How to Ease Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
If you come home to a bouncy dog who is full of energy and has defecated, chewed on your shoes or furniture, or driven neighbors crazy with barking, don’t get angry just yet. These are most often signs that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety.
Dogs are pack animals by nature, so we need to take the right steps to make an unnatural situation as stress-free as possible for our furry companions.
Here are several things you can do to ease your dog’s separation anxiety.
Give Your Dog Exercise Before You Go
Take your dog for a rigorous walk outdoors to use up some of that doggie energy. If your dog has boundless amounts of pep, you can use a dog backpack with some added weight in it. When using a weighted backpack, reward your calmed dog afterward with a treat and some water.
Provide plenty of stimulation for your dog by allowing them to sniff and explore as much as possible.
Alternatively, have a good play with your dog in your garden with some favorite toys that will ensure your dog gets in lots of running. Be sure to provide fresh water afterward, as all dogs require hydration after exercise.
The idea is to tire your dog out so that they can have a good rest while you are gone. You can even try to teach him some new tricks, this will tire him mentally too and you will meet all his needs to help him bear your absence.
Don’t Make a Big Deal of Leaving
Make your leaving process as low-key as possible:
The same goes for when you come back. By leaving calmly, you are communicating to your dog that the time you spend apart isn’t an issue; it’s normal.
Don’t fuss over your dog when you go – in fact, don’t even make eye contact. Your dog’s feelings won’t be hurt if you don’t say goodbye! We tend to project our own needs for social niceties onto our animals when usually they don’t notice. It’s not what we say, but rather how we say it and what we do that gets their attention.
Of course, you can hug and fuss over your dog as you’ll undoubtedly miss them, but do this before playtime so that your dog doesn’t associate the fussing with your departure.
Staying calm shows your dog that you are a confident leader who is, so to speak, in charge of the ‘pack.’ The calmer and more assertive you are, the less anxious your dog will feel.
They know when they are in safe hands, and dogs are excellent at picking up on our emotional cues and body language.
If you are feeling stressed and guilty about leaving your dog, you are only making their separation anxiety worse!
Start With Short Separations
Rather than leave your dog alone all day from the start, begin by leaving your dog for 5 minutes. Then extend that time to 20 minutes, and then an hour , 2…, all the day .
Increase the time gradually until you are able to leave for your full workday without your dog causing any more havoc!
If you’re going on holiday and are looking to find a pet hotel, look for one that will allow you to visit first with your dog. You can then try a few test sessions where you leave your dog for a little bit longer each time.
Change Your Leaving Signals
Dogs pick up on your habitual actions that mean you’ll be leaving the house, so try switching things around to avoid routines.
Here are some things you can try :
- Put your coat on, but don’t leave for 15 minutes
- Use a different door when you go
- Change the location of your shoes, keys, etc.
Try Using a Voice Recording
Dogs tend to calm down when hearing a human voice. You can record your voice if you wish, though studies show that even audiobooks can help calm dogs and lessen their anxiety.
There are also YouTube channels with calming music and voices for dogs that you can put on for your friend.
Leave Treats and Toys
You can leave your dog a favorite treat when you go, as well as a safe and interactive toy. Your dog will then hopefully associate alone time with pleasure rather than boredom or loneliness.
Be sure to choose dog toys that cannot be chewed up or broken – Kong toys with a treat inside are an excellent way to entertain your dog and provide stimulation.