Understanding separation anxiety in dogs

Stress and anxiety in dogs can be caused by a number of reasons, including being left home alone.

Separation anxiety is one of the most common reasons for dogs to become anxious. We all love our dogs and enjoy nothing more than spending time with them. However much we’d like to spend 24 hours a day with our four-legged friends, it’s not possible.

Some dogs if left home alone for a few hours they can become nervous and this can be shown in a variety of ways. This includes, trembling, whining, destruction of property and sometimes aggression.

Common causes of separation anxiety include:

  • Lack of training
  • Lack of socialisation
  • Changes in the home/environment
  • Fears about something inside the home

Some pet owners may put certain behaviour down to their pet is just misbehaving or boredom. It’s important to understand what could be causing this behaviour before trying to treat it.

Tips to help with separation anxiety

Prepare in advance

Get your dog used to you not being around by leaving the room for a while. Either close the door or use a stair gate. Build up the time you stay away and always return with a treat. Make sure other family members know to give them space to get them used to time alone.

Start a routine

Start getting your pet into a routine for when you have to leave them. Get ready for work and leave your dog in one room as you go to work in another. Leave them with enough to keep them busy and keep checking on them to make sure they’re not getting stressed. Getting them used to this routine will help to reduce stress when you have to eventually leave the home.

Make sure that your dog has enough toys to play with, which would be a great distraction whilst you’re 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.

Before you leave them alone, make sure your dog has had enough exercise. 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.

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.

Try natural supplements
A range of natural pet health supplements are available from vets or pet shops to help reduce stress for your pet. Nutracalm from Nutravet is a natural fast acting supplement for reducing stress & anxiety.

If you are worried about your pet or a change in their behaviour, speak to you vet who will be able to identify the cause of this.