Lifestyle | 1 Min Read

Tips to manage separation anxiety in your dog

With many of us returning to the office following COVID, separation anxiety has become a real thing for many dogs who’ve grown accustomed to having their human around 24-7. Here’s Dr Lisa’s top tips on what to look for and how to manage it.

Dogs are social creatures that crave companionship. Separation anxiety means your dog has become anxious when left alone. Dogs with severe separation anxiety can be likened to a person having a panic attack. 

Signs of separation anxiety (most dogs will not display all of these signs):

  • Agitation and excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Pacing compulsively, hyperactive, unable to settle
  • Increased or continuous barking or other vocalisation like howling and whining
  • Destructive behaviour, such as chewing, digging
  • Vomiting
  • Urinating/defecating inside
  • Reduced appetite
  • Escaping
  • Self mutilation

Dogs with separation anxiety will usually follow you around the house - they don’t like being left alone in a room, even if you are home. They are often over-excited when you return and may appear hyperactive when you leave.

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It’s best if you start doing some of these things at least a month before you actually go back to work, so that you are leaving your dog for only short intervals at a time to start with. As your dog becomes more comfortable being without you, then gradually increase the amount of time they are left alone.

  1. Consider hiring a dog walker or send your dog to doggy-daycare if possible. A dog ‘playdate’ with a neighbour or family member’s dog (who gets along with yours) is a great way for the dogs to keep each other company.
  2. Exercise your dog before you leave – this will reduce boredom and many dogs will spend most of their time sleeping after sufficient exercise.
  3. Avoid lengthy and over-enthusiastic goodbyes and greetings – this can help reduce potential separation anxiety. It’s often better to ignore your dog prior to exiting your home. Save the hello cuddle for a few minutes after you have entered the house, when your dog is calmer. Take them out for some exercise once you return.
  4. Ensure you feed your dog before you leave. Alternatively, placing their meal into food-dispensing toys, a lick mat or a snuffle mat can help keep them occupied.
  5. Leave the television or music device on.
  6. Provide safe, enriching toys to play with such as boredom busters or puzzles.
  7. Using a DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) diffuser or collar can help alleviate stress in some dogs.
  8. Ensure your dog has access to a secure yard or balcony. Alternatively, if this is not possible, provide them with a suitable ‘toilet’ area at home using ‘pee mats’ or dog toilets. 
  9. Consider restricting your dog’s access to one area of the home. Provide them with comfortable bedding and an item of your worn clothing to help them feel secure.
  10. Keep in mind that some dogs will require behavioural therapy AND anti-anxiety medication to manage separation anxiety.

If you are concerned that your dog is anxious, please see your vet or animal behaviourist for more information and assistance.