Top Tips to Help Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
Leaving your dog at home whilst you go to work can be challenging for both you and your pup. As much as we want to spend all day with our dogs, sometimes it’s not possible and particularly in the daytime, you may have to leave them alone for hours at time. How long is too long? What do you do to prevent separation anxiety? And, how do you keep your pup happy when you can’t be there? In this blog we look at some tips to make the process of leaving your dog alone as easy as possible for you both.
How long can you leave your dog alone for?
There are a few general guidelines which suggest the maximum amount of time you can leave dogs alone for. This varies depending on the age of the dog and can be anywhere between a two-hour limit and up to six hours a day. If you have a new puppy, it is advised that you don’t leave them longer than two hours a day, and so during work hours it may be advised to get a dog sitter to keep an eye on them when they are smaller. Once your dog gets older, they should be more used to being home alone and have usually learnt to sleep during your working hours. This means they can be left alone for four to six hours a day.
What is dog separation anxiety?
Some dogs can develop bad behaviours when they are left alone, which can be as a result of ‘separation anxiety’. Symptoms include scratching, biting, chewing on furniture and uncontrolled barking or howling. Separation anxiety is often unknowingly encouraged by the owner, who tends to make a big fuss about leaving and returning or, changes the dog’s routine from puppy socialisation to being quickly left. When a dog gets older, it can sometimes feel unconfident and rely on their owner for validation, during this time it is important to get them used to a number of coping techniques to ensure any signs of separation anxiety are addressed quickly.
What coping techniques can you use?
Although there are medications which can settle the symptoms of separation anxiety, they are not a cure for what is often learnt behaviour. There are however, a number of techniques you can introduce and practise to try and help your dog to cope during your absence.
Place less emphasis on goodbyes…
It may be tempting to give your dog lots of attention both when you’re leaving and when you return. However, intense attention and excited voices can trigger a sudden rush of emotion in your dog which means settling afterwards can be difficult. When you leave, try to not draw too much attention to the fact you are going, and instead begin to normalise you leaving for work as just another part of your routine.
Take your dog out for exercise…
Where possible, allow for exercise time before you go out. By starting your day with an early morning work, it is likely that your dog will fall asleep soon after and so you can leave the house more seamlessly.
Normalise their alone time…
Introduce the idea of your dog being alone in a room when you are still in the house. It can be tempting when your dog is small to take them everywhere with you, but this quickly gives your pup a nod to say that being alone is unusual and unnerving.
Keep comfort items close by…
Another way to reduce anxiety is to try leaving things with your scent with them. This can be an item of clothing you have worn or a pillowcase. You can also try hiding treats around the house for your dog to find, and even soothing music can help to comfort your dog in your absence.