Having a dog can be great—until you have to leave the house, that is. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, you might feel overwhelmed about what to do or how to calm your dog down. Separation anxiety can seemingly come from nowhere—even if you got the dog when it was a puppy and it grew up with you, it can still develop anxiety when it’s left alone—so what can you do to alleviate the stress that you leaving causes your pet?
Tire Your Dog Out Before You Leave
One way to calm your dog down is by making sure they’re a little tired when you have to go. Do this by taking them on a walk or playing fetch or tug of war with them before you get ready to leave. This will tire the dog out a bit, and then you can reward their calmness with a treat just before you leave. Over time, this will teach your dog to associate you leaving with getting a treat, and gradually, you’ll be able to leave without even giving your dog the treat! Of course, this will take some time, so don’t expect it to happen in just a few nights or even a few weeks.
Don’t Make a Big Deal of Leaving
One of the most important things that can curb a dog’s separation anxiety is making sure you don’t make a big deal out of leaving every time you go. That means not cooing and hugging your dog as though it’s the last time you’ll ever see him, and instead leaving very nonchalantly every time. Be quiet as you walk out the door and ignore any barking—don’t immediately open the door to shush the dog, as this will just reinforce the idea that barking will get them attention when you leave. Instead, after you close the door when you leave, just go about your business and ignore the dog. Eventually, they will get the idea that you aren’t coming back inside and they’ll find something else to do. You can work up to this with the next tip.
Practice Leaving for Short Times, Gradually Getting Longer
If your dog is prone to barking or whining the second you leave, try working with them to minimize their fear. Try leaving for very short periods of time – try three minutes, then five, then 10, working little by little up to longer periods of time that the dog will be alone. Reminding your pet that you will indeed come back can mitigate their fear of being left alone. Separation anxiety can be especially prominent in dogs that were in a shelter, as they may have been abandoned by their original owner, or spent a lot of time alone without company.
Building up a mutual trust with your pet is one way that you can help your dog’s separation anxiety fade over time—remember to go slow and exercise plenty of patience. Anxiety issues may take a long time to work through, but if you’re dedicated to working with your dog, you can tackle anything. Another way to help your dog overcome loneliness is by hiring a dog walker to visit a few times a week. This can let your dog know that someone will come and spend time with them at some point, and can alleviate the stress of being alone.