by Christine Busaba
Separation anxiety is one of the most heartbreaking, challenging, daunting things to deal with as a dog owner. It's equal parts guilt, stress and helplessness for all parties involved. If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety, there are small, easy changes you can start with to relieve your dog's separation anxiety. We rounded up some of our favorite tips and ideas for relieving separation anxiety below, but if you've dealt with it in the past and have any other tips/tricks of your own, we'd love to hear them in the comments below!
Change up the regular routine - Many dogs with separation anxiety begin to lose it when they see you getting ready to leave. Certain behaviors or sounds, like the jingling of your keys or tying your shoes or putting on your jacket are all signals that you're about to leave. Mixing up the routine a few days in a row can help break those associations. Maybe get dressed and instead of immediately walking out the door, squeeze in some extra hangout time in the living room. Put on your shoes to just do normal tasks around the house, so the act of putting on shoes isn't associated with leaving. The change in routine will help your dog understand that these small tasks aren't a sign of being alone and that they shouldn't cause him stress.
Another thing to change? Don't make a big deal about leaving. It's just another normal part of the day. As painful as it is to see her whining and crying, holding back affection and not saying goodbye signals that there's nothing out of the ordinary and your departure isn't a big deal.
Take your dog for a (long) walk - Before you leave for the day, squeeze in an extra long morning walk or extra play time. If your dog is sufficiently tired out before you leave and has gotten enough play time and stimulation, she will be less likely to stress about you leaving her.
Create a space that's entirely his - Having a spot in the house that's entirely his is an amazingly easy way to create a sense of security and tranquility for your dog. Whether that's a corner of the house or a crate or his bed, you can reinforce this spot through training and your dog will start to associate this spot with calm and safety. Fill it with his favorite toys or blanket and make it super cozy and comfortable. That way, when you leave, he has a space in the house to anchor to.
Provide welcome distractions - If your dog is busy, he'll be less likely to notice you're gone and will be stimulated enough to stay chill throughout the day. Unique toys and puzzles will make alone time seem shorter. As will toys that take a long time to chew through, especially because chewing calms a dog's nerves. You can also put on a certain playlist or leave your TV on during the day so there's some background noise and your dog doesn't feel alone.
Give out a tasty treat or a special reward - If you want to build up a positive association with your departure, rewarding her with a special, high-value treat just before you leave is a great way to do that. It can help keep her mind off your exit and focused on her favorite treat. Make sure it's a really special treat though that's only used for this purpose to maintain the positive linkage.
Bring your dog to work or use daycare - If you're lucky enough to work at a place that lets you bring your dog to work, you can bring him around a few days a week and he'll know that your departure in the morning doesn't always mean you'll spend the day apart - some days he'll be able to come with! If your job is less dog friendly and if you can afford it, it might be worth it to splurge on a dog daycare spot near you. Your dog will get a ton of attention from the trained staff and have other dogs to socialize with all day.
If your dog is still struggling with separation anxiety and you need some extra tips/support, text '411' to 29071 and someone on our team will be there to answer any questions.