Five simple steps to preventing separation-related behaviour in dogs

Border terrier puppy lying down © Andrew Forsyth / RSPCA Photolibrary

From time to time, almost every dog owner will have to leave their dog home alone. And, when you do you want to know that they are safe and happy – right?

So, you check there’s fresh water available, that favourite toys can be found and perhaps leave them a special treat. But, what else can you do to make sure that your canine companion understands that being left alone is only ever temporary and that there is absolutely nothing to worry about?

Read our top tips to preventing separation-related anxiety!

Learning to be left alone

Prevent your dog from becoming anxious by teaching them that being alone is fun!

Repeat the steps below and reward your dog for being relaxed with toys, treats or praise. Once you’re sure your dog is happy, progress to the next step. The speed you progress depends on your dog.

  • Encourage your dog to go to their bed and stay there with you present for a short while. Reward them for remaining quietly in the bed.
  • Ask your dog to stay in their bed as you move away, then return and reward.
  • Move progressively further away for longer. The distance/time that you increase by on each occasion will depend on your dog. If your dog reacts or moves then don’t reward but go back to the previous stage.
  • Start going out through the door before returning, then going out and shutting the door, then going out for longer periods of time, varying the length each time.

Once your dog is happy to be left for an hour you should have no problems leaving them for longer.

Prevent boredom

Boredom can lead to mischief, so give your dog something to occupy them whilst you are away.

  • Leave a safe toy/bone. Make it a ‘special’ toy which is only available when you go out.
  • Leave something your dog loves like a ‘Kong’ stuffed with peanut butter or cheese mixed with dog biscuits or a meat-flavoured chew.
  • Leave a treat ball or cube filled with dried treats – your dog will have to work to get them out.

Your dog will be more likely to relax when left alone if they’ve been fed and exercised before hand.

Find out more about leaving dogs alone

Find more detailed information about how to help your dog cope when you’re not around, take a look at our webpages on separation-related behaviour.

And remember, if your dog misbehaves while you’re out don’t react badly. Your dog will link any punishment or negative reaction with your return rather than the bad behaviour, increasing their anxiety levels next time you leave.


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