Separation Anxiety. If I hear those words one more time, I swear, I'm gonna lose my mind. At least once a week someone tells me their dog has separation anxiety. It's become the catchall phrase for unusual, usually destructive behavior when the owner is not present. Generally the people who tell me this are bright and competent, and have raised their dog with love and care. They would go to the ends of the earth to make their dog happy. This does not usually set the stage for separation anxiety. True separation anxiety is a rare occurrence and usually the result of a dog suffering trauma (someone breaks in, a fire, or other extreme situation) while left alone, or coming from a very abusive situation. But it's easy to say, "separation anxiety". It rolls off the tongue, and makes the problem behavior the dog's fault. Excellent. Now you just need someone to fix it, or maybe some pills to pop down your dog every morning.
OK, everybody. Here's what I have to say. Most likely what your dog is really suffering from is terminal boredom (think "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") or maybe, just maybe, isolation anxiety. Dogs are pack animals. They need social interaction as much as we humans do. If your dog spends day after day waiting for you while you're at work, he's lonely. It's fine that you leave your dog and go to work. We all have real lives. But you have to be willing to put in the effort to counteract that when you are home, or find another way to satisfy your dog's need to party a little with others. Whether boredom or isolation anxiety, the fact is, no matter how much you love your dog, these are on you! Sorry, but it's true. Think about your routine. How much exercise is that bright, bubbly, happy dog of yours actually getting? When you picked out that lab, aussie, Jack Russell, or, heaven forbid, border collie, did you really think about how much exercise it would require? Did you think about what your dog was bred to do, what activity would be calling to him right down to his very last cell and wonder if you could find a way to fulfill that need? Because that cushy life your dog is leading, while comfortable, isn't really very fulfilling. Dogs are amazingly like humans in that respect. Sure we love our down time, but we don't want all of our time to be down time. What fun would that be, really? Too many of our very lucky puppies live exactly that life.
If your dog is suffering from what you are sure is separation anxiety, it's time to implement a new schedule to test your theory. A tired dog is a happy dog. For the next couple of weeks, you need to make the effort to make your dog happily tired (which doesn't include hours on a treadmill. What fun is that?). But, lucky you, these days, the options are pretty much endless. If your dog is a sociable type, there are dog parks and daycare. I'd go every other day, at least, for a couple of weeks. If you're going to the dog park, plan on spending at least an hour, and during that time, make sure you are watching your dog. This isn't the time to chat with other dog people, it's the time to make sure your dog is not getting into a bad situation. If you take your dog to daycare try to have him spend the whole day, if you can't, at least go for a half day. Maybe neither of those options work for you and/or your dog.Enroll your little reprobate in a training class. Hire a dog walker. Find a neighborhood kid to stand in the backyard and throw the ball for an hour. Get up an hour earlier (I know, I know. But if I can do it, so can you!) and take your dog for a nice long, brisk walk. Play with him a little. Fill his mind up and go to work leaving him feeling loved. Keep a log of your dog's behavior, if you want, but I bet you'll see an improvement.
So, if your dog pooped right in the middle of the brand new, very expensive, cream colored, imported from Italy duvet when you went to the store, destroyed your clothes or furniture, shredded your shoes, or even jumped out a window, it's probably not separation anxiety. It's probably your dog saying "Thank goodness he's gone, now I can really get some exercise!"