Managing Separation Anxiety in Needy Dogs: A Guide for the Traveling Pet Owner

While for most people the idea of going on vacation fills them with excitement, for some unlucky pet owners traveling for the holidays brings on a whole new level of stress. What are they to do with their pup?

As people swarm back to airports and travel routines, dogs may be left confused and panicking by this change. After two years of staying home, our pets may be caught unaware by our sudden disappearance. Especially if you’re a new pet owner who got an animal during the pandemic, they may not know what it’s like for you to leave for long periods of time.

Separation anxiety is when dogs are overly attached to their owners and react to being left alone with destructive and disruptive behaviors. This may involve urinating on the floor, destroying furniture or possessions, and making noises that drive the neighbors crazy. No one wants to walk through the front door to find their house a mess, especially when coming home from a relaxing vacation. So let’s look into some tips on how you can relieve your pet’s separation anxiety, in the short and long term:

Top Eight Tips for Managing Separation Anxiety

1. Have someone familiar watch your pet

Having a friend or family member take care of your dog while you’re gone is a great option, as it ensures the dog is kept company by someone they know and are comfortable with. With this option, you can be sure the dog is kept in good hands. However, you may not have access to someone like this, or they may have zero interest in watching your dog. In that case, you’ll have to look into one of two options: a pet sitter or a pet hotel. 

2. Consider a sitter instead of a pet hotel

If your pet already has an anxious temperament, it might be better to hire someone to come in and watch them rather than leaving them at a pet hotel with lots of new sights, sounds, smells, and animals. Pet sitting allows your pet to get one-on-one attention, and stay comfortable in their own home with their own things. Unfortunately, pet sitters can also be pricey, so a pet hotel may be your only option.

3. Make sure they have comfort items.

If you use a pet hotel, then make sure you pack plenty of comfort items for your dog. Their bed, a blanket, their favorite toys, and even a piece of clothing that smells like you can help relieve some of their stress. Keep in mind though, stressed animals are more likely to chew and tear things, so these items may not be returned to you in the same condition you left them. 

4. Distract them when you are leaving

If you want to avoid a big fuss when sneaking out the front door, distraction is key. A KONG filled with peanut butter is the trick to keeping them entertained while you head out. Food puzzles can also help distract them and avoid dramatic and whiny goodbyes; it also gives them great mental stimulation!

5. Train your pup to get used to you leaving

From a young age, you should have your animal get used to you putting on your shoes, grabbing the keys, and walking out the front door without them. Make a show of the leaving process, so they understand that these actions mean your departure. Start by leaving them for short periods of time, then increase it into longer and longer segments. Get them used to having time without you, just make sure they always have access to water and a crate or bed as a safe space to rest in while you’re gone.

6. Consider seeing a vet about medication

If your pet’s anxiety is severe, it may be time to take them to a vet and get themprescribed anxiety medication. Yes, like us humans our furry friends may also be in need of prescriptions to help calm them down. SSRIs and antidepressants such as fluoxetine and clomipramine can sometimes be used to ease a pet’s anxiety. But of course, this should only be given under the recommendation of a veterinarian. If you’re looking for a quick fix, some pet products are made with natural ingredients to calm dogs. Just make sure you look into the reviews before you give them to your pup.

7. Keep calm

If you’re stressing and worrying about leaving your animal behind, your dog may sense this anxiety and equally panic. Keep yourself calm, talk in an even voice when you leave and arrive back home, and avoid fussing over them. The key to remember: for a dog all attention is good attention, so scolding them for bad behavior won’t do much more than reinforce it.

8. Make sure they are exercised out

Before you leave, make sure your dog gets enough love, attention, and exercise! Working out their mind and body before you leave can help keep them settled while you’re gone. Tire that pooch out with a long walk or run, then head out the door with little issue.

If you want more information about what exactly is going on in your pet’s head, try the course Animal Psychology. By delving into the psychology behind your pet’s behavior, reactions and natural instincts you can ensure your environment together is harmonious and happy.