Listening to a dog cry is heartbreaking, especially when you know you can calm them down. However, no matter how hard you try, you can’t be with them 24 hours a day. The RSPCA has issued advice on how owners can help treat their dog’s separation anxiety as children return to schools and their parents return to the office after a much-needed summer holiday.
While some dog training guides suggest leaving them to ‘cry it out’, the RSPCA has slammed this technique as it is “neurologically damaging”, as the organisation says that “dog and puppies left to cry it out will only learn that being alone is terrifying”. A statement warns: “Working out why your dog reacts badly to being left alone can be tricky. Especially, as research shows that half of dogs suffering from separation-related behaviour won’t show any signs when you’re with them.”
To help them feel more at ease when home alone, you can leave your dog a ‘special’ toy so they have something to play with while you’re out the house.
“Always make sure that your dog has exciting things to do when you’re not with them. You can give your dog a long-lasting chew such as a stuffed ‘kong’ toy, a meat-flavoured chew or a treat ball when you plan to go out,” the statement adds.
“Make sure that they enjoy using it when you’re there. If your dog then doesn’t use it when you’re away, this may be a sign that your dog is worried when you’re out.”
Owners can also encourage their pet to relax during time on their own by taking them out for a walk before they plan to leave the house.
The statement adds: “Try to take your dog for a walk before you go out so that they have the opportunity to go to the toilet and exercise.
“Return half an hour before you plan to leave and make sure they’re not hungry. You can feed them a small meal before you leave or leave a food toy – your dog will be much more inclined to relax if they’re fed.”
However if you’re planning on leaving your dog for more than four hours at a time, the RSPCA recommends booking in a dog sitter, especially if your dog isn’t used to being left home alone for long periods.
“We recommend that you don’t leave your dog alone for more than four hours; for puppies much less. However, if your dog struggles with being alone they may start feeling anxious within minutes of you leaving, or even before you leave,” the statement adds.
“Using a dog sitter or dog walking service means that someone can keep your dog company and take them for a walk. This is a good way of easing the stress they may feel when you’re not there.”