After spending lots of extra time with you at home throughout the last year, your furry family member may now be more attached to you than ever before. Does your pup start pacing when you put your shoes on? Can you hear them whining through the door once you leave the house? These are just a few examples of what could be considered separation stress, and in extreme cases, separation anxiety.
A recent Petco survey revealed that 65% of pet owners are nervous to leave their pet alone when they return to the office. If you feel the same sentiment, you’ve come to the right place. We cover how separation stress differs from separation anxiety, what causes some dogs to develop it, and, most importantly, how you can help yours remain calm and safe when alone at home:
What is Separation Anxiety, & How Is It Different Than Separation Stress?
Remember: not all anxious behavior is categorized as clinical anxiety, and only veterinarians can diagnose separation anxiety in dogs. We will focus on separation stress in this article, but it’s still important to understand the distinction between separation anxiety and stress so you know exactly how to help your dog.
Separation anxiety refers to a dog that has formed a hyper-attachment to an individual and has trouble functioning or finding any comfort when left alone. It’s one of the most common and persistent forms of anxiety in dogs. These pups often chase after their owner in the house and start panicking when they lose sight of them.
True separation anxiety in dogs is the equivalent of panic attacks in humans and can unfortunately result in self-injury at times. Some may jump through a screen door after their owner leaves, others may hurt their paws scratching at the windows. You should consult with your veterinarian if you believe your dog may have a clinical anxiety issue.
Though separation anxiety is more extreme and debilitating than stress, stress resulting from being left alone can still be incredibly disruptive to your dog’s day-to-day life -- and yours too.
Common Signs of Separation Stress
20% of all dogs show signs of anxiousness when their owner leaves the house, a number that has likely only increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Dogs have no way of knowing when their owner will return and become fearful and nervous as a result. Separation stress typically manifests itself in undesirable behaviors, such as:
- Incessant barking
- Defecating indoors
- Destructive behavior
You can consider any of the behaviors listed above as a sign of separation stress if they seem to be triggered when you leave your dog alone. For instance, if your dog is regularly chewing on furniture even when you’re in their presence, it’s probably not just separation that’s causing them to act out.
Why Do Dogs Develop Separation Stress?
There is no conclusive evidence as to why some dogs become stressed and others are able to manage just fine when their owner heads out for the day. Shelter dogs generally have a more difficult time adjusting to being on their own than those who have lived with the same family since puppyhood.
However, any dog can still experience separation stress at any point in their life, and it can often be attributed to environmental changes or traumatic events such as:
- Changes in family structure (i.e., death of a family member or divorce)
- Changes in lifestyle (i.e., moving to a new home)
- Changes in routine (i.e., owner returns to work full-time)
Changes in routine will be the most prevalent catalyst for many owners and their dogs in the coming weeks and months as they prepare to return to work or school. This change could be particularly tough on the dogs known as “pandemic puppies,” meaning those born or adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA), 23 million American households have acquired a pet since the beginning of the pandemic, including many first-time owners. The majority of “pandemic puppies” have never experienced separation from their owners. Even those who were in homes prior to the pandemic may still be jolted by abrupt separation when their owners return to work.
5 Tips for Helping Your Dog with Separation Stress
Both first-time and veteran dog owners should prepare for the possibility their pup will display signs of separation stress when they return to work or school this fall. Here are five tips to help ease separation stress:
- Make departures and arrivals low-key without much greeting. Your dog takes cues from your emotions and behavior. The bigger of a deal you make leaving and returning, the bigger of a deal your dog will think it is.
- Stick to a routine so your dog knows what to expect. Dogs are more relaxed when they have at least some idea of what their day will look like. Think about what your routine was like pre-pandemic and start replicating it before you begin leaving the house for extended periods of time again. If you used to take your pup for a walk every morning, for example, work that back into their daily routine.
- Give your dog plenty of exercise before you depart. Whether a trip to the dog park or play time in the front yard, any type of exercise will help tire them out so they can rest peacefully while you’re gone.
- Turn up the tunes, particularly soft rock and reggae. Music has been shown to have a calming effect on dogs. The two most stress-reducing genres are soft rock and reggae and can effectively help your dog stay calm when alone at home.
- Try Kradle® CBD for a natural solution that truly works. Kradle® is the first CBD brand expressly focused on stress-reducing solutions for dogs. We offer calming products for every dog and any anxious moment -- including separation. Explore the Kradle® difference.
The Kradle® Solution: Home Alone Calming Duo
Being home alone doesn’t have to be scary for your dog. With our Home Alone Calming Duo, separation will be easier on both of you. This limited-edition bundle includes Kradle® Chillers & Bliss Bars. Before you head out of the house, give your pup one of our long-lasting Chillers Relaxing Hard Chews. Your dog will be occupied and content…and probably won’t even know you left the house. When you return home, treat your dog to one of our insanely delicious Bliss Bars, made with REAL peanut butter. Calm never tasted so good, and your dog has never been happier to see you.
And better yet, you’ll save 15% when you buy the Home Alone Calming Duo versus buying the products individually. Shop now.