How To Deal With Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Published: July 5, 2019
Updated: February 6, 2023
Summary: In this blog, learn how to support with occasional separation-induced anxiousness in dogs. Discover the signs and different steps to take to try and help reassure your pup when you're not there...
There’s no worse feeling than trying to leave your house and seeing your beloved pup attempting to escape with you, howling, or crying. We know that they do it because they love you, but it could be because they’re scared, too! When you leave the house, they don’t know when you’re coming back, so for them, it’s a time of uncertainty.
If you have a dog that gets nervous or scared when you leave, it’s probably a case of ‘separation-induced anxiousness’ – when your dog doesn’t want to be without you. It’s quite a natural behavior, as dogs like companionship and they rely on us for most things in their life. If your dog occasionally cries, whimpers, barks, bites furniture, or urinates indoors when you’re gone, it could mean they may be experiencing some stress or anxiousness.
Your pup could have been frightened by the loud noise or your neighbor’s tedious cat has strut in front of the window again – whatever it is - it can be emotionally traumatic for all parties involved; your dog, you, and the neighbors that have to hear your pup barking!
The best way to help overcome these behaviors is by taking the time to train your dog into feeling more confident in their own company, and in the knowledge that you will return!
We’ve put together some excellent ways to get you started, so you and your pup don’t feel sad whenever you have to step out of the house. They’re here to help your dog become more confident and develop a sense of independence!
How To Deal With Separation Anxiousness In Dogs
Practice Alone Time
Training can be difficult, especially if you have to leave the house for a long period of time regularly. But, that’s when it’s most important – dogs don’t want to be left alone, but sometimes things happen that require them to stay home without you.
So, start with smaller amounts of time, to begin with. The best thing to do is use familiar surroundings, such as your dog’s bed, or a room they spend a lot of time in. Encourage your pup to go to that place and praise them when they settle there. Praising them will confirm that they’re doing the right thing.
You should leave the room, without making a big deal out of it. Walk calmly out of the room and go somewhere that’s out of sight or earshot from your pooch, for a short period of time. On your return, if they have stayed there and remained relatively calm, praise them. It will give them good associations with staying in one place without becoming destructive or emotional, and they’ll know that when you return, you’ll be as happy to see them as they are to see you!
If you leave for, say, 10 minutes, and you find that your dog starts to become visibly upset after a few minutes, reduce the amount of time and build it up. You don’t want them to be howling or crying every time you leave the room!
Leave A Scent
A dog’s strongest sense is their ability to smell things - meaning they are very sensitive to your scent, their best friend, and their guardian. Being left alone can make your dog feel vulnerable and unsafe, so giving them a little piece of comfort may help them to remain calm when you have to leave.
Find an object – maybe a favorite toy, or an item of clothing that you’ve recently worn – and put it in their bed or room that you’ve chosen as your familiar space. The comfort of your smell can help to keep them calm while you’re away.
Try Day Groups
There is, of course, the option to not leave your beloved pup by themselves – you can take them to a daycare where they can spend the time with other dogs! Socialization is good for your dog’s wellbeing too and tends to improve their confidence. Approaching new friends can be nerve-racking for some animals, so practicing in a safe environment may be an added bonus!
Day groups for dogs are a great way for your furry friend to spend time without you and have fun at the same time. It might be worth spending a little bit of time there with your dog at first, to get them used to it, and then leave without too much of a fuss. When you return, praise them and show them some love. I’m sure you’ll both be happy to see each other and head home together after a long busy day!
Sometimes the way we treat our dogs would be the same as the way we look after human children… A special present can be necessary to keep your dog distracted and well behaved. There are certain toys that get dogs more excited, but it’s different for every dog. The more awesome the toy, the better!
The purpose of this special toy is to provide your pooch with excitement and joy when you leave, so they forget that they’ll be left alone. Mind stimulating games are perfect for keeping them busy for a longer period of time, but whatever it is, find a toy that they love to play with for a while.
But, make sure it’s a safe toy that doesn’t pose any threats, such as choking, or with sharp edges that could cut your dog.
It will be more fun than sitting, waiting for you to return. Plus, when you get the toy out, it will prepare them for your departure, after a few times of doing this.
Leave Them With Someone They Know
Traveling with your furry pal isn’t always possible, and we know it can be a difficult decision to make when choosing where they should stay while you’re gone. The most important thing is that the place is familiar.
If you have a friend or family member that’s happy to take your pup in every time you have to go away, then perhaps your dog already knows the people and the surroundings. If they don’t, spend some time together, in that space, so your dog can sniff around and become familiar with their house.
Kennels and dog boarding facilities are always an option if you have nobody to look after your dog. They’re usually happy for you to visit so that your dog can have a wander around the place and get used to the smells. It might be worth visiting a couple of times before you go away, for extra reassurance! And remember, when you go away for a long time, give your pal a little something for comfort, they’ll really appreciate it.
Dealing With Separation Anxiousness In Dogs
Leaving your dog when you have to go to work doesn’t have to be a difficult experience every single day. Once you start the process of getting your dog trained into knowing how to be in their own company, or introduce them to a doggy daycare, they will gradually become more confident when they’re without you. That sense of independence they’ll get from it may be beneficial to their overall happiness too!