Dogs left home alone by their owners often undergo severe stress from separation anxiety. A dog may spend up to half an hour howling, barking and whining when left alone. Some dogs will feel anxious for hours and will urinate or destroy things out of stress.
Dr. Lori Teller with the Meyerland Animal Clinic says it may or may not be separation anxiety. “If the dog is howling and urinating and trying to tear the door down, that dog is suffering from anxiety,” she says. “If the dog kind of looks out the window like, oh, Mom left, Dad’s gone, the kids are at school, and [then starts] pacing around [to] find something to destroy, then it could certainly [just] be boredom.”
Dr. Teller says treatment of the problem depends on how the dog is behaving. “Depending on how badly the dog is suffering,” she says, “first we may put them on some medication to decrease their level of anxiety so they’re just not so destructive when they get that wound up.”
If the dog is bored, it could be just a matter of giving it something to do. “They do make some puzzle toys that we can fill with treats so that it takes the dog a while to work through,” Dr. Teller says, “so you give that to your dog right before you leave the house.” By the time the dog solves the puzzle, you’ve already been gone for a while.
Time permitting, Dr. Teller has another recommendation. “Take the dog on a long walk in the morning before you go,” she says. “Get them tired. They’ve gotten attention, you’ve given them exercise, they’re too worn-out to do anything.” Having a dog-sitter or dog-walker come by during the day can also help, she says.