Separation anxiety in dogs can increase our stress levels and concern when leaving our furry companions for long periods. In nature, dogs are herd animals – you may have noticed your dog’s joy when finding other dogs at any opportunity! It is up to us as their loving dog parents to help them deal with separation anxiety in the best possible way.
Fortunately, you don’t need a medical professional – you just need to know what to do and do it consistently. Teaching your dog that being alone isn’t scary is something that anyone can learn to do well.
Here’s how you can stop separation anxiety in your dog.
You may have noticed your dog’s excitement when you pick up their lead or when you go to the door with it. Your dog knows what’s coming – a nice walk!
The same applies when you leave: your dog will be alert to your usual signals such as picking up keys, putting your shoes and coat on, etc.
By changing your routine, you can help calm your dog since there won’t be the buildup of a separation that they then know is imminent.
Try using a different door when you leave or putting keys and shoes in another place (or even picking them up away from your dog’s eager eyes).
You can also put your coat on and then go about business as usual for the next quarter of an hour.
Take your dog out for playtime in the garden, or better yet, for a brisk walk or run. The more you tire them out, the better they’ll be able to rest when you go.
If possible, plan to meet up with other dog owners whose dogs you know your friend gets along with. Dogs are known to tire themselves out much more when in the company of other dogs. There will be lots of smelling and chasing each other about, which is perfect for burning off all of that energy! The optimum exercise time for your dog in these situations is at least 30 minutes.
If you are looking at pet hotels as boarding options when traveling, look for ones that encourage interaction between dogs of similar temperaments. Having canine friends to play with can make all the difference, particularly if you have a highly anxious dog.
The more you are able to be relaxed, the more your dog will pick up on your mood and understand that there’s no cause for concern. If you feel guilty or stressed about leaving your dog behind, your dog will sense it and become more anxious.
If you want to make a fuss over your dog – you will miss them, after all – do this way before you leave.
When you do leave, do so without looking at or even speaking to your dog. That way, you are sending your dog the message that spending time apart is no big deal.
And when you come back, come back calmly. Don’t fuss over your dog, even though you have missed them! Instead, let them know that yes, you’re back, and it’s business as usual: nothing to get over excited about.
Once you’ve been back for a little while, then absolutely give your dog lots of cuddles and fussing to make up for your time apart!
You can leave your dog with lots of different kinds of entertainment to keep them occupied while you’re gone. Try any of these:
- Videos. There are dedicated YouTube channels with content specifically designed to keep dogs entertained and happy. Some channels have soothing nature sounds or relaxing music that dogs enjoy.
- Audiobooks. The human voice has a soothing effect on dogs, so choose something with a calming and gentle tone of voice that can relax your pet.
- Toys. Interactive toys or puzzle toys are great for dogs to play with to keep their minds busy, such as Kong toys with a treat inside. Make sure that any toys are robust enough to safely leave with your pet – if in doubt, ask your vet what they recommend.
- Comfort items. Things that carry your scent, such as dirty laundry, can be very calming for your dog and can act as a reminder that you’ll be back.