In their book, ‘Outwitting Dogs’ T. Ryan, and K. Mortensen explain that when you leave your puppy home alone, you should do so quietly. Don’t fuss over your dog, don’t pet her, and tell her you are sorry to go and how much you will miss her. They also explain that the same strategy should be applied when returning home. Ryan and Mortensen suggest that you should walk in calmly and that you shouldn’t greet your dog for the first 20 minutes after you return. You should ignore your puppy completely, and any sign of the puppy requiring the toilet should be allowed out, but the owner should maintain a calm and detached attitude. But why is this? In an article via ‘animaldirect.co.uk’ Paul Roberts explains that approaching a dog with extreme emotions is likely to cause them to share said emotions. Roberts says that making a big fuss over your dog upon both leaving and returning home can spark separation anxiety because draws attention to your absence. Subsequently, the becomes anxious, this anxiety can manifest itself in behaviours such as howling, urinating, chewing and attempts to escape.
The issue with providing affection, fuss and emotional responses upon returning is that it is giving your dog the message that their anxiety and worry was warranted. Our verbal and physical attention upon returning home to an anxious dog only serves to increase their anxiety the time we leave. It is common knowledge that touch, a physical form of praise is a primary reinforcer, when this is combined with an anxious and over stimulated dog (caused by our return) we are primarily reinforcing their emotions and actions in that time. Subsequently, by our own subconscious actions, we may not only be increasing separation anxiety in our dog but encouraging other undesirable behaviours such as jumping up (as they would do to get our attention), urinating (out of excitement) and barking (again, out of excitement).