How to ease separation anxiety in dogs: 7 tips that can help

Dogs are social animals, and it’s very common for them to get upset when they’re alone. As pet parents, we hate leaving our pooches on their own, but as much as we’d all love to spend every moment of every day with our furry companions, sometimes we may need to leave them (for a little while). So, to help you out, here are our pet experts’ tips for helping your dog feel more comfortable while you’re away.

Please note: this article deals with minor separation anxiety, if your pup’s anxiety when they’re alone is impacting them greatly it’s always best to speak with your vet.



What are the signs of separation anxiety?

The signs of stress are not always obvious, and every dog can express themselves differently.

Some common signs of anxiety in dogs include:

  • shaking

  • whining

  • barking

  • pacing

  • drooling

  • yawning

  • chewing

  • howling

  • defecating indoors

  • drinking more water than usual or clinging to you before you leave.


While it’s easy to spot stress in your dog when you’re with them, diagnosing separation anxiety isn’t always so straightforward – unless their anxiety manifests in the destruction of your new sofa! It can be hard to know what your dog’s doing when you’re not home. If you’re worried, consider installing a camera to check in with what they’re up to, or ask your neighbours if they hear anything while you’re away.

It’s important to remember, however, that what may be a sign of stress in one pooch could mean something entirely different in another. Always consider how your pet typically acts before assuming the worst. If you want to understand more about what different doggy behaviours mean, our piece on dog body language covers the most common dog behaviours and why they might do them.

What causes separation anxiety?

There may be several factors at play, including: 

  • your dog’s age
    It’s common for puppies to be more anxious when left alone, which is why they shouldn’t be left for so long: check out our tips on leaving your puppy alone while you’re at work. Older dogs may also become more anxious, especially if they have lost any sight or hearing. 
  • your dog’s personality and history
    There’s some evidence to suggest that different breeds of dogs may be more prone to separation anxiety than others, but your dog’s individual personality and history is a more significant factor. Some dogs may be more anxious than others, particularly if they have had bad experiences in the past. Many rescue dogs are more nervous when left alone and may need expert help.
  • boredom and frustration
    Sometimes, the cause of a dog’s distress is not getting the same mental and physical stimulation as when you’re home. This may lead to destructive behaviours like chewing.
  • loud noises
    Your dog might become more stressed when you’re out if they can hear loud noises, such as building work.

How can you manage minor separation anxiety in dogs?

It can be upsetting if your pet doesn’t like it when you’re gone, but our top tips can help:

  1. Walk your dog before you leave – make sure they’ve had some exercise and been to the toilet, so they won’t be frustrated or uncomfortable when you’re out. 
  2. Put the radio on – to keep them company, or try a playlist, like FRONTLINE®’s Pawfect Playlist for Dogs, created especially to keep your pet calm.
  3. Leave your dog in a safe place – such as their crate, if they are crate trained, or a dog-proofed room, so they can’t hurt themselves if they do become distressed.
  4. Don’t make a fuss when you leave the house – staying calm when you’re leaving and arriving will show your dog that it’s not a big deal and they don’t need to be upset.
  5. Try products designed to ease minor separation anxiety in dogs – there are a wide range available: take a look at our article for a run-down of the most popular types.
  6. Train your dog to be left alone – by leaving them for longer periods at a time, bit by bit, so long as they aren’t distressed.
  7. Leave your dog with some toys – chew toys will help keep them occupied and reduce the temptation to chew your furniture.


What shouldn’t you do?

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There are some things that don’t work for separation anxiety, including:

  • punishing your pet – this will only make them more anxious
  • getting another dog – although it might seem like a good idea to give them company, it may not make a difference as separation anxiety is caused by being away from you
  • obedience training – separation anxiety isn’t ‘bad behaviour’, so although training is always a good idea, it won’t make a difference.


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What about more serious separation anxiety?

If you’ve tried to ease separation anxiety in your dog with no success, it’s likely that their anxiety is moderate to severe. In this case, speak to your vet: they’ll be able to recommend behavioural experts, as well as other treatments that may be helpful.

We hope our tips will help you keep your pet happy while you’re not at home. Take a look at our dog advice pages for more tips from our pet experts.

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