Using enrichment and play to help avoid separation anxiety
Dogs are social animals who would prefer it if we never left them alone, but for those times when we need to, we want to make sure we are setting them up for success. All dogs need a mix of mental and physical stimulation to feel satisfied, and they all have specific needs that must be met. The good news is there are some simple routines you can follow to help you and your dog feel more confident when leaving them home alone.
Our number one top tip for avoiding separation anxiety is to build up a strong relationship with your furry best friend. Dogs with a secure attachment bond to humans are less stressed when left alone. Some of our favorite activities that get your dog engaging with you are:
PLAY! An interactive game between you and your dog is not only going to help expend their energy, it provides them with essential social interactions and there is no better way to bond. Your dog needs you to play with them everyday, so grab a tug toy for a close-contact game and watch your pup’s confidence grow. If your dog prefers to chase and catch, our range of SodaPup balls are perfect for a game of fetch, like the Crazy Bounce. Have a read of our extensive and super informative blog post on “Different Types of Toys Explained!” for detailed explanations on different toys and their benefits.
SNIFFING GAMES! Play can also be scent-based games where you hide a treat for your dog to sniff out. Using their nose will get their brains activated and help them feel calm and relaxed. Hide treats around the yard, or even in boxes for them to rip apart.
FOCUS! Spend 5 minutes working on a new task to engage their problem-solving brains. Trick training is a lot of fun and doesn’t need to be complicated. Teach your pup to spin, weave through your legs, balance on a wobble board or even clean up their toys! Make sure you have your treats ready to go.
Doing these fun activities together on a regular basis will make for a happy, confident dog. We then suggest adapting the basic routine outlined below for the days you need to leave them alone.
1:30 minutes of physical activity, such as a walk. It’s important to be aware that this will increase arousal and your dog needs time to come down after exercise, so not best done right before leaving alone. Especially for dogs who are prone to general anxiety and who may have experienced stress on the walk. Aim for a 30 minute walk and then at least an hour before leaving them after that. If you are short on time, 15 minutes of a tug game or catch and chase could be swapped in here
2: 10 minutes of mental stimulation through training. This should be simple and enjoyable and some ideas are spins, targets like a chin rest, holding down position or picking things up on cue.
3: Provide your dog with a SodaPup treat dispenser or food puzzle toy to help keep them busy while you are getting ready to leave.
4: Have an extra chewy treat, like the long lasting chews from Lulu’s Kitchen, to keep them occupied as you leave. They should also have access to enrichment during the day.
This should see your dog resting and relaxing all day while you’re out. When you get home, greet them calmly and enjoy hanging out together - You no doubt missed each other! Don’t forget cuddle time as everyone is relaxing in the evening.