Dogs are hardwired to live in packs. Separation from their pack is a matter of life and death, as a lone dog can’t hunt or protect himself. Howling is your dog’s way of saying, “Hey, I’m over here. Come back.” This is fine in the wild, but domesticated pups must learn not to howl.
Put on your coat and grab your keys. Your dog is smart enough to have figured out long ago that this means you’re leaving.
Play with your dog. Repeat this process once a day for a week. Eventually, he’ll build positive associations with the behaviors associated with leaving the house. Previously when he saw the coat and keys, he’d begin getting tense and anxious. Now when he sees those things, he’ll be happy.
Give your dog a toy or a food treat. Put it down as far away from the door as possible. While he’s distracted, quietly slip out of the house or into a room where he can’t get to you. If leaving the dog is a no-fuss exercise, it’s less likely to cause your dog stress.
Wait around the corner for one minute, out of sight but within earshot of the dog.
Go back in after one minute and act normally. Don’t fuss, don’t play, just do your normal thing. This shows the dog that entering and exiting the house are totally normal things for you to do and that although you leave, you always come back. If during the minute you hear the dog howl, wait until he stops before returning. Timing is key. If you return to him as he howls, he’ll think that’s the best way to get you to come back. Eventually, your dog will learn that silence is the one thing that can bring you back to him.
Play with the dog after two minutes of calmness. Making a fuss as soon as you come back in shows the dog that your return is a special thing. The trick is to make going out and coming back as normal and mundane as possible.
Increase the period of separation to two minutes. Wait until he’s silent or stops howling, then go back in. Repeat this process once every day, gradually increasing the period of isolation until you’re confident that your dog understands that all periods of isolation are temporary.
Put down enough distractions, such as squeaky toys, food puzzles and chews, to keep your dog occupied during the initial phase of separation. Once he gets used to the fact that he is on his own, he’ll most likely fall asleep. But distraction is key to helping him through that initial first half hour or so.
Items You Will Need
- Food treats
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.