Written by George Anderson
Monday, 28 February 2005
When you take a dog home from the sanctuary in order to prevent separation problems arising you should, from the very first day have periods when the dog is left on its own. When you get home, after you have got him settled in, leave him for a short time in the area where he is going to have his bed. Even if it is for only 5 minutes, you are starting off by letting him know that he is not going to be in your company 24 hours a day. I find that the kitchen area is often the best place for the dog to sleep, and where he often spends most of the day. Most people are in and out of the kitchen throughout the day which means though he is not continuously in your company he is seeing you at different times. It is a big mistake to keep the dog in your company all the time as he will become over-dependant on you and after a while will not be able to cope without you. Inability to cope with being on its own is one of the reasons for dogs being destructive, sometimes they will howl and bark, sometimes they will urinate and/or defecate in the house. This is not the dog “getting his own back on you” for leaving him, it is a sign that he cannot cope with this sudden enforced loneliness.
The destructiveness often takes the form of chewing on furniture, ripping wallpaper off, or chewing the carpet, this is a displacement activity, something he does to take his mind off being on his own. The barking and howling is him calling to the pack and the urination/defecation is him making himself feel more secure with his own smells about him.
Depending on the severity of the problem this can be dealt with by using behaviour therapy, sometimes including the use of drug therapy. Instead of getting to this stage it would be much easier on you and the dog if you had taught him to cope with being on his own from the start.
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