Our dogs love being around us – and we love being around them. But sometimes this can develop into feelings of anxiety for your pup when they’re left alone.
It’s a common issue pet parents face, and can be experienced by any breed or age of dog.
What are the symptoms of separation anxiety?
Dog behaviourist Adem Fehmi recommends looking out for these common signs of separation anxiety in your dog.
The physical destruction of your home when you leave.
Defecation or urination in the house.
Non-stop howling or barking when left alone.
They follow you from room to room when you’re at home.
They hover at doors and windows when you leave.
What causes separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety in dogs can come about for a variety of complex reasons. Many pet parents found their dogs had developed separation anxiety after the Covid pandemic restrictions eased, because they’d become used to so much company and attention during the day.
It can also be caused by the sudden loss of another family member (human or animal) or a change in environment, such as a house move or a stay at a friend’s home.
A lack of effective exercise can also contribute to the symptoms of separation anxiety. Think about how we as humans often feel much calmer after exercising – the same is true for your dog.
Tips for preventing and treating separation anxiety
Preventing a behavioural issue is always better than treating one. So, whether you notice the signs of separation anxiety in your pup or not, it’s always a good idea to lay the groundwork of training early on.
Here’s our top five tips for preventing separation anxiety:
Exercise your dog before leaving them. Besides being essential for their physical and mental health, exercise will help your dog burn off any anxious energy that they may otherwise put into worrying when left alone. A well exercised dog is much more likely to settle than one that’s raring to go!
Give them something to do. Boredom is a common cause of destructive doggy behaviour. Providing them with a treat dispensing toy or puzzle will help keep them distracted and mentally stimulated when you’re gone. The treats will also work as a positive reinforcement for your absence.
Create a calm environment. Adem says, “A winner in my house is classical music. It really helps them relax and also can drown out any external noises that may worry them when we’re out and about.” A large comfortable bed could also help your dog feel more relaxed in your absence.
Practice being apart. Getting your dog used to being away from you physically while you’re still in the home is a great low-risk way of getting them used to their own company. Try starting with a light barrier like a baby gate so they can still see you and gradually increase the distance over time. It’s a good way to build their confidence.
Be calm on your return. It can be tempting to make a big fuss of your dog when leaving and reentering the home, especially when they’re happy to see you. However, you want them to learn that comings and goings are nothing to fear – or be excited by. By not making a big deal of it, you’ll help them understand this.
Seeking professional help for separation anxiety
Separation anxiety can be a complex issue to unravel for many dogs, so it’s important to seek the help of your vet, or a professional dog behaviourist if you’re struggling.
Although there will be no quick fix, a consistent, bespoke training plan can really help your dog turn it around. And the good news is, your pet insurance may be able to foot the bill. All ManyPets policies include cover for behavioural treatment when needed as a result of illness or injury, as long as you’ve been referred by a vet. Find out more information here.