Does your dog constantly whine, dig, and destroy items around the house when you’re not home? That could be because your dog is experiencing anxiety from fear of abandonment, separation and aging. Sometimes the source of anxiety comes from external environmental shocks such as loud noises, strangers, and car rides. Sometimes it can be caused by a change of guardian, change in schedule, change in residence, or change in household membership.
Some furbabies simply need a good toy to keep them busy and forget their troubles. Dog toys help distract a puppy from your absence and provide mental stimulation and anxiety relief. If your furbaby is entertained and comfortable, they will be less prone to focus on the fact that you are not home.
It may also be helpful to create a room or area where your dog feels safe and cozy. That way, when you are not home, they can relax and not let fear get out of control.
In this chapter, we’ll look at the best toys for separation anxiety and some other calming tricks you can try.
- Best Toys for When You’re Away
Which toys are best for separation anxiety? Just as there are many anti-anxiety medications for dogs available, there are tons of mentally stimulating toys to choose from. If you’re not sure what toy your dog prefers, try experimenting with different ones to discover their favorite. When you’ve found toys they love, you can use them as stress-relieving tools.
Here are some of the best toys for when you’re away:
- KONG: A KONG provides stimulation for hours and is easy for dog parents to arrange. This rubber toy has a simple concept. All you need to do is fill the hole in the center of the toy with peanut butter or another tasty treat, and your dog can spend hours chewing on the toy and getting at the treat inside. You can also freeze the KONG for a greater time-consuming challenge.
- Dog puzzle: With a dog puzzle, you can hide treats under the slides of a wooden puzzle like the Seek-A-Treat Shuffle Bone Puzzle. Although it may sound complicated, a dog puzzle provides interaction and doesn’t require training.
- Ball toy: With a ball toy, treats fall out as the dog plays with the ball. They can kick, swat and chase a treat-filled ball toy until their heart’s content.
- Bob-A-Lot: A Bob-A-Lot is another treat dispensing toy that wobbles and spills treats by the push of doggy paws and feet.
- Furbo Dog Camera: A Furbo Dog Camera allows you to interact and with your furbaby and toss treats no matter how far away you are. Plus, you get the pleasure of watching your furry companion react to Furbo.
A good dog toy is one that encourages physical activity, whether that be chewing or running, because physical motion helps relieve stress. A toy should also be mentally stimulating to help deter negative emotions like loneliness, fear or boredom. All of these elements will help your pup avoid or overcome separation anxiety.
- Create a Safe Zone
Dogs have mental abilities close to human two-year-olds, according to canine researcher Stanley Coren, Ph.D. Naturally. That means your dog will wonder where mommy or daddy went if they suddenly are not in the room. How do humans calm small children? They comfort them with toys and make them feel safe and secure.
Besides shedding, you might think of your furbaby as not much different than a human baby. One way to help reduce their sense of panic when you leave is to create an area, similar to a cozy nursery, playroom or bedroom where your dog feels safe and comfortable.
In your furbaby’s safe zone, add a cozy dog bed so they have a spot for napping and keep plenty of their favorite toys in the room. You might also include a few articles of clothing that carry your scent.
If you do not have a spare room or extra space for your furbaby to have a room of their own, you can use a baby gate to block off a portion of your home. Just make sure not to confine your furbaby to too small of a space. Have treats, toys and fresh, clean water always available. Some dogs may prefer to roam the entire house at all times, and it is up to you to discover what makes your furbaby happy and calm.
- Other Comforting Items
Comforting items do not end with toys and safe zones. Other items might help reduce the symptoms of separation anxiety. These include:
- Music: You can leave special calming pet music playing for your furbaby.
- Aromatherapy: You can apply a relaxing aromatherapy spray to your dog’s bedding or favorite resting area.
- Pet mattress: Your furbaby may choose to nap the day away if they get plenty of regular exercise and mental stimulation. Have a cozy pet mattress ready for them to curl up in.
- White noise machine: White noise has a calming effect on both humans and dogs, and it may be worth leaving on to ease your dog’s anxiety.
Fun toys, comforting napping spots and calming treats — what more could a furbaby ask for? They’ll eventually learn that time without mom or dad is not so bad after all.