Some dogs do not cope well with being left at home alone, resulting in “separation anxiety”. If you come back to a pile of poo, or irate neighbours who have been deafened by a crying dog, or chewed up furniture, please, please do not chastise the dog. He did it because he could not cope and he will be even more stressed the next time you leave him – then the results will be worse.
What is it?
This is a true phobia that’s occurs when their special person leaves the dog alone, the dog simply can’t cope. It’s over the top and out of context with the situation. It is extreme stress. True separation anxiety is comparatively rare. The dog will often still be distressed when there’s another person or another dog around. The phobia is so great they often can’t be distracted.
This is when the dog simply cannot cope being alone but is fine with another dog or human company. It is not a phobia and not as severe as separation anxiety. This is the most common issue for greyhounds. If the dog is relaxed with doggy / human company it’s generally isolation anxiety.
Separation anxiety and isolation anxiety occur on a spectrum, so they do intersect.
How do we solve the underlying problem? Is he suffering from anxiety at being left alone, or is he bored?
A mild case of isolation anxiety can generally be overcome with a desensitisation and counter conditioning program, coupled with a good diet, exercise and mental enrichment. The more severe, the more complex the training and it is recommended you seek the advice of your veterinarian or a behaivour professional.
If it is anxiety, make sure you make no fuss on leaving him. Just pick up your keys and go. Say nothing. When you come back in, do the same. Ignore him completely until he relaxes (yawns, stretches, blinks or lies down) then you can interact calmly.
If it is boredom that is causing the problem, take him for a long walk and make sure he has been left with plenty of games. Greyhounds are bred to hunt, chase, catch and kill.
Prior to leaving:
Work on understanding your predeparture cues
We can do a few things to be proactive to stop the dogs being anxious. We can do this by understanding what triggers are contributing to the stress. What we do getting ready to leave can be triggers, such as picking up keys or putting on a coat. Once the triggers are identified you can expose your dog to these triggers – and then not leave. Break the association that the trigger = leaving
Medication: Your veterinarian can advise if anti anxiety medication could be helpful for your greyhound in conjunction with a behiviour modification program.
Breaking up the time alone: Utilise family, friends, the wider greyhound community, dog walkers or doggy day care to help look after your greyhound while you are isolation training to ensure they don’t go over threshold. Remember this is a phobia – it is terrifying for the greyhound.