Three Tips On How To Help A Dog With Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety in dogs has seen an increase since the Covid pandemic. If you’re a pet parent who welcomed a covid pup into your home or if you’re just searching for information on how to handle separation anxiety in dogs, then we have some useful tips to assist with separation anxiety and help your dog tolerate being left alone.
What Triggers Your Dog's Separation Anxiety?
It’s important to know what actions exactly trigger your dog's anxiety. Is it when you put your shoes on to go out the door? Is it picking up your handbag or your car keys?
Taking note of these triggers can help you identify what to work on and how to manage your dog's anxiety. If your dog's trigger is picking the keys up, for example, try picking the keys up but not leaving the house, then you can gradually leave your house for small amounts of time and slowly start to extend the amount of time you are out of the house. If going to work all day triggers your dog's anxiety, then perhaps you could consider hiring a dog walker or taking them to doggy day care for the day, so they have other stimulation outside of spending time with you. Have a look at our article on pet sitter's vs kennels for more information.
How To Manage Separation Anxiety In Dogs
There are many ways you can help your dog with separation anxiety including hiring a dog walker and taking them to doggy day care to break up the week. But let's look at what you can achieve at home with some routine and behaviour changes. Is your dog being taken out for a daily walk? Do they get enough exercise and mental stimulation?
Physical exercise is great for our dogs in so many ways and can help ease a lot of hyper activity during the day. Mental stimulation is important too, so let them sniff new things on a walk and set up some games so they are mentally stimulated and entertained while you are away. You might consider investing in a camera so you can spy on what your dog is doing while you are at work or out of the house. If you’re searching for ways to entertain your dog while you’re out see our article on Five Ways You Can Entertain Your Dog.
Tip #1 Get Your Dog Used To Small Amounts Of Time Alone
It’s important to start the process of leaving your dog alone for short amounts of time so they don’t become anxious and start to understand that you are going to come back. This can be as simple as the “stay” command while you go into another room or go outside the front door for one minute. You can walk back in calmly and then proceed to increase the amount of time that you are away. When you come back into the room, take your time before you greet your dog, a lot of pet parents make the mistake of being equally excited to see their dog which only increases their own anxiety. Take your time to place your keys away, put your bag down and anything else you need to do before you greet your dog.
Tip #2 How To Entertain Your Dog While You Are At Work
We discussed the importance of mental stimulation earlier so here are a couple of things you can do to keep your dog mentally stimulated while you are out of the house.
- Kongs are fantastic for chewing on and stuffing tasty treats inside to keep your dog occupied for long periods of time. For an extra challenge you can also freeze the Kong.
- Puzzle toys. There are several different puzzle toys on the market where your dog must work out how to access the treats.
- Hiding treats in an old towel and twisting it up. If you don’t want to buy any new toys then the treat and towel twist is for you, there’s plenty of videos of people tying knots and hiding treats in old towels that you can search online just be cautious that your pup isn’t ingesting any of the material so make sure you trial this one first.
- Hiding a tasty treat in an ice block. This is a great treat to have on a hot summer's day for your pup. You could try freezing a little bit of bone broth in water with a treat inside so it’s extra tasty.
- Enrichment games. There are so many enrichment games that you can search for online and find the one that works best for you, your dog and your lifestyle.
These distractions are referred to as counterconditioning. Not only do these provide a good distraction while you physically leave but it means your dog is able to calm its verves. Treats that entertain for a longer amount of time can act as something your dog looks forward to receiving while you’re away and you leaving could end up becoming a positive experience for your dog.
Tip #3 Creating A Safe Space For Your Dog
Creating a safe space where your dog can retreat and settle depends entirely on your dog. For some, it might be their bed, on a soft rug, on the couch or even on your own bed. Somewhere that is a source of comfort for your dog will be where they want to spend most of their time. Crate training may be a consideration if the anxiety has led to destructive behaviour in the house or garden when left alone. While you’re still at home have your dog become familiar with the crate and slowly build up confidence with crate training. Our Online Puppy School is a great source of information if you’re looking to successfully crate train your dog
Remember to start slowly and with short periods of time, gradually increasing so your dog gets used to all of these new boundaries you are setting in your home. If your dog's separation anxiety continues, then there are medications you can consider to help your dog but that is best discussed with your veterinarian first.
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