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Problem Behavior When Left Alone

It has become fashionable to attribute all home-alone problems to separation anxiety. This is simply a wrong assumption. Dogs who are destructive, bark too much, escape , or relieve themselves in the house when they are lef t alone can do so for a number of different reasons.

Many dogs are simply bored, meaning they aren’t getting enough exercise, playtime, potty breaks, mental stimulation or social contact to meet their needs. Others have learned that misbehavior results in discipline when their owners are home, but not only does nothing bad happen in their absence, but foraging through trash is actually fun and it’s much more convenient to urinate in the dining room than to use the dog door to go outside!

If separation anxiety is the problem, your dog will be virtually panicked about being left alone. She will show her problem behavior on a regular basis, every time she’s left, not just some of the time as bored dogs tend to do.

The third most common reason for home alone problems is noise phobias . If your dog is afraid of thunder, fireworks, construction sounds or other loud, startling noises, she may react by trying to get away from the sounds, resulting in destructive behavior or attempts to escape. She may also howl or bark, or become so anxious she can’t control her bladder or bowels

Be very, very cautious about crating your dog to manage home alone problems. If the home alone problem is due to separation anxiety, thunder phobia, or other fear related problems, confining your dog will only increase his panic and likely result in him hurting himself trying to get out of the crate. If you are going to try this option you MUST MUST acclimate your dog to the crate and to being alone in it gradually. “Crate Training the Right Way”, a DVD we authored for PETsMART and available at your local PETsMART store tells you how.


First, you need our CD “Managing the Home Alone Dog". This program explores a variety of causes and relevant solutions to home alone problems.

To understand why “punishment” after the fact won’t work and to learn the value of remote punishment and providing opportunities for rewarding alternative behaviors, we recommend our 4 CD set “How Fido Learns Best”.

After you learn from the above program why remote punishers are often best, try the SSSCat. Designed not only for cats but small or easily frightened dogs, this is a motion detector that emits a harmless spray and hissing sound when triggered by movement. Great for counter surfers and trash trowlers. Can also be used to discourage housesoiling and urine marking.

If the home alone problem involves housesoiling, we authored two DVDs for PETsMART on housetraining. Although not available on our website, you’ll find them in your local PETsMART store. Look for “Crate Training the Right Way” and “Housetraining: A Plan for Success”. If you don’t find them on display, ask a PETsMART trainer to help you locate them. We have to be honest, avoid their Potty Training manual.

If your puppy is having problems staying home alone, you need our “ Raising a Behaviorally Healthy Puppy” book. You may be quite surprised to discover your puppy just isn’t ready for free run of the house yet will home alone. The book also discusses crate training.

To provide your dog with wonderful, engaging toys to occupy him rather than using your sofa as a chew toy or digging holes to amuse himself, watch our video showing Tug a Jugs and Bouncy Bones in action. Our Fidos LOVE these toys and we are sure yours will too. Great way to prevent destructive chewing due to “boredom”.

Animal Behavior Associates - Helping Fido
4994 S. Independence Way
Littleton, CO 80123

Phone: 303-932-9095
Fax: 303-932-2298