My Dog Has Separation Anxiety (and 10 things to try to help)
We’ve had our dog, Nico, since May 2018, and we thought that at first he was just acting out and getting used to us. But he wasn’t just destroying things, he was super attached to us and would never want to leave our sight! Since I work from home, it’s normally not a huge problem, but for those moments I have to step out, it’s game over. We looked up different things online hoping to figure out how to help him relax and be less anxious, and that’s when we realized he has some sort of separation anxiety.
After some research, I gathered this list of 10 things to do for a dog with separation anxiety. Here's that list:
1. Don't make a big deal about leaving
Essentially, you don't want to freak him out by saying goodbye or making a huge fuss about leaving, because this ends up building anticipation and anxiety in the dog.
So instead of hugging him goodbye and saying how much you'll miss him, just grab your stuff and walk about the door.
Nico Results: He was calm when we left but the camera footage showed him freaking out.
2. Don't make a big deal about arriving
Just as you left, walk right in and go on to do something without giving too much attention to your dog. If you give him too much attention, he will always anticipate you coming home waiting for all the love. Without you making it a big deal, he'll be able to disconnect happy intense feelings from you coming home.
Nico Results: We didn't acknowledge him but Nico jumped and loved us regardless.
3. Leave him with a puzzle toy or kong
Often times dogs get into trouble because they are bored, so giving them a complex toy that will take up their time to figure out and get treats from is a good way to pass the time. Kongs and Kong Geniuses are the most recommended puzzle toys.
Nico Results: Toys are no match for him and even though they did entertain him, he barked and cried his way through the kongs.
4. Give him a special treat when you leave
When you only give him a special treat when you leave makes him switch his mindset of dreading you to leave to getting excited for you to leave so he can have his special treat.
Nico Results: We put his special treats in his kong and the footage shows him eating it and also barking away.
5. Exercise in the morning
Exercising your dog in the morning will help them get a ton of energy out early in the day so they have less energy to wreck your home when you're gone.
Nico Results: He loved the exercise and it did tire him out. This is the most successful tip and while he still was distressed when we left, he seemed to be more calm.
6. Trick him with a fake schedule
If you always get up at the same time and leave for several hours, your dog with think that every time you leave, you will be gone for an insufferable amount of time. By tricking him, you are showing your dog that you are not always gone for a long time, and leaving isn't a bad thing. So, trick your dog by leaving for a few seconds or a few minutes and coming right back.
Nico Results: We have not tried this yet.
7. Get a lavender scent
Lavender is supposed to have calming qualities and can help get your dog to a relaxed state.
Nico Results: Fail.
8. Play classical music before leaving
Same as the lavender scent but through a different sense, classical music is supposed to calm your dog.
Nico Results: Fail x2.
9. Train him to be in a room by himself
Just like you would train your dog to do a trick by providing a treat every time they did it right, you would give them a treat every time they successful stayed in a room by themselves without freaking out. This can start as short as just closing the door and opening it up immediately and extend to longer periods of time.
Nico Results: We have not tried this yet.
10. Try a calming supplement
You can find a calming supplement for dogs at a pet store or visit your vet for additional help.
Nico Results: I had high hopes for this but it did not seem to calm him down at all.
If you've tried any of the above methods or anything different, please let me know in the comments. I'd love to learn more about how to help my doggo be less anxious!