From whining and chewing to pacing and going to the bathroom in the house, dogs may more than just miss you when you’re away. Check out these tips on how to help dogs with separation anxiety.
Consider medications and supplements
You’ll want to first consider why your dog might be acting this way. See a veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions that could be causing their behavior. Some indications may be change of ownership, routine or residence in addition to the loss of a family member and being left alone for the first time or when used to being with people. Your veterinarian may suggest medication or natural therapies. Feel free to check out calming supplements, like Herbsmith July Third Calming Chews.
Make arrival and departure easier
If you’ve noticed your pup is exhibiting signs of separation anxiety, try to ease it by remaining calm when leaving or coming home. Consider establishing a word or action, such as a pat on the head, to use every time you leave to reassure you'll be back. When you come back home, be low-key and say hello, then try to ignore them for a few until they are relaxed.
For dogs with severe anxiety, like those who start to get nervous when seeing signs that you’re on your way out, slowly condition them to get used to your departure. Try putting on your shoes or grabbing your keys and sitting on the couch so these cues aren’t only linked to your absence. After a while, you can start to leave for short amounts of time using different doors and until you can build up to longer times.
Give them entertainment
Shift your furry friend’s mild fearful, anxious or aggressive reaction to a positive one with counterconditioning. This means you’ll be associating a negative experience (you leaving) with a good thing. When you leave the house, offer a special treat or toy to have when you’re gone. Puzzle toys or a KONG filled with peanut butter are great options that will take some time to keep their mind off your absence. Make sure to take away this object when you return so that they only have it when they’re alone.
Create a safe space
Make your furry pal feel safe when you’re gone by creating a calming space for them. Crate training is an option for some dogs to feel sheltered when alone. However, please note that crates can add stress and anxiety, so if they show distress while crated, you may want to consider another option. If you still want them separated, try using a baby gate to confine them to a room. Leaving toys and recently worn clothes that smell like you can help soothe pups when they’re in their safe space.
Stimulate their brain and body during the day
Exercising mind and body can help treat and prevent separation anxiety in dogs. Plus, if your pooch is mentally and physically tired, it can reduce the excess energy they use when separated from you. Give your dog 30 minutes of aerobic activity (running, swimming, jumping, etc.) or go for a walk every day. Try doing it right before you leave to help them relax. You can also use food puzzle toys to feed them their meals or to just chew and lick which engages their mind and can calm them. For other advice, check out our exercise tips for dogs.