How can I stop my 8 month old Pit Bull from crying and barking when I leave the house? He is an extremely well-behaved dog, always has been, but he seems to suffer from separation anxiety when my husband or I leave.
I am currently expecting my first child, so the dog is rarely left alone (and when he is it's for 4 hours or less), but with a lot of upcoming doctor appointments, I am worried the problem will continue. I always make sure to leave the radio or TV on when I go out, leave him a big bowl of fresh water, toys, and his Kong to keep him occupied, but it doesn't seem to help.
We live in an apartment building and keep getting complaints from the neighbors. If it continues we have been told we may be forced to give him up. Please help me! I need a solution that will actually work. I can't stand the thought of losing him, but with a baby on the way, I cannot afford to lose my home either.
By Erica from Seattle, WA
I have heard that people sometimes record their voice on the computer, then have it loop, and let it play all day while they are gone. You and your husband could record a long conversation. Then to test it out, start the recording, get in the car and drive away. Park about a block away, then walk back to the house (your dog would hear the car approach) and see if it is working. Whatever you decide to do, good luck.
If the other suggestion doesn't work, you could try giving the dog calming medicine a half hour before leaving home. It's inexpensive and might help.
Classical music is also calming. My husband played it when I left the house after noticing my bonded female cried. This relaxed all the pets and they took a nap. It's sedating without calming medicine.
My dog had separation anxiety (the tear and destroy type) when I adopted him. I spent a lot of time at the vet and dog trainers figuring out how to deal with it. This is what they recommended:
1) Try a Dog Appeasement Pheromone (DAP) collar (they have them at the vets). The collar gives off the same soothing hormone that the mother dog gives off when she's nursing to calm and sooth the puppies. I found it really helped Mason feel safe.
2) Ignore your dog before you leave and for at least 10 minutes after you come home. This helps them from thinking your leaving is a big deal.
3) Have a phrase that you use every time you leave that means you'll be back. I use "Mason, be good" as I shut the door. He knows it means I'll be gone for a while, but he knows I'll come back.
4) Desensitize your dog by picking up your keys and moving them, leaving for a minute and coming back, then leaving for longer time so he gets used to you coming and going. This could really help, since you say you don't leave the house often.
5) Obedience training generally helps your dog feel more self-assured. Reward low key calm behavior, not jumping or whining.
We finally ended up putting him on Reconcile (doggie Prozac) for a couple months until he adjusted to our house. We've had him for a year and a half now and he does awesome! I've also heard that some dogs do better if you use a crate.
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