Summary: “Why does my dog howl when I leave?” In this guest blog, provided by Dog Nerdz, we learn all about dog separation impatience training, why your dog cries when you leave and how to help a dog with abandonment discomfort.
This is a guest blog provided by Brad Clarke at Dog Nerdz.
Abandonment discomfort is very common in dogs, and it affects certain breeds, such as working dogs, more than others. It’s no secret that it’s tough to deal with, and separation impatience in dogs can lead to a myriad of other undesirable behaviors.
Abandonment discomfort has caused its fair share of problems for dog owners, and before you plunk down hundreds or even thousands of dollars on an animal behaviorist, we suggest trying out the Dog Nerdz method first…
Dog Barks When I Leave
Get to know your enemy in order to vanquish it once and for all (the enemy being separation impatience). So, what is it? Abandonment discomfort is when your dog feels distressed, anxious, and nervous in your absence. There are different severities of the issue, from dogs who cry a little when they’re left in daycare but are able to enjoy new canine and human company to those that cry, pace and whine the minute you close the front door.
It doesn’t matter what type of behavior your dog displays; it’s considered abandonment discomfort as long as they exhibit particular behaviors when you’re away. Companionship issues aren’t exclusive to dogs, and it’s something that some humans experience as well. Luckily, for dogs and human pet parents, separation impatience can be alleviated.
Why Does My Dog Howl When I Leave?
Abandonment discomfort is a concern that’s felt by your dog when they are separated from you, but dogs can experience anxiousness caused by many other stimulants such as fireworks, being in a new environment, and meeting new people and dogs, traveling in cars, planes, ferries, and anything that may trigger your dog specifically.
Different things make individual dogs concerned. Some dogs are very affected by thunderstorms, while others can nap through them. Many things can cause companionship issues in dogs, and the best way to know what triggers your pooch is by looking out for the signs and then evaluating what’s causing them.
Dogs with abandonment discomfort usually display similar signs, and we’ve listed the most common ones below:
- Occasional frantic behavior (pacing, panting, trembling)
- Vocalization (howling, barking, whining)
- Excessive drooling
- Nervous poops or urination
- Destructive behavior (chewing, wrecking, digging)
- Efforts to escape or hide at all costs
Understanding the cause of your dog’s discomfort (your absence in this case) is the first step. The next step is to understand how to address it and support them. Fair warning – it will take lots of time, effort, love, patience, and consistency, but things can get better.
The best way to address behavioral problems and reactive dogs is to use overexposure or desensitization. There are other methods that are suggested for targeting abandonment discomfort, but desensitization is our recommendation for all forms of anxiousness.
Once your dog is exposed to the trigger more often, they will begin to get accustomed to it, and it will lose its effect. Let’s use you leaving the house as the trigger, but you can replace this trigger with anything that causes your dog anxiousness.
1. Find the Trigger Point
The first step is to find at what point your pet starts to react. It might be after you close the door, or it could be as soon as you start your “going out routine” of getting dressed and grabbing your keys. Whatever it is, find the trigger point.
2. Use the Trigger Point as the Starting Point
You can start building your dog’s tolerance once you know his threshold. For example, if your dog starts to cry when you close the door, then just do it halfway, and then gradually close it further when they stop reacting. You will slowly reach the point where you can close the door for a short period before they start to display their impatience.
Your goal is to get to the point where you can close the door and leave without your dog reacting anymore.
3. Don’t Push It
Your dog will let you know their limits, and you should listen to them. Let’s say you start off too quickly and graduate to closing the door all the way after only closing it 2 inches before. It’s understandable that your dog will react, bark, pant, pace, and act frantic.
Let their actions be a signal that you’re moving too fast. Going too fast can cause a setback and retrigger your dog’s anxiety, teaching him that they need to be worried whenever the door closes even 2 inches because the next time, the whole thing will close, and they will lose sight of you.
It’s okay to take a step or two back if your dog isn’t adjusting well to the speed at which you’re going. It’s always better to go too slowly than too quickly. While we do stress consistency, it’s important to take breaks as well. Your dog can get frustrated if you pile on the training without breaks.
4. Read Your Dog
Dogs are creatures that aren’t that different from us. They have moodier days, days when they’re more triggered, or if they’re already on edge because of something happening outside (such as fireworks), try not to compound their stress by doing abandonment discomfort training.
The methods below work for occasional separation issues and other forms of emotional discomfort as well if desensitization doesn’t seem to be working for your pup.
Crate training is an excellent and recommended method by experts to manage companionship issues early on. The crate is not meant to be demonized or a place where your dog is confined for punishment. It should be introduced as a safe and comfortable space your dog should love.
Use positive associations to coax your dog into accepting the crate by feeding them treats in there, putting their favorite toys in with them, and maybe even leaving something that smells like you inside. Once your dog accepts the crate, it becomes a place of safety, and you can leave them in there for a few hours when you have errands to run without them protesting, and you can place them in there at night for a good night’s sleep.
Counter-conditioning your pup is training that forms positive associations with what triggers them. It’s a little like replacement therapy, where we try to “erase” a bad experience by replacing it with positive ones. So, instead of confirming your dog’s fear of being without you when you leave the house by ignoring their behavior or forcing them into their crate, replace the fear with a positive thing, such as a fun puzzle toy that will keep them occupied for hours.
Only give your pooch that specific toy when you’re leaving the house. This way, it preserves the toy’s novelty and gets your dog excited for when you’re getting ready to leave.
Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of exercise. A tired dog is usually a better-behaved one, so make sure to get your dog’s excess energy out with a good walk or a play session before leaving him home. While it may not be the ultimate cure, exercise can surely help with the signs of abandonment discomfort. If your dog is well exercised, they will be more content and accepting of your leaving.
Discourage the Behavior
Whatever you do, do not encourage their behavior by making a big deal out of your departure, for example, by having lengthy and emotional goodbyes. Downplay you’re leaving as much as you can to not elicit a reaction from our dog.
Some of us have breeds of dogs that just require more attention and are much more likely to develop companionship issues. Unfortunately, abandonment discomfort isn’t always a result of our behavior and any inadequacy at teaching puppies at a young age. Don’t blame yourself if your dog has separation impatience because sometimes it cannot be helped. Living situations, unforeseen circumstances, and even the nature of your work (those who work from home know what we’re talking about!) can draw out these insecurities.
If you’re having issues you can’t solve on your own, seek help from ethical, reputable professionals. There are plenty of excellent dog training services with helpful, appropriately-trained professionals that are eager to help; just check out these SpiritDog training reviews and see for yourself.
Sometimes experts will suggest special aids such as calming chews or supplements to help your dog, and you cope with when you need to leave the house without them. Training may not be enough for some dogs out there, and they require a little bit more help than others, and that’s okay!
Many dogs have trouble being away from their owner, and it can really hinder your dog’s wellbeing and your lifestyle. However, take solace in knowing that you’re not alone, and there are plenty of other dog parents that feel your pain. Now you won’t have to just “deal with it” because you can take matters into your own hands and try our suggestions above. Know that you can turn to a trusted, qualified professional who always has your dog’s and your best interests at heart if the situation calls for it.
This is a guest blog provided by Brad Clarke at Dog Nerdz.
Author Carrie “SpiritDog Training Review: How To Become The Top Dog With SpiritDog Training” Dog Nerdz, Apr 29. 2022 https://www.dognerdz.com/blog/spiritdog-training-review/