Anyone who has ever owned a dog has probably, at some point, experienced separation anxiety in their beloved woofer. It can manifest in various ways, from their turning a $2,000 couch into nothing but stuffing to obsessively chewing on their own feet.
When I first adopted Boscoe, I had never experienced canine separation anxiety before, and was completely unprepared as to how to deal with it. I thought that I was being reassuring and comforting when, in reality, I was doing everything wrong.
When I brought him home from the shelter, I didn’t want to leave him alone while he was settling into a strange space. He followed me everywhere and I, being absolutely clueless in doggy behavior at that time, believed that it was because he already loved me and he wanted to spend every minute of every hour of every day with me.
I had completely failed to read the early warning signals of separation anxiety. The first day I left him alone in the house, I spent 10 minutes petting and cooing at him, letting him know that I would be right back. I left for the grocery store. I was gone for half an hour. And I came back to complete carnage.
The first thing I noticed as I struggled through the door with my heavy plastic bags was the bloody foam around the mouth of the enormous dog flying through the air toward me at eye level. The second thing I noticed was that my front door didn’t appear to have a frame anymore, and that many of the parquet tiles leading up to that door were missing. Or perhaps they were what was now a large pile of splinters taking up a corner of the entryway.
He had obviously decided in his silly dog mind that I wasn’t coming back, and therefore he was going to come and find me … and to do that, he clearly had to try and remove the door. He started with the door jamb. At this point I should point out that not only was the door frame nailed on, whomever had put it up there had also seen fit to super glue it just to make sure that it didn’t fall down. This was no match for Boscoe, who had done with the framing as he had with the cactus mentioned in a previous column — torn bits off and spat them aside — as he continued down the door.
Now, I can only speculate as to what made him decide that removing the floor tiles would help his cause. Maybe he reached the bottom of the door framing and simply couldn’t stop. Maybe he thought that by digging up the floor tiles a tunnel to freedom would miraculously appear.
Whatever his thought process, I had never witnessed anything like the panic that I saw in his eyes when I got home that day.
If you have experienced separation anxiety with your dog, please consider consulting with a trainer. The things that we tend to do to try to help are the kinds of things that would soothe a child. But these can ultimately be the wrong things for our pets.