Dogs Who Are Destructive When Left Alone

There can’t be anything more frustrating than coming home, every day, to the wreckage of what was once your nice stuff.

  • These dogs are clingy with their people but overwhelmed with anxiety when alone.
  • Acting out their panic on the door, window coverings, the wall, or furniture is really only a symptom of a severe behavior disorder called separation anxiety.
  • With individualized treatment many can learn to relax when they’re home alone.

Don’t blame yourself and don’t blame your dog either.

  • He was genetically programmed for anxiety at conception.
  • He was ready to go to pieces when he moved in with you. He doesn’t want to destroy your life.

Every bad day begins with your morning routine: getting dressed, eating breakfast (you do eat breakfast, don’t you?), brushing your teeth, grabbing your coat.

  • For your dog, each of these little events is a trigger for a successively higher level of fear of the inevitable-living without you for several hours.
  • By the time you drive away he’s already losing control.

Start by “desensitizing” your dog to your “predeparture” cues.

  • With him contentedly enjoying a food toy crammed with crab louie, steak tartar, or chopped up hot dogs mixed with Cheez Whiz nonchalantly pick up and drop your car keys. Put on your coat. Brush your teeth.
  • Ignore your dog as you repeat these triggers hundreds of times. Are we having fun yet? Say yes. You’ve only started.

Once your dog sees that what were once signals of impending disaster are truly just annoying little human habits you can move on to teaching her that you could return home anytime.

  • “Graduated absences” is another repetitive process.
    • You carry out several “predeparture cues”, then walk out the door. Stay out of sight for one minute, then walk back in. Repeat hundreds of times.
    • When your dog starts to look bored you can stretch your “absences” to a few minutes.
    • Do this hundreds of times (OK, maybe dozens of times). Gradually increase your length of departure.

Your frightened dog needs security.

  • Make your departures and returns non-events by ignoring her. Literally pretend she doesn’t exist.
  • Just before walking out the door put a stuffed food toy on the floor. Pick it up on your return.
  • Give your dog regular strenuous exercise and say nothing if she desecrates your favorite Picasso.

You’ll need all the help you can get.

  • Plug in a DAP pheromone diffuser near the door.
  • Start your wigged out dog on a prescription antianxiety medication like clomipramine or fluoxetine.

These dogs are big challenges. You are welcome to contact my office.