Whether your dog is only a few months old or a few years old, if it is struggling with separation anxiety, it is probably causing you some anxiety too. Rest assured, you are not alone! Almost every dog owner has experienced a time in their dog’s life where their fluffy friend has struggled being left on their own and luckily, it doesn’t last forever. Some dogs are happy being left alone with their favourite chew, some music and their cosy bed but if these more basic distractions are not working for your dog, hopefully, our handy tips below will help! Separation anxiety in dogs We previously wrote a blog on the signs of anxiety in dogs and cats and how you can help with them but separation anxiety is slightly different. You may find your dog is anxious because of their environment rather than being left alone so it is important to distinguish their behaviour. There are some crossovers such as little accidents (wees and poops), shaking or trembling before your leave, and hiding if you want your dog to go into a particular room or maybe their crate whilst you are gone but some other common behavioural signs that tend to be more specific to separation anxiety include: Destruction – chewing or destroying your furniture, the bedding in their crate or their toys Howling and barking – they want to let you know they’re not happy alone Pacing – whether this is whilst you are gone or even beforehand if your dog is pacing back and forth and/or following you around, it is likely because they feel anxious about you not being there or they are triggered and think you are about to leave Excessive salivation – have you returned to your dog or your furniture being soaked through, it is likely your dog is salivating excessively whilst you are gone Vomiting – in some cases your dog will end up feeling sick and vomiting just like you might when you feel anxious about something How can you help your dog with anxiety? As with anxiety caused by other situations and stimuli, the most important thing to remember when trying to tackle your dog’s separation anxiety is to remain calm! It is extremely easy for your dog to pick up on your (their owners) behaviour and cues so if you’re feeling anxious, they will feel anxious too. What else? One way to support your dog with their anxiety and nervousness is by giving them a natural supplement as these can relax your dog and keep them calm. Our relaxing moments calming soft chews can be given as a treat or crumbled into your dogs daily food and are made from 100% natural ingredients including chamomile – a plant extract with relaxing properties (which you may have even tried yourself in tea to help you sleep), it can also soothe tummies and help to prevent little accidents. If you’d prefer to not give your dog an all-natural supplement, a change to the rooms smell can help to keep them calm and relaxed whilst you’re gone. Our relaxing moments calming room spray helps to provide a feeling of reassurance for your dog and can be used 5 minutes before you leave and the relaxing effects can be expected to last for up to 8 hours. Your behaviour and routines Another way you can help with your dog’s separation anxiety is through your behaviour and routine. Most dogs suffering from separation anxiety are likely to have been triggered before you have left, leading them to know they are about to be left alone. This trigger can be as subtle as the sound of your car keys, the way you have looked at your dog, or even the treats and cuddles you have given them before and after in the hope to distract and reassure them. How can you help? The key is to train your dog into knowing that those ‘cues’ do not always mean you are about to leave and to help your dog feel relaxed when you do carry out those behaviours and routines. The first step is to make sure your dog is already calm before you start training – don’t rush through the process and keep your expectations low so you don’t feel disappointed if your dog doesn’t respond quickly. Avoid eye contact and do not communicate – a common mistake is to tell your dog to stay whilst you leave or to make a fuss of them before or after. If you persist in their training, eventually, you will not need to use commands to stop them from following you when you get up to go, and those treats and cuddles? They will be encouraging the behaviour whilst you are away. You are essentially rewarding them for what they have done or what they are about to do. Stick to one room – the room you wish to leave your dog in whilst you are out and about needs to be comfy and cosy and have a door in which you can shut. Giving your dog too much freedom can make them more anxious and once you have chosen a room, do not try to change it otherwise you’ll end up right back at the beginning.Next, you need to desensitise your dog from your movement – this is the biggest step and your training will depend on what room you are going to leave your dog in when you are out. For those planning on leaving your dog in a room in which you relax and sit with them, such as your living room, it is likely that when you currently get up to make a drink or go for a wee etc, your dog will follow you. This is the movement they need to be desensitised from and the best way to do this is to repeat this behaviour in small doses. For example, shuffle on your seat and see what your dog does. If this causes your dog to jolt from its relaxed state, you know you need to repeat this until they stay relaxed whilst you do it. Make sure they are relaxed and calm in between each time you try the movement and once they are comfortable with a shuffle, try the next move such as standing up. With each smaller movement, once they are comfortable, you can progress to a larger one such as moving around the room to eventually open and closing the door (whilst you are in the room). Don’t forget, make sure the door is shut from the very beginning and keep other stimuli like the radio or TV on or off otherwise they will continue to be triggered by the door opening and closing and the TV or radio being switched on or off. For those planning on leaving your dog in a room separate from the one you relax in together, such as your kitchen, you need to encourage your dog to spend some time in that room and so in turn, you’re going to have to spend some time in there too. Make sure you make it comfy and cosy with a bed and toys, and take your dog into the room with you and shut the door. Repeat those small doses of behaviour from point 5 and remember to gradually work your way up to the opening and closing the door. Leaving the room – this step needs to be done slowly and in stages, just like with points 5 and 6. When your dog is no longer reacting to the door being open and closed, this is your cue to try standing on the other side of the closed door. On the first time, only be out of the room for a few seconds and gradually increase this (by seconds) until you reach a full minute. Each time you go back in the room make sure you continue with the task you were already doing before you left. For example, if you’re training in the kitchen, when you first go in, start making a sandwich, then exit the room and come back to finish your sandwich making. Remember before you go and when you come back into the room, have no eye contact with your beloved furry friend and say nothing. If your dog is too excited that you have come back into the room, you’ve been out of it for too long so go back a step and help your dog to settle and relax once again. Leaving the house! – The steps above will take time and it may take days or even weeks before your dog is ready for you to leave the house. It is also a big step for your dog, they may be comfortable with you leaving them in another room but they may be triggered again by the front door closing, the car starting or even the rustle of your keys. Follow the same steps as above but with those triggers. Try opening and closing the front door, waiting a few seconds, and then going into the room you have left your dog in. Try picking up your car keys as part of the earlier step. Go outside and switch your car’s engine on and off and, hopefully, with time and practice, your dog should be ready for you to leave properly. When you do, remember slow and steady, a few minutes first and gradually build up your time! We hope you find these tips useful but if your dog is still struggling after you’ve tried all these, it may be best to seek some professional help from a behaviourist or vet – all Broadreach members have access to free veterinary advice 24/7. If you have any questions about our calming range or any of our other products, you can also contact us by calling 01223 855857 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.