave. Alternatively, take a long piece of jerky and stuff half of it into the Kong, leaving the other half sticking out. The dog will easily devour the first half, and enjoy figuring out how to get the rest out. (This is like giving your dog a video game to play when you aren’t home. Called “contrafreeloading,” this is how the canids and big cats are fed at the zoo!)
If your neighbors tell you your dog barked all day, or if your dog suddenly urinates and defecates when you leave, or the dog shakes and pants when you put your shoes on or pick up your keys, talk to a qualified vet and to a behaviorist. Your dog could have “separation anxiety,” and this condition should be treated immediately, as it is more likely to get worse, not better, without treatment.
For more information on Angell’s Behavior service, visit www.angell.org/behavior.