1. Run it out
Exercise doesn’t necessarily fix separation anxiety, but if your dog isn’t getting enough exercise, it could make the problem worse. So, let's make sure your pup gets at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Some energetic breeds need twice or three times that amount. It doesn’t always have to be a marathon run, just some park and sniffing time, or if they are on the lead the whole time, a solid walk each day.
2. Quality time
Each and every day you need to spend quality time with your pet! That might mean grooming or patting them, and lots of play. A game of tug-of-war or teaching them new tricks (dogs love to learn) helps. Just about any activity can be made into a good game. If you're keen, teach things like how to find your keys or bring your slippers. 10 minutes of learning is equivalent to 1 hour of exercise in terms of energy expended.
3. Boredom busters and prepared activities
These are a must for all dogs with separation anxiety and with so many on the market ranging from easy to hard, there’s no reason not to find fun things your dog can do while you are gone. Give these to your dog at least ten minutes before leaving (not at actual departure) so they are fully invested and don't notice you leaving. Start with something like a Kong toy with peanut butter inside, a licky mat, a dental stick or an ice cube to keep them occupied. A cardboard box with snacks inside or a 'snuffle mat' can keep them busy. But it won't always work and your dog will get bored again if given the same toys. Once they have these figured out, they can move to the next level and start more challenging boredom busters. If your dog isn’t all that food motivated, try only putting their food in one of their boredom busters (no free food from the bowl!) and let them get the hang of it while you are at home. That way they won't always associate getting the toy with you leaving. Leave two or even three of these out every day for your dog to keep them busy while you're out.
4. The world of anxiety products
There is a good range of supplements and various products available to help keep dogs calm and ease separation anxiety, but they're not miracle fixes. Use thee with other items like calming jackets, herbal supplements, a calming diffuser that give off calming pheromones, calming dog skin care, pheromone collars and calming beds can all be helpful to keep your dog calm when you leave. They may not be the magic fix but they won't do your pupper any harm.
5. Get yourself some eyes
How are you going to know if your dog has separation anxiety if you can’t see them in action? Don’t wait until your neighbours complain about your screaming, distressed dog. Get a camera on them! A camera additionally helps you to know what works and what doesn’t. Better yet, they now make cameras that allow you to watch and dispense treats via an app on your phone! This allows you to reward calm behaviour even when you aren’t around.
6. The power of music and dog videos
Some dogs hate music, but others love it! Use your camera and give it a go. In a recent study conducted by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), researchers played five different types of music to dogs: classical, soft rock, Motown, pop, and reggae. After reviewing the heart rates, the researchers determined that the most effective music to lower the stress in dogs was soft rock and reggae. However, each dog still has their own individual tastes. Since music clearly has an impact, it’s worth experimenting at home with different types to see how your dog reacts.
YouTube also has some great content for dogs, which you can leave playing on a tablet or your TV, which can provide hours of entertainment (and distract them from not knowing you aren’t home!)
7. Lights off or on?
Like the above, some dogs are calmer when the lights and curtains are shut and others get more anxious, and like lights on - it depends on the dog. Experiment, with the use of your camera, to see if your anxious dog prefers lights on or lights off when you leave.
8. Graduated departures and practice separation
Be patient. Start small. This could be moving one or two steps away from them at the beginning without them having a meltdown. Persistence is key. You need to get them to stay on their mats or beds (or at least in one spot), avoid them following you and keep calm (both you and doggy!). Don’t push them too hard too soon - they have to receive their reward before they lose it. By doing this, you are teaching them, you will always come back for them!
9. Doggy day care
If you’re working 8-10 hours a day from the office and your dog is at home alone, it is inevitable they are going to get upset. Dogs are pack animals, and love being around others. So, if you’re leaving them alone for long periods of time, consider hiring a dog walker to come and get them during the day, or book them in to doggy day care to have fun with other dogs and other people.
10. Speak to your vet
If you’re not getting anywhere, and your pet is hurting themselves or at risk of doing so, speak to your vet. Nobody likes seeing their pet distressed. While you may be averse to the idea of medications, after watching your pet constantly distressed and anxious on camera, get them some help! Some dogs need extra help, despite all of the above and that’s ok. The vets on our Vet Services page can help you understand your dog’s situation and can recommend products that fit your dogs needs, in order to get them back to their happiest.
What are the symptoms of dog anxiety?
Living with anxiety can be debilitating for dogs. It's crucial to keep an eye out for warning signs in your companion.
Dog anxiety symptoms include:
- Excessive barking
- Restlessness or pacing
- Toileting where they shouldn’t
- Repetitive behaviour
What causes dog anxiety?
The issue often comes from changes in:
Routine (like an owner leaving the house)
Activity (such as meeting a new dog)
Ultimately, the cause of a dog’s anxiety is unique to each animal, so it’s important to understand your dog and what changes affect them.
What is the best dog anxiety treatment?
Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to managing anxiety in dogs. The best way to treat an anxious dog is to speak with your vet and to identify what type of anxiety they have and what is triggering it.