How to Minimize Separation Anxiety When You Must Leave Your Pet

We love spending time with our dogs and if we could have it our way, they would accompany us on all adventures – vacations and business trips included! Unfortunately, not every occasion is suited to bringing our furry friends along (so you’re telling me my dog can’t be my plus one at your wedding?!) and in those instances, we turn to our next best option – pet-sitters!

While we as owners know a pet-sitting stay is a temporary arrangement, this isn’t exactly something we can communicate with our dogs. Thus, they may experience some degree of separation anxiety when they are away from us. While this stress can seem inevitable, there are a few steps you and your pet-sitter can take to minimize any anxiety. We’ve partnered with DogVacay, an online service that connects pet owners with loving pet-sitters, to share their best practices for minimizing separation anxiety.

Before You Leave:

Find the Perfect Pet-Sitter
The most important prevention tip for separation anxiety is to choose a pet-sitter based on your dog’s needs. If you have an active dog or a puppy that is happiest after they’ve spent the day running around, consider looking for someone who has a yard, can offer long walks or has other dogs that yours can play with. If your pet has experienced separation anxiety during a previous boarding or pet-sitting stay, you may want to consider a pet-sitter who offers 24/7 care or has experience dealing with this type of behavior.

Share Your Pet’s History
Has your dog stayed with a pet-sitter before, or is this their first time away from home? How long can they be left alone for? Knowing these things beforehand can help your pet-sitter anticipate the level of attention your dog will need. The more the pet-sitter knows about your dog, the better!

Share a Schedule
It’s always a good idea to share your dog’s normal schedule with your pet-sitter. Keeping your dog on a similar routine to what they experience at home can help their bodies and minds and adjust quickly to their new environment. Sharing information like what time they usually eat, when they take their walks, how many walks they take, where they sleep etc., will all be helpful information for the pet-sitter so they can make your dog as comfortable as possible.

Pack Items from Home
Bringing your dog’s bed, toys or some comfort items from home can help them establish a safe and familiar space in their pet-sitter’s home. If they are crate-trained, consider bringing their crate along with any bedding that usually goes with it. The more comfortable they are in the pet-sitter’s home, the better off they’ll be!

While You’re Away
Sometimes your dog can still experience separation anxiety despite your best efforts to prevent it. In these cases, distraction is key!

Tire the Pup Out
Some serious play time is often the best remedy. Tiring your dog out will help them expend some of their nervous energy and distract from the fact that they are away from you. If possible before you leave, take a long walk, go for a run, or spend some time playing with your dog. Encourage your pet-sitter to do the same during the stay!

Stimulate the Nose and the Mind
Have a toy or treat that your dog can focus their energy on. A Kong toy filled with something delicious is a great distraction tool – try wedging a high value treat (such as peanut butter or lunch meat) in the center of the toy so that your dog must think and work to get to it.

Play Calming Music
Sounds crazy, but it can work! Ambient sounds or relaxing instrumental music can calm an anxious dog. Share this information with your pet-sitter and have them play some mellow tunes if your dog is showing signs of anxiety when it’s time to relax for the night. There are some great “Dog Music” playlists available on YouTube, Spotify and Pandora. The radio tuned to a classical music station also works!

Remember, the key is to communicate with your pet-sitter beforehand and then ensure your dog is getting the physical and mental exercise they need while you are away. Over time, they’ll learn that your absences are only temporary and leaving will always mean that you’ll return!