Wolfie is experiencing separation anxiety. When you leave he becomes anxious and will cry and bark for long periods of time. He will pace back and forth, sometimes jumping up on the window ledges to see if you are coming home yet. Sometimes this behavior turns destructive. He might start chewing on the baseboards near the door or on pillows and other pieces of furniture. In one extreme case, we saw two dalmatians actually eat their way through a wall.
There are many things you can do about this. For now, I would like to offer one of the suggestions I provide my clients having this problem.
Separation anxiety many times starts with anticipation. When Wolfie has the ability to anticipate our departure and his solidarity, it builds up the adrenaline and can make the matter even worse. What we must do is to eliminate Wolfie's anticipation of our departure.
We are creatures of habit and usually have set routines for things we do. This is almost always true when we leave the house. We need to get our keys, check to make sure the doors and windows are locked, turn off the lights, grab our wallet, put on our shoes, grab our coat, etc. Many times this process might begin up to 30 minutes before we actually leave. Wolfie watches us every day and knows every one of our routines. When he starts to see the "I am leaving" routine, his adrenaline and anticipated anxiety begin to build. To minimize Wolfie's anxiety, we need to "hide" our "I am leaving" routine from Wolfie.
Here is what you do:
- For the next three days, write down everything you do when you leave the house. Start your list 30 minutes before you actually leave. After three days, pull out your lists and look for a pattern of repeated actions you do before you leave. Take these actions and make it your "I am leaving" routine.
- Now, every time you leave, mix up your routine or even eliminate some of the actions. You might put your briefcase and shoes in the car the night before or leave your car keys in the garage. Continue to mix up your routine for the next few days.
- Now, start to perform your "I am leaving" routine, but don't leave. Get all ready to leave, walk out the door, come right back in side, and sit down to watch TV. Repeat this and then work on the computer. Even mix up the routine slightly, but don't leave.
- Perform the "leaving" and "not leaving" routines for several days.