7 ways to treat separation anxiety in dogs

how to treat separation anxiety in dogs
How to treat separation anxiety in dogsJessica Peterson - Getty Images

Separation anxiety in dogs is triggered when they become fearful of being without their owners for a long period of time. Some dogs feel anxious when they are left alone and may display destructive behaviours as a result, including barking, whining, and pacing.

"Separation anxiety can have a big impact on a dog (and their owner's) quality of life. With time and patience, plus support from your vet and an accredited behaviourist, it is a problem that can be significantly improved and often completely cured," PDSA Vet Nurse, Shauna Walsh, tells Country Living.

"It is a common problem that leads a dog to become panicked, frightened, frustrated, and stressed when they are left alone or separated from their owner."

Previous research conducted by Furbo found that some breeds are more prone to separation anxiety than others, including Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers and German Shepherds. Some surprising breeds also made the list, such as Vizslas and German Shorthaired Pointers.

How to treat separation anxiety in dogs

Keep reading for expert-approved tips on how to treat separation anxiety in dogs. Remember to ask your local vet if you are unsure.

1. Minimise disturbances

Dogs will often bark when they see people walk past windows or hear strange noises. The RSPCA suggest to minimise disturbances by closing curtains on windows that look out onto busy roads, or by leaving them in a quieter room.

2. Put some music on

According to research from Betway, dogs who listen to classical or folk music feel less anxious at home.

"For many dogs, leaving the TV or music on when you head out, played at the usual volume, helps to create the 'normal' background noise they are used to hearing when you are around, and will drown out noises from outdoors," Shauna tells us. "There is some evidence that classical music can reduce certain behaviours like barking, but other genres of music might have similar effects."

If you are leaving your dog alone, Shauna recommends introducing a specific 'calming' playlist while your dog is settled with you. She tells us: "Be sure to slowly introduce the playlist whilst you are home, offering a treat if your dog remains settled and turn the music or TV off if they get up to play.

"Doing this repetitively, over time, will help them build a positive, calming link to the sounds which you can then turn on when you need to leave home for a while."

3. Leave a 'special toy' out

The RSPCA suggest leaving out a 'mentally stimulating toy' for your dog while you are out. Whether it's a meat-flavoured chew toy, stuffed 'kong' toy or a fun soft ball, these are sure to keep your pet entertained when they are alone. Remember to put the toy back away once you are home and only leave out a few foodie treats to avoid over-feeding.

black dog chewing a large plastic bone shaped chew
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4. Don't punish your dog

Dogs may misbehave when you're out, but try to avoid punishing them when you get home. It will make your dog more anxious the next time you go out and is likely to increase their barking and chewing. The RSPCA say that dogs who have been told off may lower their heads, put their ears back and put their tails between their legs.

Try to avoid letting them see that you are upset with them if they are feeling anxious. If you have to clean up mess, move your dog into another room so they don't see that you are annoyed with their behaviour.

5. Get a dog sitter

While this might not be possible for everyone — as they can be expensive — a dog sitter is a great way to keep your dog company and take them out for walks when you are out. The RSPCA recommend not leaving your dog alone for longer than four hours, so a dog sitting service is brilliant to look into if you are away from home for long hours during the day.

6. Encourage your pet to relax

If possible, try to take your pet for a walk or run before you head out for the day. Make sure they have been fed before you leave and used the toilet outside. This will help them to feel relaxed and at ease when they are left alone.

how to treat separation anxiety in dogs
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7. Seek the help of a professional

The RSPCA recommend talking to your vet if you're worried about your dog's anxiety. They will be sure to give you expert advice and guidance if your dog has separation-related anxiety.

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