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4 Tips for Managing Separation Anxiety in Dogs

The bond between dogs and humans is thousands of years old, so it’s no wonder we’ve grown to like having each other around. 

Though some pups enjoy their alone time, others experience feelings of abandonment when you head off for work or errands. Not only is it distressing to think that your dog is frightened or nervous while home alone, but separation anxiety is often accompanied by unwanted behaviors like:

  • Excessive barking
  • Toileting accidents
  • Howling or whining
  • Escape attempts
  • Destroying furniture, bedding, clothing, or shoes

separation anxiety dog on couchPuppies and newly adopted dogs are more likely to struggle with separation anxiety, but a drastic shift in your routine can trigger these behaviors in older pets as well. Luckily, making a few small changes can help your dog learn to manage this stress (and save your shoes). 

1. Play it cool when it’s time to leave the house.

It’s science – dogs are empathetic creatures. If you make a dramatic exit, your pup is likely to mirror your attitude. Keep your goodbyes as nonchalant as possible to convey that the situation is normal and no cause for alarm. 

If you notice that your dog’s anxiety tends to ramp up as you prepare to leave, mix things up a bit. Periodically pick up your keys, put on your shoes, or reach for your coat when you aren’t leaving home so your canine companion becomes less reactive to each part of your “out the door” routine. 

2. Practice with shorter separations.

Anticipating a long stretch of time alone can add to your dog’s anxiety. This was especially true for pandemic pups who went from having constant companionship to spending the workday alone as offices reopened.  

As much as you can, start with shorter separation periods and vary the amount of time you spend away from home. Whether you are gone for 15 minutes or 6 hours, helping your dog realize that you could return at any time can reduce their feelings of dread when you leave. 

3. Make alone time special for your dog. separation anxiety dog playing

Save particular rewards for when you’re ready to head out the door, and your dog may even learn to look forward to alone time. 

Stave off boredom with interactive toys so that your pup’s day feels purposeful. Use what you know about your pet to choose activities that they will find stimulating. A dog with strong retrieving instincts might enjoy hunting for toys that you’ve hidden throughout your home, while a food-motivated pup would enjoy a treat-filled puzzle.

4. Prioritize exercise for your dog.

One of the best ways to help dogs manage separation anxiety is to ensure they are expending enough energy throughout the rest of the day.

Though the ideal amount of exercise varies from one dog to the next, experts typically recommend between 30 minutes and 2 hours of daily movement. If your dog seems restless or destructive behaviors persist, that is a strong indication that you should add more walks and playtime into your routine. 

It isn’t just about tiring your dog out — for pups, exercise is about both physical and mental stimulation. Taking this time for your canine companion while you are home together can help them approach alone time with a sense of calm.