Separation anxiety is quite common and most greyhounds are not terribly happy when their human family leaves for the day. Mild cases of separation anxiety can be addressed by turning on the radio or TV for your greyhound or distracting him with long lasting food rewards such as big bones to gnaw on for hours or treat dispensing toys and puzzles like Kong. Bones and other food toys are however not an option for most multi dog households where leaving any food around the house is a guaranteed recipes for disaster, i.e. serious dogs fights.
My foster boy Bear however needs more than food and background noise to help him relax when I am out.
From day one, he has had extreme separation anxiety and only felt safe when I am near him. He followed me around the house, cried when I take out the trash and peed on the carpet when I went to get something quickly out of my car.
Bear is only a little baby of 9- 10 months and he has been abandoned, abused and starved in his previous ‘home’. He has every right to be anxious and upset when the people who he trusts leave the house or room. But it is of course no long term solution to be glued to his foster mum. I needed to build up his trust and confidence slowly before he can find his forever home. But where do I start?
In the first few weeks, I never left his side. He went everywhere with me, e.g. grocery shopping (I bought him a backpack to carry light items), work and visiting friends. Once when he could not join me for a dinner date, he was looked after by Sammy and her furry friends for a couple of hours. Bear got a lot of walks and play time to help shed some of that anxious energy and increase his levels of Serotonin and make him feel more happy and relaxed.
Gradually, Bear understood that while I am leaving the house a couple of times a day, I always come back. It was time to leave him home alone with the other greyhounds for the first time. I prepared it carefully by exercising and feeding him before. As he was falling asleep on the couch, I left him for 15 minutes. I could hear him cry a little behind the window as I got into my car but when I returned, the house was quiet. Bear was totally over the moon when I came back and we have been practicing being home alone daily since then.
After 6 weeks, Bear is okay now to be left home alone with the other greyhounds for 4 hours. After 4 hours, he needs to go to the toilet and becomes restless. He can be destructive too if I leave him for longer than 4 hours but we are also working on it.
Bear is an extreme case and I have not seen greyhounds as anxious as he. It will take months, if not years for him to be able to stay all day home alone but that’s okay. We have time and he will continue to thrive in his forever home once he is ready to move out.