How to reduce your dog’s separation anxiety

Let’s talk separation anxiety. In general, dogs don’t like to be left alone. They can’t help it. Like humans, dogs are naturally very social animals and so can become very distressed when their owners leave for the day, or even for just a few minutes. They may start to bark or howl or even become destructive. You might not even realise your dog is displaying this kind of behaviour when you leave the house but maybe your neighbours have mentioned the disturbances to you.

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety, the best place to start is by purchasing a small camera so you can see how they behave when you walk out the door. If they start to show tell-tale signs of separation anxiety like barking, howling, pacing, trembling or becoming destructive then you can start working towards reducing their anxiety and making life a bit more pleasant for everyone.

The first step to reducing separation anxiety is by getting your dog used to all the things you normally do when you leave the house, like grabbing your keys or putting on your jacket. By desensitising your dog to these actions it will help to keep them calm next time you need to leave the house. Try opening and closing the door a few times without going anywhere or picking up your keys but then just sitting down on the sofa.

Dog with his head on a table

Leaving the radio or TV on while you are out is also a good option. The noise provided will do two jobs at once. Firstly, it will provide comfort to your dog to hear the sound of a human a voice and secondly, it will help to mask any sounds coming from outside your house, like the postman arriving or kids running past.

It can also be helpful to take your dog for a walk before you leave for the day, as they are less likely to get excited and worked up if they are tired. Try incorporating a morning walk into your routine so they have a chance to burn off any excess energy. Keeping your dog mentally occupied is important too. Make sure you buy them enrichment toys that will keep them stimulated or try creating a destruction box that they can play around with.

Separation anxiety should not be looked upon lightly as it is a serious behavioural issue. The RSPCA has a great article on separation anxiety in dogs. If you are worried about your dog then seek advice from your veterinarian immediately.

Thu Aug 1 2019