Dogs are social animals. They want to be part of a pack ,and once you bring them into your home your family becomes that pack. So imagine how hard it can be on your dog when the entire pack abandons him for hours every day. He doesn't understand the concept of work or school – he just knows everyone he cares about in the world has left him. As a result, he probably feels anxious, frustrated, and stressed. Those emotions can lead to negative behaviors, including excessive barking and whining, destructive chewing, and even bathroom accidents.
The best way to determine if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety is to pay attention to his behavior before you leave and when you come home. Dogs who act extremely agitated or excited when you're getting ready to go may be showing signs of this problem. Even though we don't realize it, we follow certain behaviors when we're getting ready to leave. Our dogs know those behaviors and recognize what they mean. Another sign of a problem is a dog who greets you as if you've just returned from a 20 year voyage! An overly enthusiastic greeting as soon as you open the door is another potential indicator of this problematic behavior.
Sometimes you'll find out about your dog's separation anxiety from your neighbors. Suffering dogs can actually spend almost the entire day barking, howling, and crying. Some dogs even make themselves hoarse over it. To learn more about diagnosing your dog's separation anxiety read “Separation Anxiety” from the Humane Society.
You can actually conquer your dog's separation anxiety, but it does take some work. Some owners opt for giving their dogs anti-anxiety medications instead of fixing the underlying problem. However, you don't have to resort to those desperate measures if you follow a two-step plan toward eliminating the problem.
First, you need to desensitize your dog to the idea of being alone. This means you start off by leaving the house for a moment, then returning. Gradually, you begin leaving for longer and longer periods of time as your dog becomes able to handle each new milestone. You can learn the details of this process by reading Separation Anxiety by the ASPCA.
As part of this practice, you'll need to work on keeping your entrance and exit from the house calm. You don't want to say good-bye to your dog or act as if you're worried about leaving him alone. He'll pick up on your fear and become anxious. Instead, calmly and quietly leave the house without addressing the dog or making eye contact with him. When you return, ignore your dog until he calms down. Never give attention to an excited dog – it just reinforces the negative behavior.
The last part of the process is exercise. A well-exercised dog won't have the energy to make a fuss while you're gone. Instead, he'll curl up on your couch or bed and sleep peacefully. You should schedule a good walk for your dog every day before you leave and again when you return home in the evening. The walking helps him shed that energy and frustration which are the real root of the problem, plus the exercise will do wonders for your health and will improve your relationship with your canine best friend.