Stop separation anxiety in its tracks


Leaving our dogs home alone is a worrying experience, especially when they’re not used to it. With lockdowns happening on-and-off for the last two years, our dogs are either out of practise with being alone, or they’ve never had to experience it at all.


This means that they may be unable to cope with being left alone: they may start to get stressed or bored, leading to ripped up sofas, chewed walls, or even puddles of wee on the living room floor when you come home.


So, how can you safeguard your dog against separation anxiety? The answer is in two parts: routine, and practise.


The leaving dance routine

The art of leaving your dog alone involves a thorough routine to go through before you leave the house. This is vital to your success, as it makes sure all of your dog’s needs are met and calms them down ready to snooze when you walk out the front door.


Step One: Walkies!

This is the perfect place to start as it gives your dog some physical exercise as well as an opportunity to empty their bladder. The physical exercise helps to burn off some energy, which will allow your pooch to settle down for a bit once you’re gone. It’s incredibly important to make sure your pup has relieved themselves during this part, too: imagine how anxious you would get if you needed the loo and couldn’t get to one! Make sure they’ve had a wee at the very least, and a poo if they’re due one in the time you’re out.


Step Two: Brain Games

Now you’ve tired your pup’s body out, it’s time to tire out their brain. If you miss out this step, you risk your dog becoming bored and taking out their frustration on your furniture. The best way to do this is to do a training session together! This doesn’t need to be long, just ten minutes or so is enough. You can work together on a new trick, or give them a puzzle feeder: anything that makes them think.


Step Three: Cuddles

By this point, your dog should have been sufficiently tired out to be able to nap for a good couple of hours. However, they may be pumped up and quite excited about everything that’s just happened – so you have to help them to calm down and get ready for a snooze. If your dog enjoys cuddles, have some chilled out one-on-one cuddles together: long, slow strokes are the key here to encourage them to settle down. If your pup is not so affectionate, you can get the same effect by giving them a stuffed Kong or a chew. Anything that stimulates your dog to chew, lick or sniff releases a cocktail of calming hormones into the brain, getting them ready to close their eyes and drift off the dreamland.



Once you’ve completed these three steps, you’re ready to leave the house!


Practise makes perfect

Even with this routine nailed, you still need to build up to leaving your dog alone for longer periods. The best way to do this is to practise, practise, practise! Start off with only leaving them for five minutes or so: just pop out to the car for a bit and then come back in.


You want to be practising leaving them alone a couple of times a week, and over a handful of sessions you should be able to gradually increase the time you’re out of the house for. The slower you do this, the more successful you’re likely to be: allow yourself as much time as possible to practise before you need to leave them alone for any significant amount of time.


Whilst not essential, it is also good idea to invest in a camera to keep an eye on them when you’re gone. This way, if they do start to pace, pant, or otherwise look stressed out, you can easily see them and pop home to look after them.


The aim is to be comfortable leaving them for the same amount of time that you’ll need to be out in the future. The general rule of thumb, though, is not to leave them for any longer than four hours. They are social animals, after all, and they do miss us when we’re gone!


Written by: Alyssa Ralph, Holistic Pet Services.


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