How to Deal with Separation Anxiety: For the Human and Dog
Separation Anxiety for your dog can be a really hard thing for your dog to deal with. It can happen as a result of too much dependency as a pup, spending too much time with them as a pup and not setting boundaries. But, just like any other anxiety, it can also have many other explanations or no explanation at all! It happens for dogs all ages and sizes and breeds, but there are things that you can do no matter their age to help them get through their anxious times.
Similarly, humans can also experience anxiety from being separate from their dog. Remember, not all dogs are brought into a family, some are brought for one person to share a life with, or maybe they have been brought into a family of more than one person but they share such a bond with one that the human becomes dependent on them for solace, comfort and love. Whether you are human or dog, we hope the information, tips and advice below will help you!
How can I Reduce Stress and Anxiety for my dog and myself?
- Don’t make a big deal out of leaving the house! Give them a toy to play with 5 minutes before you leave, so it just seems like they are getting a treat and carry on doing what you are doing before you need to leave
- Try not to stroke, pick them up or over comfort them upon departing the house or 15 minutes before; this will get them overly excited and comforted but you then leaving will confuse them so try to avoid physical contact with them before you leave
- When you leave or arrive do not make a big deal of it, ignore them for a few minutes. This will help normalise the fact you leaving and arriving is something you will do frequently and that is ok
- You can try and establish a word or action that signals to your dog you are leaving but will be back - this can be something you teach them as a puppy or something you teach over time
- If you or your dog are extremely unsettled by being separated from one another, take something that reminds you of them and leave something that smells of you for them
What if my dog still feels unsettled?
Extreme separation anxiety is best discussed with your vet but if you are wanting to try some things before you leave, we advise the below:
- If you have something coming up where your dog(s) cannot be with you, then talk it through with someone; a friend, partner, family member or work colleague. Talking through anxiety can help you rationalise the realistic consequences of the anxiety and you can sometimes resolve it yourself
- If you cannot resolve the anxiety yourself, talking can still help you find comfort from other people: advice may not be a solution but advice is still warranted help
- You can create a safe space for them in a room; leave their toys or a few treats and calmly leave the room. They will be safe and reassured because the room is in their home and they know that well
- If you are struggling to leave the house, remember that you have done your best and they will be fine because they are safe and in a home that you created for them
- If you have never put your dog in a crate, now is not the time to create their safe space in one but if you trained them in one, then their crate can be their safe space; if not, then a room as described above is sufficient to make them feel safe
What NOT to do
- Do not shout at them if they act out. They are confused, scared and anxious and just like if you are under a lot of stress at work or school, your boss or teachers shouting at you will not help the situation. Try and comfort them leading up to the separation time
- TV / Radio will not stop their anxiety. They want to know they can see you or that you will come back through that door. Unless TV or radio has been established as a safety cue, they are still worried where you are
- Do not seek out obedience training. Just because formal training usually seems like a good idea, this is not the time to seek it out. Separation anxiety is not your dog being disobedient or because you did not train them properly
What can I do?
Missing your dog is completely normal and just like family or friends, dogs are completely normal to miss. You have to remember that all the love and work you do for them up until the point you need to leave goes towards the amount your dog loves you! They do not hate you, they don’t think you do not care for them, they are simply anxious as to why you are not going to be with them or why they cannot come.
Leaving your dog for a few hours as pups is helpful for separation anxiety and it also helps them blend into the family well and comfortably. As humans we also feel anxiety about leaving our dogs, but we have to remember whilst they are part of the family they are not part of us; they can form our well being, happiness and comfort but you have to remain strong, willful and present in their lives in order to feel more firm in leaving them.
If leaving your dog is causing you to be anxious or you find yourself planning your life around taking your dog with you where it starts to become problematic for you, please seek attention at your local GP. Your well-being and mental health is just as important as your dogs. But also remember that your dogs love you, cherish you and know you love them!
We have put photos of a dog called Rocky throughout this post; he is the family dog of our Social Media Manager, Polly. Rocky struggles with separation anxiety and whilst a bit of his is because he is a spoilt pup, he is also genuinely anxious when he is left, even if his mummy and daddy are in the house! He likes to know where everyone is at all times and that's because for many years he went to work with his Daddy. He is settled enough when the family go and return from their home but every day is a struggle for Rocky with his anxiety but the family deal with it every day to ensure he is loved and understood!
Some things that may help your dog:
Some resources for the hoomans: