Buddy & Porky’s Pet Health: A Frantic Dog, Home Alone

Dear Buddy,

I just adopted a new dog, Amelia. She is about nine months old and she is perfect except for one thing. Whenever I leave the house, even for short periods, when I come back it seems that she has been frantic and destructive the whole time. I know I could leave her in a crate and prevent this, but since I work during the day, I would prefer that she have the run of the house if I can just get her to stop this behavior.


Dear Andy,

Thanks for adopting, first of all. This is a common problem and one we have talked about before, but it doesn’t hurt to do it again. Here are some steps you can take to make sure that Amelia is happier and calmer when she is home alone.

– Whenever you are getting ready to leave the house, make your routine less predictable and obvious. You can ignore Amelia, or practice obedience behaviors, such as “Sit” and “Down Stay,” or distract her with a chew bone or toy.

– Keep your departures and arrivals low key so Amelia doesn’t associate comings and goings with arousal and stress.

– Use reward-based training, practice out-of-sight “Sit” and“Down Stays” around the house so you can be in one room and Amelia in another without her becoming anxious.

– When not training her and, until you have the problem resolved, arrange for someone to be with Amelia at all times when you are away, or use her crate if you need to. It is not harmful for dogs to be crated for reasonable periods of time and she will be happier until she learns not to be stressed when you are gone.

– Teach her mannerly ways to gain your attention, such as “Sit,” “Down,” and “Bring a toy.” If she has learned to gain your attention when you’re home by barking, pawing, and mouthing, then it should come as no surprise that she has temper tantrums when you’re away.

– Give her plenty of physical exercise before leaving her for lengthy periods of time, especially if you leave first thing in the morning

– Practice short absences and gradually build up the time you are gone. The most effective treatment for a dog with separation anxiety is to accustom her to very short periods of time alone. At the same time, you must pair the experience of being alone with something wonderful, such as his favorite treats.

Here is a step-by-step method to do this: You’ll need some hollow toys into which you will stuff tasty treats; these are readily available at pet supply stores. Just before you walk out the door, scatter a selection of these toys around the room. Step out the door and wait for no more than 30 seconds to one minute. Come back in. If Amelia is still working on the toys, excellent! Remove the toys so she learns that she only has access to them when she’s alone. Repeat several times each day, gradually increasing the time you are outside the home. Periodically revert back to shorter times so that Amelia is forever hopeful that you’ll be right back. Take things slowly! You should initially increase the time you’re away by only seconds, and then work up to minutes. When you hit 30 minutes, begin to take jumps of five minutes. When you achieve two hours, take jumps of 15 minutes. When you can be out of the home for four hours and your dog stays relaxed, you can probably be gone for a full eight-hour day. Continue to leave food toys that will occupy Amelia for at least 20-30 minutes.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter assistance, information and referral, adoption assistance to pet owners, humane education programs, foster care and adoption for pets in urgent need, assistance with lost and found pets. Our administrative offices and spay/neuter clinic are located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Check our web site at www.oswegohumane.org or call (315) 207-1070 for more information or to be placed on our mailing list for our newsletter.