During the pandemic, pet adoption rates skyrocketed, and now that more people are returning to work, some dogs are being left alone for the first time.
And while some dogs suffer from separation anxiety, many dog owners are more nervous about the separation than their dogs.
A survey of more than 2,600 dog owners by CertaPet determined the anxiety rates between people and their dogs.
According to the survey, more dog owners think their dogs will be more anxious, with 47 percent of Americans experiencing anxiety, while 76 percent of their dogs do.
- The top 10 states where dog owners experience the most separation anxiety are Arizona, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Alabama, Oregon, and Colorado.
- The top 10 states where dogs experienced the most separation anxiety are Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia, Louisiana, Washington, Indiana, and Missouri.
- 69 percent of Americans would prefer to work from home permanently for their dog’s sake.
Prepare your dog to be home alone
Dogs are creatures of habit, so if your dog has never been home alone, that change will be a shock. Before you leave your dog home alone, take some time to prepare him to reduce the risk of separation anxiety.
Start with short absences
Begin by leaving your dog for 10 to 15 minutes. If he does well, start extending the time you leave the dog alone. Try to avoid leaving your dog for more than four or five hours at a time. If you can’t come home to let your dog out for a potty break, ask a neighbor or hire a dog walker to help.
Establish a routine
If you typically feed and walk your dog at the same time each day, try to stick with that routine. If you don’t have a set routine, consider creating one. Dogs love knowing what’s expected of them and usually don’t like surprises.
Create a safe space
Use your dog’s crate, a pen, a baby gate, or a small room to keep your dog confined while you’re gone. Don’t let the dog have a full run of the house. If you have a doggy door so your dog can go out for potty breaks, be sure your yard is secure so your pup can’t escape. Also, check-in with your neighbors to make sure your dog doesn’t go outside and bark excessively while you’re gone.
Tire your dog out
Before you leave for the day, tire your dog out by taking a brisk walk or by playing a game of fetch. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog. Another option to consider is taking your dog to doggy daycare one or two days a week. Spending a day playing with other dogs lets your pup socialize and will tire him out.
Keep your dog entertained
Entertain your dog with chew toys, interactive feeders, or puzzle toys. Or, fill a Kong toy with tasty treats.
Separation anxiety warning signs
Most dogs will be anxious the first few times they are left alone, especially if you adopted them from a shelter. Some dog breeds also are more prone to experiencing separation anxiety.
In general, dogs that are more clingy, like French Bulldogs, Australian Shepherd, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers, will be more likely to experience separation anxiety.
Independent dog breeds like West Highland Terriers, Akitas, Chow-Chow, Irish Setters, or Japanese Chins are typically calmer when left alone.
Watch for warning signs your dog is experiencing stress or separation anxiety:
Potty training regression is common when you first leave your dog home alone. Don’t punish your dog. Instead, make sure your dog has a chance to go potty before you leave. And, if possible, give your dog a potty break during the day, too.
Stressed dogs are more likely to bark excessively, chew up shoes or other items, scratch door frames or furniture, or dig in the yard.
Physical signs of stress
Watch for signs that your dog is losing hair, panting excessively, experiencing diarrhea, or sleeping excessively.
Aggressive dogs aren’t necessarily mean dogs. More often, they are nervous or fearful dogs that are struggling with being left home alone.
Managing separation anxiety
If your dog experiences separation anxiety, you can use several methods to help keep him calm:
Consider leaving the TV or radio on. A Colorado State University study shows music can help keep dogs calm. But understand loud, high-pitched, or heavy metal music can increase separation anxiety. Quiet, classical music often lulls dogs to sleep.
Calming vitamins can help dogs experiencing separation anxiety. The vitamins also help calm dogs who are fearful due to thunderstorms, fireworks, or trips to the vet.
Treats made with ingredients like hemp, L-tryptophan, and melatonin help keep dogs relaxed.
CBD oil or treats
CBD or cannabidiol, extracted from hemp or cannabis plants, doesn’t have THC, which causes a psychotropic response. The chemical works with receptors in your dog’s brain to relieve anxiety. The American Animal Hospital Association research shows that giving dogs CBD treats or CBD oil boosts a dog’s dopamine levels to improve mood and promote relaxation.
Most dogs won’t mind you using a CBD oil dropper to get the CBD into their mouths. If they tolerate this then great. Stick with it. Otherwise, you can consider mixing it in with their food, or buying treats with the CBD already in them.
In extreme cases, you may need to consult with your vet about using medication like Trazodone to keep your dog calm while you are away.
Help your dog cope with separation anxiety
If you can’t work from home and need to leave your dog home alone. Take steps to help reduce the risk your pup will suffer from separation anxiety. Both you and your dog will be happier.
Sara B. Hansen has spent 20-plus years as a professional editor and writer. She’s also the author of The Complete Guide to Cocker Spaniels. She decided to create her dream job by launching DogsBestLife.com in 2011. Sara grew up with family dogs, and since she bought her first house, she’s had a furry companion or two to help make it a home. She shares her heart and home with Nutmeg, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Her previous dogs: Sydney (September 2008-April 2020), Finley (November 1993-January 2008), and Browning (May 1993-November 2007). You can reach Sara @ firstname.lastname@example.org.