Separation anxiety in dogs is a unique predicament because it’s hard to observe and even trickier to fix. After all, dogs suffering from separation anxiety act out when their owners are not home, leaving you guessing. If you’ve spoken with a canine behaviorist and your vet and all roads lead to separation anxiety, consult this list for 25 items that will make your life much easier (and your dog much happier).
Some symptoms of separation anxiety (barking, urinating, destroying pillows) could also be normal reactions to certain events (another dog walking by the window, the dog walker running late, a fly buzzing around the house). Being able to monitor your dog during the day will clue you into what’s really going on (and the Petcube Bites Pet Camera lets you dispense treats remotely for good behavior).
Ideally, your dog gets a bunch of exercise before you leave him flying solo for an extended period of time (or really, any period of time). A bike leash is a great way to up your morning walk game, get your dog some exercise and sneak in extra quality time.
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety are prone to destruction when left home alone. Securing a room or play area in your home for the dog to stay in while you’re away is a huge part of training. Crates can intensify anxiety; instead, go for a gate that keeps your dog in one area or room of the house.
Open floor plan with no real spaces to cordon off for your pup? Try a play pen! Again, crates can be stifling and fear-inducing. A roomier play pen full of toys is ideal.
If your dog knows how to get through a gate and loves scratching at (aka destroying completely) your front door until you return, invest in a door guard to keep your doors intact.
Think of your dog’s bed as his “spot.” A space all his own that he feels comfortable in when he needs to get away from it all. Pawsome Couture makes super-soft, calming pet beds with tall rims that give animals a greater sense of security. If these are too small for your pup, invest in a bed with higher rims to achieve a similar effect.
Some dogs need more than a soothing surface to lie on. Enter: Canine Coddler’s weighted dog anxiety and stress relief blanket. Tuck your dog in before you head out to give them warm, gentle security.
Blanket not enough? Wearing a Thundershirt, a weighted vest-like garment that essentially swaddles your dog like a newborn baby and makes him feel safe while you are away (or while there are thunderstorms a-brewing), can be a game changer.
Now, let’s get into some aromatherapy items. This ThunderEase calming diffuser kit (from the same people who brought you Thundershirt!) emits pheromones that mimic a mother dog’s scent. This is a great, drug-free calming option. It’s also available in collar form.
Body mists and moisturizing sprays aren’t just for people! Well & Good’s Plantiful Calm & Refresh Lavender Fragrance dog spray not only moisturizes your dog’s coat, but it also smells of chamomile and lavender, two of the most serene scents available.
Similarly, this BestLife4Pets spray is formulated with all-natural ingredients (cherry plum, rock rose, impatiens). It offers a slightly different scent (if lavender isn’t your dog’s cup of tea) and is non-addictive. It also might be wise to utilize several different scented sprays so your dog doesn’t begin to associate one specifically with your absence.
If your dog exhibits behaviors like urinating or defecating on the floor while you’re gone, a spritz of this dry doggie shampoo with soothing chamomile and lavender followed by a brush-through (mini massage?) will leave you both feeling fresher, and less tense.
…full of dirty laundry! For real, The Humane Society recommends placing clothing or blankets with your scent on them in the room or area where your dog spends his time without you. This can be an excellent way to remind him you’re not gone forever.
OK, time to play! Items like the LickiMat make dogs work for their treats. Plopping one of these down right before you leave in the morning keeps your canine occupied for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes—plus the repetitive licking motion and grooved mat reduces anxiety. She may not even realize you’re gone!
The Kong Toy is a classic for dogs of all ages, sizes and demeanors. Toss a treat inside to keep your dog busy, help puppies with teething, ease separation anxiety or fulfill a dog’s instinctual need to chew stuff.
Or yogurt or canned pumpkin. Slather onto the LickiMat or into the Kong toy for desired results. Sit back. Enjoy your happy dog.
If you suspect boredom is a huge part of your dog’s anxiety (or if you are looking for new ways for your dog to build confidence when you’re not home), an automatic food or treat dispenser is a great idea. This ball from PetGeek provides dogs with mental stimulation and exercise.
It might look like your dog is diving nose first into a bowl of fabric salad, but this is only a snuff pad. By hiding toys and treats inside the pad, dogs can hone their sense of smell and stay entertained for long periods of time. Consider it the best alternative to chasing their own tail.
Some toys, like this macramé rope toy from Serenity, are infused with soothing essential oils and fragrances that calm your dog during playtime.
Dogs who don’t react well to new scents or need more physical comfort may fall in love with this SmartPetLove stuffed animal. It contains a disposable heat source and battery-powered heartbeat device so your dog will feel like he’s sleeping next to another real puppy…have you ever heard of anything cuter?
If your dog develops separation anxiety later in life or due to a traumatic event, a supplement like Mac+Maya’s Calming Aid is an excellent treat to incorporate into your dog’s diet. It’s formulated with melatonin and L-tryptophan to soothe nerves and should be given roughly 30 minutes before you need the dog to be chill.
For dogs who need regular, daily treatment for their separation anxiety, look for a product like Nutrition Strength’s Anxiety Relief Supplement. These FDA-approved pills are meant to be taken every day for dogs with chronic behavior issues. And, of course, check with your vet before giving them to your pup.
CBD oil is quickly becoming a go-to for anxious animals and humans alike. King Kalm is one of the best-rated brands out there when it comes to oils for dogs and cats. For any supplement or oil, CBD or otherwise, consult your vet to make sure you’re administering the correct dosage and using the best products for your dog’s breed and size.
A huge part of easing a dog’s separation anxiety is training. Be sure you get delicious treats that will help build a positive relationship between you and your pup as you train him to grow more confident without you in the home. Try these Blue Buffalo Savory Salmon Soft-Moist Training Treats—a top-rated choice on PetCo’s website.
When in doubt, consult the experts.The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists’ book Decoding Your Dog offers insight into why canines exhibit specific behaviors and how to work with your dog in a positive way to eliminate bad habits.