Eight out of ten greyhounds in our care display symptoms of separation anxiety when left home alone. Some are destructive, while others bark or whine all day. The symptoms often ease up once a greyhound has bonded and can trust his human family to always come home. Sometime having another dog in the home for company helps a little too, but this often just masks the fear.
A mix of counter conditioning (associating good things with you leaving the home) and desensitisation (gradually leaving your greyhound home for longer periods of time) will help your greyhound overcome his anxiety.
Some greyhounds get already anxious when you pick up your keys, put on your shoes and put your hand on the door knob because they know you are about to leave the house. Practice your leaving ritual 2–3 times daily without actually leaving and reward your dog for remaining calm while you get ready to leave. Use the best possible treats you have — you can use them with only this particular exercise to make them even more special. Think cheese cubes, steak, cooked chicken, peanut butter etc.
Have a think about what you would like your greyhound to do while you are away. Most people would want their greyhound to lie on his bed (or your bed or couch) while you are out. So teach him that. Teach your greyhound to lie down on his bed and reward him for staying on his bed while you are getting ready.
When your greyhound is able stay calm during your leaving routine, leave the house for a short period of time — five minutes is enough to begin with — and slowly increase the duration. Reward your greyhound when you come back and please don’t ignore him. He has done so well by himself and really needs you to talk to him, cuddle him and give him some more snacks.
Repeat until your greyhound can be home alone for a reasonable time. Yes, it will take some time and lots of treats, depending on how deep his fear is running. But keep it up and your greyhound will be so grateful.
The same training protocol works for other fear based issues, e.g. fear of other dogs, fear of going to the vet, etc.
Some extra tips to make it work:
- Use the best food you can think of when teaching your greyhound.
- Go slow and practice when you actually don’t need to go outside to take the pressure off .
- Focus on your timing when giving treats. Make sure your greyhound understands what he is being rewarded for.
- Read your greyhound’s body language to ensure that they always stay under threshold. Your greyhound will not take treats if they are too anxious.