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Home Training and BehaviorBehavioral Issues Beat Work Hour Blues: Coping with Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

Beat Work Hour Blues: Coping with Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

by Kimberley Lehman
Kimberley Lehman

I’ve always thought of my dog as more than just a pet; he’s a family member. But when work calls, I can’t ignore the pang of guilt seeing his sad eyes as I close the door behind me.

It’s a scene too many of us are familiar with, especially as we navigate the balance between our professional lives and the well-being of our furry companions.

Coping with a dog’s separation anxiety during work hours has become a puzzle I’m determined to solve. It’s not just about keeping him busy but ensuring he feels safe and loved even when I’m not around. Join me as I share the strategies and insights I’ve gathered on this journey, aiming to make the separation easier for both of us.

Understanding Dog Separation Anxiety

When I first noticed my dog’s anxious behaviors every time I grabbed my keys, I realized this wasn’t just a minor issue. The whining, pacing, and that heartbreaking look of despair were clear signs. I was facing a genuine challenge: dealing with my dog’s separation anxiety.

Dog separation anxiety is a complex condition where a dog exhibits distress and behavior problems when separated from its attachments, likely their human families. It’s not merely missing their owner; it’s an intense, overwhelming fear of being left alone. But what triggers this anxiety?

Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

Several factors contribute to a dog’s separation anxiety:

  • Change of Guardian or Family: Being rehomed can be extremely stressful for dogs, triggering anxiety.
  • Change in Schedule: Dogs thrive on routine. A sudden change in the amount of time they spend alone can induce anxiety.
  • Moving to a New Home: New environments are unsettling for dogs, potentially causing anxiety.
  • Sudden Absence of a Family Member: Dogs can become anxious if a family member is suddenly absent, especially if they spend a lot of time with that person.

Understanding these triggers is the first step in helping our furry friends feel more comfortable when they’re alone. It’s not about them being stubborn or naughty; it’s about a deep-seated fear that needs addressing.

Symptoms to Watch For

Identifying separation anxiety involves recognizing certain behaviors. Here’s what I keep an eye out for:

  • Excessive barking or howling
  • Destructive acts, like chewing furniture
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Attempts to escape
  • Excessive salivation or drooling

These signs are my dog’s way of saying, “I’m not okay!” Recognizing them early on has been crucial in managing and eventually reducing the anxiety.

Understanding and addressing separation anxiety in dogs requires patience, consistency, and lots of love. As I’ve embarked on this journey with my own dog, figuring out the puzzle of his anxiety, I’ve learned that the aim is not just to manage the symptoms but to ensure he feels safe, loved, and confident, even in my absence. With time, persistence, and the right approach, I’m hopeful that those anxious goodbyes will turn into calm farewells.

Signs and Symptoms to Look Out For

Recognizing the indicators of separation anxiety in our furry companions is the first critical step towards creating a harmonious environment for them, especially during work hours when they find themselves home alone. To decipher whether your dog might be experiencing feelings of distress during your absence, here are some unmistakable signs and symptoms to keep an eye on:

  • Excessive barking or howling: If the neighbors point out that your dog has been very vocal while you’re away, it’s a strong hint that your dog is struggling with anxiety.
  • Destructive behavior: Coming home to find shoes chewed up, door frames gnawed on, or pillows torn apart? This misbehavior is often your dog’s way of coping with the stress of being alone.
  • Pacing or restlessness: Sometimes caught on nanny cams, dogs may walk in circles or along the same path in your home, indicating their unease with the solitude.
  • Attempts to escape: Dogs trying to dig under fences, chew through doors, or otherwise escape from the area they’re confined to can be a sign they’re desperately seeking reunification with you.
  • Drooling, panting, or salivating more than usual: Anxiety often manifests physically in dogs through excessive drooling or panting, even when it’s not particularly warm.
  • Changes in eating habits: A sudden disinterest in food or, conversely, an unusual compulsion to eat non-food items might signal your dog’s distress.

It’s not just about spotting these behaviors but understanding what they signify. Each suggests a level of discomfort with being alone that goes beyond ordinary loneliness; it’s a profound unease that, if not addressed, can affect both their and your quality of life.

To navigate this challenge, it’s essential to remember patience, consistency, and a personalized approach are your best tools. Every dog’s experience with anxiety is unique, necessitating tailored strategies to ensure they feel safe, loved, and calm, even in your absence. Through deliberate efforts, we can transform those anxious goodbyes into peaceful farewells, ensuring our four-legged friends remain as joyful and content as possible, all day long.

Creating a Safe Environment for Your Dog

When it comes to easing my furry friend’s separation anxiety, creating a safe and secure spot in my home has been a game-changer. I’ve found a few strategies that work wonders, and I’m excited to share them with you.

First off, I identified a space where my dog feels the most at ease. For some dogs, this might be a cozy corner in the living room, while for others, it could be a quiet spot in the bedroom. The key here is consistency; this spot needs to be available to them whenever they seek comfort.

Here’s what I did to make this area a true safe haven for my pup:

  • Comfortable Bedding: I ensured my dog had a super comfy bed. If your dog has a favorite blanket or pillow, make sure it’s there.
  • Familiar Toys: Including a couple of their favorite toys can help them feel more at ease. It’s like having a piece of you with them.
  • Calm Music: Believe it or not, playing some gentle, soothing tunes has had a positive impact. There’s even music and playlists designed specifically for dogs!
  • Security Item: A piece of clothing that smells like you can work wonders in calming your dog. It’s a reminder that you’re always close by, even if you’re not physically there.

Beyond setting up a safe space, I’ve implemented a routine that helps reduce my dog’s anxiety before I head out the door. It involves:

  • A good, hearty play session to tire them out.
  • A bathroom break right before I leave.
  • Leaving quietly without making a big fuss.

Another critical aspect has been practicing leaving and returning at irregular intervals during my days at home. This helps my dog get used to the idea that me leaving isn’t a big deal and that I will always come back. It’s a slow process, but patience is key.

Remember, every dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. It might take some trial and error to figure out the perfect combination to ease your dog’s separation anxiety. But believe me, seeing your dog more relaxed and happy while you’re away is absolutely worth every effort.

Implementing Training and Desensitization Techniques

It wasn’t just about keeping them busy while I was away; I needed to address the root of their anxiety.

The concept of training and desensitization might sound fancy, but it’s pretty straightforward. Essentially, it’s about gradually getting my pup used to the idea of me being away, without triggering a full-blown panic attack. Here’s how I broke it down:

Start Small

  • Short Absences: I began with quick absences, literally stepping out for just a minute or two. It’s the doggie equivalent of dipping their paw in the water to test the temperature.
  • Gradual Increase: Gradually, I increased my absence, monitoring their response each time. It’s a bit like adding more water to that metaphorical pool, letting them slowly adjust to the new depth.

Associate Departures with Positivity

  • Treats: I made sure to associate my departure with something positive. In our case, it was a special toy that they only got when I left. It’s akin to leaving a kid in a room with their favorite cartoon; they’re so engrossed they barely notice you’re gone.
  • Calm Rewards: Upon returning, I greeted them calmly and gave treats for calm behavior. It reinforced the idea that me coming and going was a normal, uneventful part of life.

Carry out Routine Training

Training wasn’t just about dealing with absence; it was also about embedding commands that helped mitigate their anxiety.

  • ‘Sit’ and ‘Stay’: Mastering these commands added a layer of structure and predictability.
  • Crate Training: For some, crate training provided a safe haven, a ‘den’ they could retreat to when the world seemed overwhelming.

Engaging Toys and Activities to Keep Your Dog Busy

As I’ve explored the avenues of easing my dog’s separation anxiety during work hours, I’ve stumbled upon a treasure trove of engaging toys and activities. They not only keep my furry friend busy but also mentally stimulated, making solo time less daunting.

Starting with Interactive Toys, these have been a game-changer. They’re not just ordinary toys; they make my dog think and work for his treats. Some favorites include:

  • Puzzle feeders
  • Treat-dispensing balls
  • Snuffle mats

These toys encourage my dog to use his nose and paws to solve puzzles, mirroring the foraging behavior of his ancestors. It’s fascinating to watch him engage with these toys, each attempt getting smarter and more determined.

Next up, DIY Toys are a hit at our house. They’re simple, cost-effective, and incredibly fun to make. A couple of these include:

  • A frozen treat dispenser made from an ice cube tray
  • A tug-of-war rope from braided old t-shirts

These homemade options not only provide entertainment but also add a personal touch to my dog’s playtime. Plus, recycling old items into toys feels great!

Scheduled Playtime plays a crucial role too. Even when I’m not home, I’ve set up a routine that includes:

  • A visit from a dog walker or friend for a midday play session
  • Automated toys that turn on at specific times

This setup ensures my dog has something to look forward to, breaking up the monotony of waiting.

Training Sessions using positive reinforcement have been beneficial as well. Short, engaging training sessions using tricks or commands keep his brain working and reduce the overall anxiety he feels when I’m not around.

They’re not just distractions but tools that foster independence and confidence in my dog. Watching him engaged and content, even in my absence, reassures me that the effort to find what truly captivates his interest is well worth it.


I’ve found that a little creativity goes a long way in easing my dog’s separation anxiety. By incorporating interactive toys, DIY projects, and scheduled playtime, I’m not just keeping my furry friend busy—I’m building their independence and confidence. Remember, it’s all about making them feel secure and loved, even when we’re not around. Let’s give our dogs the tools they need to enjoy their time alone, turning those hours into an opportunity for growth and happiness. Trust me, it’s worth every smile you’ll come back home to.


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