Dogs get into trouble being left alone in the yard or house for long periods of time, simply because they are domesticated social animals. They love being with people. Today' s busy family often finds itself absent from the home for long periods of time with the dog left alone. Most dogs who choose to engage in destructive behavior are simply bored or have built-up energy because of a lack of exercise. Since they cannot watch television or swing on the swingset, they do what they know how to do. They bark, chew, dig and jump on furniture. The term which animal behaviorists apply to this behavior is "Separation Anxiety." or"Separation Sindrome''.
One mistake that is made when leaving your dog is to try and allay your guilt by making a big fuss over leaving and saying things such as, "Now, you be a good dog. I will see you later. Bye, bye." This creates an even bigger sense of loss when you leave. Your dog now wants more attention than he would have needed. The result is frustration and anxiety which triggers barking and chewing behavior. Some dogs will pace and whine when you leave. The fear of being left alone or separated from you can even result in stress-releasing urination or defecation.
There are some things you can do to eliminate the problems resulting from separation anxiety. First of all, be sure to give your dog lots of exercise just before you leave. Turn the radio on for the comfort of hearing human voices. Turn up the volume on your telephone recorder and call a few times during the day to say "hello.’’ Hire a pet sitter to take your dog out for a walk during the day. Be sure not to make a fuss when you leave. Just walk out the door and say, "Good-bye, Bob." Also, do not make a big fuss when you return because this will highlight the trauma of the length of time you have been gone and how much you have missed each other.
A good technique is gradually to condition your dog for being left alone. Leave for ten minutes, come back, and, if there are no problems, give him lots of praise and a food tidbit. Then, leave for twenty minutes, forty, eighty, and keep increasing the time until you have conditioned him for the amount of time you are normally gone. Be sure to maintain regular hours after this conditioning because the first time you are later than usual, he will misbehave as a way of relieving stress. As you are increasing the time each day, be sure that the length is sufficient to assure that there are no problems. If he misbehaves, shorten the time interval. The goal is to achieve success every time. A few dogs do better with a companion dog around.