Food Toys can make a Difference

Question:
We have a 9 year old Shih Tzu that has started barking when we leave her alone. We leave the TV on, give her food & water, and walk her before we leave. We are summering in NM in a RV and neighbors tell us she barks when we are gone. It’s only for a movie, dinner etc, not for all day.

Dr. Nichol:
Your little dog is suffering. Accustomed to the security of having you close by she becomes overwhelmed with fear in the confined space of the RV. Behavioral research has shown that dogs like yours, unable to know how long they will be alone, succumb to anxiety and cry out for their leaders

Separation-related behaviors are more common than most people realize. While many frantic dogs leave calling cards of their distress by house soiling or damaging doors, windows, or furniture, others just bark, whine, or howl. Video studies showed that 33% of “normal” dogs cried out for their person starting just 3 minutes after being left alone. This isn’t boredom; it’s panic.

Being alone needs to become a routine part of life for your girl. Completely ignore her while preparing to leave, as you walk out the door, and when you return. While you are away she can abandon her anxiety by focusing on the natural canine activity of foraging. Drop a few loaded food toys as you put on your dancin’ shoes and pick them up when you get home.

If you withhold your dog’s meal prior to those big nights on the town she’ll be seriously motivated to do whatever it takes to pry loose the tasty morsels from food puzzles. Hiding these treasures will make it just like an Easter egg hunt. She may even hand you your hat knowing that being alone means eating. Make no assumptions. There is nothing like video surveillance to know what the kid is up to while you’re out carousing.

Some dogs need extra help. Antianxiety medications or supplements like Anxitane or Zylkene can lower the hurdle to success. Finally, forget about adding another dog unless you really want more responsibility. It is you, the exalter ruler, your Shih Tzu can’t live without.