How to Help Your Dog with Separation Anxiety

Dogs have been getting more cuddles and attention recently. As we leave the house more in the future, owners and their dogs may struggle to adapt again.

It can be hard to know what to do to ease your dog’s anxiety. Dogs find their own way of coping when left alone, but it is helpful to give them some options to avoid destruction to your home and added stress.

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety in dogs normally starts within half an hour of leaving them alone, and often, within the first few minutes. It is a response to not knowing when you will come back. You may even feel guilty for leaving your dog at home alone and feel anxious yourself.

Separation related behaviour

Separation related behaviour includes barking, urinating indoors or trembling in bed. You will normally know your dog is suffering when left alone because you will come home to a mess.

Your dog may distract themselves by chewing up an object like your favourite slippers. They may also destroy a toy.

You will notice that they already look guilty when you get home. They already know that you will not approve of their way of coping.

What can I do?

It is important to remember that anxious behaviours in dogs are not because of disobedience or resentment. Don’t get annoyed at your dog, as they will not understand why.

Owners may try to teach them not to behave this way. This may actually make their anxiety worse. This is even true if you take them to the scene of the crime and discipline them, although this seems the logical thing to do.

An effective alternative is to let your dog outside or pet them, before cleaning up any mess. This means that they do not get further distressed when you next leave.

Start early

Like humans, if dogs get used to situations and scenarios when young, they are less likely to suffer from anxiety when they are older. If you leave your dog alone for short periods of time during the first few months of their lives, they will slowly get used to it.

The idea is to show them that being alone does not mean you will not come back and that they can relax while they wait.

You could also occasionally put them in a separate room from yourself to get them used to being left alone. Reward them with treats and cuddles when they spend time alone without barking or being otherwise disruptive.

Separation toy

The best way to relieve separation anxiety in dogs is to have a dedicated ‘special’ toy that can accompany them when left alone.

If you can, get a toy that involves mental stimulation like a food puzzle. These types of toy reward your dog for this coping method. Your dog’s belly will stay full and happy at the same time.

When you first get the separation toy, get your dog attached to it. You can do this by leaving them in a separate room with it for short periods of time. Then, when you leave them at home with it, it will feel less unusual. The toy will be familiar and show them that you are not abandoning them. Your dog will then be less likely to destroy one of your belongings.

Minimise possible causes of stress

Ensure your pets basic needs are catered for before you leave so they can look after themselves if necessary. For example, make sure their food and water bowls are not empty. Let them outside for the toilet before you go so this does not add another stress or lead to potential accidents.

Consider putting on some music to accompany them, as dogs have shown to like this too. You could even make a pawfect playlist for your furry friend. Dogs are said to respond well to slow music like reggae.

Consider shutting windows and curtains to avoid disruptive noises and passers-by that may make your dog bark. Although outside noise is somewhat inevitable, this can help your dog feel safe and reduce anxiety.

If you are still struggling with separation behaviour and anxiety, then maybe talk to a behaviourist who can give you more guidance, especially if your dog is older. Otherwise, we welcome you to get in touch with our team who can advise on any pet travel related concerns and queries.