separation anxiety in pets

A guide to understanding separation anxiety in pets

We all love our dogs and would be more than happy to spend 24 hours a day in their company. However, with work commitments, that is not always possible, and some dogs can become anxious when left alone, for even just a few hours.

If you have a new dog, suddenly leaving them alone can lead to separation anxiety, which can result in whining, destruction of property or barking for long periods of time. Dogs can become hyper-attached to their owner and may get super-stressed when left alone.

Unfortunately, if not understood properly, separation anxiety in pets can cause serious problems, with many owners getting frustrated with their pet and even giving them up. If left alone for long periods of time, as well as getting stressed, dogs can also become bored resulting in the destruction of furniture.

How long should you leave your dog alone for?

Four hours is the longest that dogs should be left alone for, but every dog will be different. How long they can be on their own will depend on how old they are and what they are used to. For example, a young active puppy would not be able to be left alone for four hours, but an older dog may be ok.

If you have to leave you dog home alone during the day for any reason, while at work or if you have to pop out and can’t take them with you, think about things that could make it easier for your pet.

• Could you pop home on your lunch to check on them and let them outside to toilet?

• Could a neighbour or friend check in on your dog while you’re out?

• Are there any professional dog walkers in your local area?

Separation anxiety in dogs can occur for many reasons, including if they are not used to being away from you or they are scared by something in the home. Pain and underlying medical conditions can also cause your dog to feel worried about being on their own, so you should always get them checked over by a vet if you notice changes in their behaviour.

Anxiety in pets can be shown in a number of ways, which include:

• Trembling
• Excessive barking
• Destruction of furniture or property • Whining
• Urinating in the house
• Sometimes aggression

Tips to help ease separation anxiety in pets

If you have to leave your pet for anytime in the day, there are some positive things you can do which include:

Distractions

Make sure that your dog has enough toys to play with, which would be a great distraction whilst you are out. Stuffed toys with treats are a good way to keep them busy and happy during the time you are away. You could also leave the TV or radio on for background noise.

Exercise

Make sure your dog has had enough exercise before you leave the house. If you are going to be leaving them for a number of hours, take them for a long walk before doing so. This will help to get rid

of excess energy and they may sleep whilst you’re out.

Safe zone

Create a safe zone or den for your dog to retreat to if they are feeling extra anxious. You could leave a jumper or t-shirt with your smell on for your dog, which is familiar to them. This will help to comfort them while you are gone.

Prevent accidents

Make sure they have had the opportunity to go outside and go to the toilet prior to you leaving the house.

Close curtains

If your dog can get distracted by outside noise or you live on a busy road, close the curtains to reduce any distractions which might make them anxious and bark for prolonged periods.

Ask someone to check on them

If possible, ask a friend or family member to stop by and check on your dog, even if it’s for 10 minutes to allow them to go to the toilet outside.

Training to reduce anxiety in dogs

If you know you have to leave your dog alone, try to train them from a young age to get them used to being separated from you during the day. You could start by leaving them for a short period and increase the time you are away. Make sure that you give your dog plenty of attention when you return as a reward.

Pet proof your home

If you don’t want your dog to have the run of the house whilst you are out, be sure to close doors and block off areas you don’t want them to go. Be sure to check the area/room they will be in for any hazards to be sure they are safe whilst on their own.

Don’t discipline bad behaviour

If your pet has misbehaved whilst you are out and caused damage or toileted in the house, don’t discipline them on your return as this could cause further anxiety. It could also lead to your dog worrying about your return home.

Natural support

Consider using a natural supplement to help reduce your pet’s stress. Some available on the market include Nutracalm, VetPro Stress & Anxiety, Adaptil plug in or Pet Remedy.