Dealing With Your Dogs Separation Anxiety

Your dogs separation anxiety can cause destruction in your home and make you and your Cocker's lives miserable. Learn what causes separation distress, the symptoms and what you can do to help your Spaniel manage better when he's left home alone.

What Can Trigger Separation Distress?

Cocker Spaniels are very much family dogs and they don't like being left on their own; they can become anxious (and often destructive) when they're not with their 'family'.

Black and white cocker spaniel puppy doesn't seem to be suffering from separation anxiety, does he?

Don't be fooled, our Cocker Spaniels easily pick up on everyday actions and soon learn to recognize our behavior patterns.

For example, your dogs separation anxiety is likely to be triggered when he sees the signs that you're going out (without him!) such as picking your keys up or putting on your coat. 

If you always do the same things before you go out he will begin to get anxious as soon as he sees any one of these signs.

Your Cocker has no way of knowing when, or even if, you'll be back and this is what 'freaks him out'. 

To avoid this, try to vary your behavior pattern slightly each time; don't let him see any real pattern which could indicate that you're about to leave the house.

For example, if you need to take a coat or a shopping bag with you, perhaps you could place them just outside the door a few minutes before you leave - but don't let your dog see you do this.

Don't always leave by the front door; leave by a back door and an alternate exit wherever possible.

The symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs are often worse during the first hour or so of being left alone.

The answer is often to keep  him occupied at least during the first hour, so that he's less likely to become bored and will hopefully stay out of mischief.

How To Avoid Separation Anxiety

Punishing your dog for his anxious behavior is not the answer, even if he does become destructive. Your Cocker can't help it; instead, you might like to try some of the remedies suggested below.

Plenty Of Exercise To Tire Him Out!

If your dog has too much pent up energy, he's more likely to get into mischief if he's left on his own.

Cocker spaniel running through a forest of flowers and ferns, getting plenty of exercise!

Lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation can help with your dogs separation anxiety as both will help to tire him out and make him feel less stressed. When you leave him on his own he'll be relaxed and much more likely to sleep while you're away.

A good long walk before you leave will usually do the trick!

Make sure he gets to run around; throw a ball or a Frisbee for him and let him run until he's exhausted.

You might also like to try a few puppy obedience training exercises or some exciting puppy games to give the mental stimulation to help with your dogs separation anxiety.

Toys To Keep Him Occupied

A good selection of interesting toys to play with will help to stop your dog's separation anxiety.

Make sure the toys are safe enough for him to play with unsupervised, for example, nylon bones, rope toys, and other safe chew toys.

Kongs are a great way of keeping your dog busy, especially if they're stuffed full of treats.

Kongs are strong and chewable, and can be filled with food such as grated cheese or cream cheese, kibble, sausage, hot-dogs, liver, chicken, peanut butter - in fact, anything your dog likes to eat.

I bought Max a hollow bone filled with a meaty paste from the local pet shop. Unfortunately, he wasn't too keen on the paste so I dug it out and replaced it with my own filling.

I've used a mixture of kibble and meat paste, hot-dog and meat paste, and cream cheese and sausage - he loves them all and it keeps him quiet for a while!

They're ideal as the bone may be used over and over again and to make it more interesting (and last longer) you can even freeze them - great on a really hot day!

These hollow bones have certainly helped with my dogs separation anxiety, but if you use them, don't forget to offset any treats you give your Spaniel against his food allowance otherwise you'll end up with a fat Cocker Spaniel!

And remember to rotate his toys so that he doesn't get bored with them.

If You're Going Out - Don't Fuss. Just Go!

When it's time to leave the house, don't make a fuss - just go - otherwise there's the danger that you make your dog more nervous and anxious about being left on his own.

Try the following exercise to help reduce your dogs separation anxiety:

  • Without making any fuss, leave the house by the front door and close it behind you. Let your Cocker see you leave.

  • Wait for a few moments and then return - the aim is not to allow your Cocker Spaniel time to become upset. Don't make a fuss of him on your return otherwise he may see the attention as confirmation from you that he was right to be anxious. Don't react to him - wait for a few moments, until he's calmed down (if he's hyper) then when he's quiet greet him and stroke him quietly.

  • Repeat this exercise several times a day, whenever you get the chance.

As your dogs separation anxiety isn't limited to when you leave the house (it could be triggered when you leave the room), I recommend you also practice this exercise to help get your dog used to you leaving and returning.

  • Walk into another room and close the door behind you.

  • Wait a few seconds and then return.

  • Don't speak to your Spaniel or make eye contact with him.

  • Gradually lengthen the time you stay behind the door and then vary it so that he's never sure how long you're going to be away.

  • Even if you're not planning to go out, I recommend you leave your Cocker alone for an hour or so each day to get him used to being alone. For example, leave the house and then slip back through another door, without your dog seeing or hearing you - leaving you to get on with whatever you need to do!

If you're worried, you can still peek in on him to see how he's doing - if you're quiet enough! If you think he may hear you, you could always peek through a window to see how he's doing.

Crate Training Can Help Reduce Separation Anxiety In Dogs

To help make your dog or puppy feel safe and secure while you're away, you might want to consider leaving him in his crate - you can lock him in or simply leave the door ajar. If you don't lock him in, you might want to confine him to one room.

If he's been fed and watered, exercised, is feeling safe and secure, and has a full tummy, he'll probably relax and fall asleep.

As well as helping with your dogs separation anxiety, crating your pet will help with many situations. Learn more, including how to crate train your puppy or dog here.

Leave The Radio Playing

If you leave a radio switched on to a classical, easy listening, or chat station, it may help your Cocker Spaniel to relax.

The sound of voices from a chat show or conversational radio station may make him feel that there's someone in the house with him and may help him to feel more relaxed.

Send Your Cocker Spaniel To Boarding School!

If your pet is wrecking your home and you're at your wits end, (and if you can afford it) why not consider putting your dog in a local kennel as a day boarder while you're away from home - at least until you've resolved your dogs separation anxiety?

Putting your pet into a kennel occasionally can help further socialize your pet and can help to calm and relax him - especially if he's mixing with other calm, relaxed and happy Spaniels!

Just like a child at nursery school, your dog will learn from other dogs and will learn that he can be away from you for a while and still have fun and be happy.

Dog Sitter Or Dog Walker

A cheaper alternative to kennels would be to use a reliable dog sitter or walker for an hour or so each day, or a friend or neighbor.

This should help to break up the time your Cocker is alone and the extra walk would help to relax him.

Managing Your Dogs Separation Anxiety

Your pet's separation anxiety may not be so straightforward to deal with, especially when it means you have to ignore his behavior when you return home.

You have this cute little Cocker Spaniel, who's so pleased to see you that he's going mad with excitement (after all, he probably thought he was never going to see you again!).

It's so difficult to ignore him when all you want to do is give him a cuddle. However, it really is better to leave him until he's settled down before giving him any attention or affection. It won't be long before he learns that he won't get a cuddle until he's calm and quiet.

It's important to stress that if your Spaniel appears upset or anxious or the symptoms of your dogs separation anxiety are often present when you're around, I would question whether or not he's suffering from separation anxiety and wonder if there's an underlying illness.

In these circumstances, it would be best to take your dog to see his vet.

Your Dogs Separation Anxiety: Summary

With a little forethought and planning, separation anxiety in dogs can be overcome and when your pet has mastered being comfortable left on his own, he'll greet you calmly each time you return home.

Before you leave the house, make sure he's warm, comfortable, fed and watered, and has plenty to occupy him. If you've walked him first and his little tummy is full, he may well fall asleep in his crate.

When you come home he may pick up a slipper, a shoe, or one of his favorite toys and bring it to you as a present. This is quite sweet, endearing, behavior, and if he does this in a calm, relaxed (ish) manner, then it's acceptable.

If you can get this far with your Cocker Spaniel - you've cracked your dogs separation anxiety!

Related Titles That May Interest You:

Puppy Separation Anxiety: Puppies suffer from separation anxiety too! Learn how to raise your puppy so that he's used to (and enjoys) being left on his own from time to time.

Enjoyed this page? Click 'Like'!

If you enjoyed this page, please click on the 'Like' button below and tell your friends about us. Thank you.

Like To Ask A Question or Leave A Comment?

If you have a comment or you'd like to ask a question about what you've just read, please have your say below. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Top of Page

» » Dogs Separation Anxiety

Top of Page