One of the most common forms of distress for canine companions is separation anxiety — the stress they feel when their owners leave them on their own. Before getting a dog, always ask yourself if your lifestyle is suitable to owning one. If you are frequently away from home and unable to take your dog with you, leaving it for prolonged periods on its own, then perhaps dog ownership is not for you.
However, it is sometimes unavoidable that your pet will have to be left alone. Here are some tips to help reduce stress your dog may experience as a result.
1. Provide Stimulation and Entertainment
If your dog is left alone, ensure that it has a selection of toys to help keep it stimulated and engaged. There is a wealth of toys on the market and whilst simple toys are always a comfort, consider investing in one designed to provide stimulation. This could be a simple treat ball, like the one made popular by Kong, or a more complex game of the sort which Nina Ollsson products. Always ensure that these toys are not a choking hazard. A great range of interactive toys is available from Dogscorner.co.uk.
2. Plenty of Exercise
Any dog that is being left for more than a couple of hours should be given a good long walk
beforehand. This will tire it out and help to ensure that they do not become overly excitable and
destructive whilst you are away. Dogs need to be exercised (in varying degrees according to breed)
every day; by making sure you do this before you leave, you can ensure that this happens. Otherwise
you might return tired and your dog will miss out– which is simply not fair to the dog.
3. Look for Outside Help
Rope in a family member or friend that you trust to come spend some time with your dog whilst you are away. It need not be for long but it will help to break up the day and keep the dog entertained. During a period in which I was unavoidably away for a good part of the day each week, I employed the services of my next door neighbor’s teenage daughter to come and walk my Westies. It only cost a few pounds each day and she would have been more than happy to do it for free. If your dog isn’t micro-chipped, make sure it has one of those dog collars with an ID tag on it — you don’t want to lose your dog whilst it’s in someone else’s charge.
4. Get a Second Dog
Dogs can become the best of friends — so getting a second dog is a good idea. Having a pal to play with is one of the best means of preventing separation anxiety. However, there is a caveat; you should not see this as a replacement for your affection. They will both need to spend time with you — so think very carefully whether you can spend time with two dogs before getting a second one.
5. Spend Quality Time with Your Dog
When you get home, show your dog lots of love and attention. It’s likely you will be tired after a hard day, but these are the sacrifices which a dog owner must make. If you don’t think you will have the energy to spend fussing over your pet then re-evaluate whether your lifestyle permits you to have one.
6. Consult your Vet
Many pet owners are reluctant to consult their vet over suspected separation anxiety — but this
shouldn’t be the case. Psychological conditions can be just as detrimental to your dog’s standard of
life as physiological ones. Do not be afraid to seek help and advice.
Do you have a favorite way to keep your dog entertained and busy while you’re away from home? Share it with other dog owners here.