10 Ways to Help Your Dog with Separation Anxiety

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Do you regularly come home to furniture that’s been destroyed, or chewed-up shoes when you’ve been out during the day? 

While it may be frustrating, try not to feel angry at your dog. This could be a sign that they are suffering from separation anxiety. 

Separation anxiety is one of the main causes behind destructive and frantic behaviors in dogs. Many people mistake these for other behavioral problems, but it could simply be because your pet is distressed when away from you. In nature, dogs rarely stray from their pack, so it’s often a natural reaction to being left alone. 

Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to help your dog remain calm and happy when you’re away. Here we list 5 handy tips and tricks to reduce separation anxiety in dogs.

1. Natural Remedies 

There are a number of natural remedies to help dogs with separation anxiety on the market. Products containing lemon balm offer a natural source of stress relief, while those with fish protein hydrolysate can help regulate your dog’s brain chemicals to help them feel calm and happy. 

Many people are now turning to dog CBD oil as a natural remedy for separation anxiety. It’s thought to be highly beneficial for pups who struggle with stress and anxiety issues when away from their owner, and can promote a sense of calm and wellbeing for your four-legged friend. 

2. Exercise Your Dog Before You Leave Home 

If you leave in the morning every day to go to work, try taking your dog out for a brisk walk before you go. Starting your day in this way will use up a lot of your pet’s energy, and by then rewarding them with food and water, you’ll leave your dog with a content, and calm but submissive manner. The idea is to leave your pooch in a restful, quiet mood while you’re going to be away.  

3. Leave Background Noise for Your Dog 

Audiobooks, a radio station, or even the television make great background noise for dogs and help them feel less alone in the house. The sound of a human voice can have a calming effect and reduce their nervousness when you’re not around. 

4. Teach Your Dog How to Be Alone 

Try getting your pooch used to the idea of being alone when you’re in the house. Tell your pet to stay in a room while you go to a different part of the house.

If your dog really struggles with being alone, you may need to start with intervals of just 5-10 seconds, and then work your way up to 20-30 minutes over a period of 3-4 weeks. 

This will help teach your dog that it’s okay to be alone, and that you’ll always come back. They’ll feel more confident if they don’t hear the front door close (or notice any other signals that you’re leaving for the day), which will help them adapt quicker. 

5. Create a Special Place for Your Dog

Create a special area in your home with your dog’s bed, favorite toys, and blankets. When you’re home, take them to this place and stroke them, play with them, and give them treats. 

This may take some time, but once they know it’s their own place it will teach them to enjoy having their own space. They will learn to be more independent of you, thus easing their anxiety when you’re away. 

6. Change Up Your ‘Leaving’ Signals

Dogs are very alert and make associations between actions and consequences very quickly. Try using a different door to leave through, put your keys or shoes in a different location, or put on your coat but don’t head out right away. 

The purpose of changing your leaving cues is to break your dog’s association of these actions with your departure and, therefore, not triggering their separation anxiety. When you do leave after changing your routine, hand your pup a favorite toy or treat to distract them.

7. Be Calm When Leaving 

If you make a big fuss when you leave the house, chances are your dog knows something is happening, and you may even be reinforcing their fear of your absence. Instead, try to remain calm and avoid being too emotional when saying goodbyes to your dog. 

  1. Be Calm When Coming Home 

You may be excited and relieved to see your pet when you get home, but being too excited will reinforce your dog’s dislike of being away from you. Start with a calm and quiet hello, and avoid being too affectionate until your dog has calmed down.

9. Never Leave Your Dog for too Long 

Most dogs will, with time, learn how to be alone for short periods of time. However, this should never be for more than 5-6 hours, and for puppies it’s even less due to their toilet needs. 

Whatever age your dog, you should avoid leaving them for periods of more than 6 hours. If you do have to be out of the house for more time than that, consider taking them with you. You may also consider structuring your errands and the times you need to leave so that you’re only away for short periods of time.

10. Consider Daycare Options

If you’re constantly in and out of the house, or have to leave for 6 hours or more on a regular basis, you should consider looking into doggie daycare and boarding centers. This will mean your dog is never alone, and you can feel more relaxed when you’re away knowing that they’re being taken care of. 

Another option is hiring a pet-sitter or dog walker so that your beloved pet gets some love and attention during the hours that you’re not there. The best option for you will depend on your circumstances and how long you’re out of the house on a regular basis. 

The Bottom Line

Canine anxiety can be difficult to deal with, particularly if it’s leaving your pup distressed and you with a ruined home. Fortunately, there are lots of things you can try out to reduce your dog’s stress and anxiety when you’re not around. Give the above tips ago, but if you’re still worried about your pet’s anxiety, consult a veterinarian. 

10 Ways to Help Your Dog with Separation Anxiety

Erin Conley Cain (11)

Erin is a Pendleton, NY-based freelance writer who combines a background in education and writing with a lifetime of pet parenting experience. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin spending time with her husband and furkids, running with her dog, or riding her rescued Thoroughbred horse. Learn more about Erin’s work at erinconleycain.journoportfolio.com.