Social Shih Tzus love spending time with their owners, whether taking a walk or just curling up on the couch. So when it comes time for their "person" to go to work or leave the house for long periods of time, it can make this little dog anxious.
For some Shih Tzus, the anxiety is so great that it can lead to extreme behavior, such as persistent barking or howling, housebreaking accidents, destructive chewing, scratching, or digging. A few common sense strategies can help.
5 ways to nip separation anxiety in the bud
Confine your Shih Tzu. Try to keep him in an enclosed area, such as a crate, when you're out. Dogs are den animals, so they feel safer in their own small space. This will protect both your dog and your belongings.
Alter your habits. Do you have a set routine each day before you leave the house? Perhaps you jingle your keys, put your bag or briefcase near the door, or kiss your spouse and kids. Your dog picks up on these cues, and associates them with your leaving. Try to mix up your normal routine by doing your usual activities in a different order.
- Practice leaving. Plan short trips that allow your dog to gradually adjust to being alone. If your dog seems comfortable after half-hour departures, and exhibits no anxious behavior, increase your time away.
- Go for a walk. Taking your dog for a long walk before you leave will give your dog a reason to look forward to your departure. It will also help make him too tired to misbehave after you leave.
- Keep your dog busy. Before you leave, bury toys and hide treats where he can find and "dig" them up. Keeping a TV on can also provide "company" for your pooch.
Try not to cure your Shih Tzu's anxiety problem by giving him more attention before you leave. If you do, you may only create a vicious cycle of neediness. Likewise, never get angry when your dog acts clingy as you prepare to leave. This can cause even more anxiety because your dog will associate your absence and return with punishment. It is best to ignore his behavior, because any attention to an unwanted behavior can actually reinforce it.
With some time and a lot of patience, your Shih Tzu will have a renewed sense of confidence—and you can be confident knowing that your dog is fine being home alone.