Dealing with separation anxiety in dogs can be just as stressful for owners as it is for dogs.
Whilst we may love having our pooches by our sides, there are going to be times in everyday life when they’re going to have to be left alone at home. Yet because dogs are such highly social animals and form incredibly strong bonds with us, their pet parents, this can lead to our pups becoming seriously stressed when separated from us.
Not only can it be tough on both us and our dogs emotionally, it can also lead to destruction and damage of our property too. But if you are currently battling with this, know that you’re not alone - as it’s suggested that as many as one in every four to six dogs suffers from separation anxiety.
So how do you deal with separation anxiety in dogs? What can you do to help your pup feel calm and composed, even when left alone at home?
Thankfully, with patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, separation anxiety can be trained.
But firstly, it’s important to understand…
Put simply, separation anxiety is a condition experienced by dogs, where they become anxious and stressed when left alone.
Signs of separation anxiety can manifest in a number of ways, including:
The severity of the symptoms can vary depending on the dog in question, but these signs are usually most intense in the initial 15 to 45 minutes after the owner leaves the dog alone.
There is no single cause of separation anxiety in dogs, as it can be caused by a mixture of genetic and environmental factors.
Some of the common causes of separation anxiety in dogs include:
Not all dogs that experience one or more of these factors will necessarily develop separation anxiety. Equally, some dogs may develop separation anxiety without any obvious cause.
What’s important is that you investigate and reflect upon your dog’s own environmental and genetic factors, to better understand what could be contributing to their own separation anxiety.
Our tip? Keep a diary on factors which appear to contribute to your dog’s anxiety.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, training your dog to overcome separation anxiety is possible. It just takes time, patience, and a lot of positive reinforcement.
Here’s some suggestions to help get you started on this journey:
Start by leaving your dog alone for just a few minutes at a time, gradually increasing the length of time as your dog becomes more comfortable. It's important to be patient and not rush this process - going too fast can cause your dog to become more anxious and undo any progress you've made.
A crate or specific area of your home can be a “designated safe space” for your dog to relax in while you're away. Make sure the space is comfortable and familiar to your pup, and fill it with toys, blankets, and other items that will help them feel calm and secure.
Top tip: Why not try putting a piece of your clothing here, so they can be comforted by the familiar scent?
Don't make a big fuss when you leave or return home. This can increase your dog's anxiety levels and make it harder for them to settle down.
For example, no over-the-top farewell to your pooch or over-excitable greeting when you return.
Instead, keep departures and arrivals calm, low-key and uneventful.
You may also want to invest in a treat dispensing pet camera. These pet cameras offer the double benefit of you being able to keep an eye on your pup and also treat them, even when away from home.
Provide your dog with plenty of mental stimulation to keep them occupied while you're away. This could include puzzle toys, interactive feeders, or even leaving the TV or radio on for background noise.
We’d recommend checking out dog music playlists or dog TV playlists on YouTube for some soothing music when you’re away. This relaxing dog music video is one of our favourites.
In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend medication to help your dog overcome their separation anxiety. Talk to your local vet about whether medication is right for your dog, as they’ll be able to suggest the best options for your pooch moving forwards.
Last but not least, consistency. Consistency is key when training a dog to overcome separation anxiety.
Stick to a routine as much as possible, and don't make sudden changes that could unsettle your dog.
Separation anxiety can be distressing for both dogs and their owners. However, it is possible to train your dog to overcome their anxiety and feel more comfortable when left alone. The key here is to be patient and offer lots of positive reinforcement, so your pooch starts to associate being alone with happy or calming things.
With time and effort, you can help your dog overcome separation anxiety and enjoy a more relaxed and happy life.
Remember, you’re not alone in this and there’s heaps of resources online to help you.
When it comes to training your pup to better manage their separation anxiety, we have everything you need!
We also offer a range of treat and puzzle toys to keep your pup engaged and entertained, even when you’re out of the house. Why not try stuffing this treat toy and freezing it, for even longer enrichment?