Pet parents are always looking for ways to make their fur babies lives better. I know I always am! One of the biggest stressors in the lives of many pet parents and their dogs is separation anxiety.
If you have to leave the house for work or to run errands or even if you go on vacation and leave your dog with a pet sitter, you feel the stress of the separation and your dog feels it as well.
What’s a pet parent to do?
The Ultimate Dog Separation Anxiety Relief Toolkit
Our dogs thrive on routine. Our dogs can also become destructive and “barky” when they get bored and anxious. That’s why we’ve come up with what we believe is the beginning of an ultimate dog separation anxiety relief toolkit!
Exercise. A tired dog is a happy dog! Get up earlier or change your morning routine so your furry friend gets a LOT of exercise. Take him for a run. Go to a dog park and let him chase a tennis ball. If the weather isn’t cooperating, toss a toy or a ball in the house and have her chase it. Play hide and seek with her — making sure she has to run long distances in the house to find you. A dog with an excess of energy is more likely to be anxious and stressed out when left home alone.
Ava Jaine from The Dachshund Station also says your dog should be getting enough sleep, both at night and during the day while you’re away. She suggests making sure your dog has a comfy bed and blanket where he can feel safe while you’re away. You may also want to consider leaving your anxious dog home with a t-shirt or something else with your scent on it; your dog will be comforted by your smell.
Food puzzle toys. Exercise your dog’s brain as well as his body. We have an article on how to make a “snuffle mat” for your dog. This DIY project is easy to make (even for the non-crafter!) and will keep your pup occupied because there is food and treats hidden in the mat. Of course, if you have a dog who is an aggressive chewer, this solution will probably not be ideal. For the aggressive, or heavy, chewer look for toys that will stand up to her chewing and that allows you to hide food so she has to solve the puzzle to get to the treat. A Kong is also an ideal way to keep your dog occupied as he works to retrieve the treats you’ve hidden inside.
Pet Pheromones. Talk with your veterinarian to make certain your anxious dog doesn’t have a medical reason for his distress. While you’re there, talk with your vet about using pheromones to help calm your dog. You can buy a collar, a spray or a “plug in” device that releases pheromones in the house. Some pet parents believe they work, while others are not convinced.
Don’t leave her home alone. A dog who is accustomed to the sounds of family, television, radio and other daily life sounds may find the silence oppressive. She may begin to bark because she hears outside noises — a neighbor’s dog, a lawnmower, etc. — and that can make her anxious. Turn on DOGTV when you’re leaving. Our scientifically-developed programming is designed to provide a calm atmosphere and the sights and sounds will keep your dog company.
Hire a pet sitter or dog walker to come in and visit your dog during the day. He may need to burn off some energy and a mid-day walk or visit may be just what he needs.
Make it routine. Show your dog that your leaving the house is part of the daily routine you share with him. Be matter-of-fact when you’re gathering your items to leave the house. Give your dog his treat or food puzzle (after you’ve exercised him), pat his head, tell him to be a “good boy” then walk out. If you make a big deal about leaving the house your dog will pick up on your anxiety and it will feed his anxiety. When you come home from work, don’t “reward” your dog for jumping on you and barking. Reward him when he’s calmed down. give him a big hug or a scratch behind the ears or a food treat. If you walk in the door and pick him up and hug him and “give into” his barking you’re rewarding his frenetic behavior. You both need to be calm when coming and going.
What are your best tips for helping your dog with his or her separation anxiety when you leave the house? We’d love to know. Please share in the comments or on our DOGTV Facebook page.