Q: My dog trainer recommends that when I leave home, I ignore my dog Rudy, except to toss him a dog biscuit or hard rubber chew toy filled with soft cheese or peanut butter. I feel bad not petting him and saying goodbye. What do you advise?
A: Just as every person is unique, each dog responds differently when his human deserts him. Experiment a bit with Rudy to see what departure routine helps him feel most comfortable.
No one knows for sure what routine works best for most dogs because the research hasn’t been done. However, a few small experiments suggest that petting the dog while speaking softly when departing results in a calmer dog with a lower heart rate and a lower cortisol stress hormone level.
Dogs with separation anxiety experience enormous distress when their favorite people leave home, even for a short time. They may whine, chew the furniture or eliminate on the floor. For these dogs, anti-anxiety medication may promote relaxation.
Editor’s Note: Animals may display various behaviors related to anxiety. Dr. Lee discusses anxious dog behaviors and possible solutions.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at email@example.com.