My dog Stanley has been the perfect 6-year-old mutt, until she all of a sudden started destroying pillows when we went out and left her home, and for the first time since she was housebroken as a puppy, she left us a pee! Thank you for any thoughts and suggestions.
Thank you so much for this question, as I’ve been telling every dog owner I know to leave their dog home alone several times a week for varying times. Of my approximate 800 training appointments a year, about half were for real problems, with separation anxiety ranking almost as high as aggression issues. In normal times, the kids go to school and do all kinds of out-of-the-home activities, while the parents are out working, socializing, etc. Enter a pandemic quarantine new normal — everybody’s home almost all the time! The likelihood is Stanley is now reacting like a whole lot of other dogs because of the quarantine: “What do you mean you’re leaving me home alone? Not acceptable!”
If your four-legged can’t handle the anxiety of being left alone, the possible behavior problems are endless, so the goal is prevention. Leave four-legged alone several times a week, for varying lengths of time. Very important: De-emotionalize leaving and coming. No heartfelt goodbyes or hellos! No dropping to the knees with hugs and kisses! As you put your jacket on, toss four or five treats around as you say, “See ya later, Stan, go find the treats!” and book out. Period. Or instead of the treat toss, perhaps a hollow marrow bone with a piece of baloney wedged in the middle, which he can’t really get all the way out, but it’s really interesting. Or perhaps both: the treats to find, and the special toy with baloney. When you come home, no huggies and kissies. Just “Hello, Stan,” with a brief pet as you pick up the (special toy) hollow marrow bone. At this point, the only time ever that he gets a special toy is when he’s alone, or it will lose its specialness. Soothing music for the anxious dog is soft classical or, believe it or not, country-western. Not too loud: Their hearing is far better than ours. Initially, Stan’s alone times should be short, with success building on success as they get longer. As regards the aforementioned Stanley, I’d suggest you deodorize the pee stain and feed him on that spot a few times. (Dogs are often behavior-repetitious, but don’t like to pee where they eat.) Remove the pillows for now when you leave.
Good luck, and let me know how it goes.
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