Our dogs are always going to miss us when we’re gone, but what happens if you think your canine is really struggling to cope with your absence? If you find them barking, crying, or scratching at the door when you leave, they might be suffering from separation anxiety.


This behaviour can become a concern if it persists and can make owners feel uncomfortable leaving their dogs at home. If this sounds like you, don’t worry, we’re here to help.

We’ve got the expertise of a top dog behaviourist who is here to assist us in calming our dog’s anxiety when we go away. He’s provided us with six expert tips to help in soothing your dog’s anxiety.

Our dog expert

Adem Fehmi

To help us ease our dog’s separation anxiety, we have got the help of dog behaviourist Adem Fehmi. Adem is a Canine and Feline Behaviour Association registered dog behaviourist and therapist. Adem currently works as a behaviourist for Barking Heads and is also the owner of Dog-ease, a canine behaviour and training business based in Hertfordshire.

Here he helps dog owners train, manage, and overcome their pet’s behaviour issues. Adem’s experience has given him a broad knowledge of dogs, and he has previously advised us on the best dog toys, the best dog beds and the best dog crates. Today, Adem has helped us by providing six tips to reduce the anxiety our dogs feel when we leave them.

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What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a condition that some dogs experience when they are left alone by their owners. Just like how some humans might feel worried or sad when their loved ones go away, dogs can also feel the same emotions. When dogs have separation anxiety, they can become very anxious and stressed when their owners leave them at home or go away for a while.

You might notice some signs of separation anxiety in your dog, such as excessive barking, howling, whining, and destructive behaviour like chewing on furniture. Other pointers include trying to escape from their crate or room and sometimes even going to the bathroom indoors despite being house-trained.

It's important to remember that separation anxiety is not your dog being naughty or bad. They are simply feeling worried and scared when they are alone.

6 top tips to ease your dog’s separation anxiety

Hound mix looking longingly out the window

Here are Adem’s six top tips for easing your dog’s separation anxiety:

1. Exercise your dog before leaving them

Adem’s first tip for reducing your dog’s separation anxiety is to make sure that you wear your dog out, advising that “effectively exercising your dog will help drain some of your dog’s energy, and they will more likely settle and rest after when you’re out. Similar to the benefits exercise have on humans, exercise has a positive effect on the mental well-being of our dogs and helps keep them calmer.”

Exercise is suitable for most dogs to reduce separation anxiety, but exercise should be tailored based on the dog. Adem explained that “it’s important to remember that long walks are not suitable for all breeds or ages and a lengthy stroll might not even tire a very high-energy dog if they have a lot of stamina. So, it is important to tailor your exercise sessions to your dog and their life stage.”

2. Give your dog something to do whilst alone

If your dog is bored, then it may start to feel anxious more quickly when you go away. To stop this, Adem advises keeping your dog entertained, explaining that “the quicker your dog gets bored when left alone, the sooner it may start to feel anxious about you being away.

“Giving them an activity will keep their mind occupied and act as a positive reinforcer for being left alone because they get to do something fun! Food dispensing toys are perfect as an activity. Start with something easy so your dog’s interest builds. Then, once they become an expert, you can up the challenge, so it takes them longer.”

Here are some of our favourite food dispensing toys if you’re looking for entertainment for your dog:

  • Kong Extreme Chew Treat Dog Toy, Pets at Home, £13: This mentally stimulating dog toy can keep anxious dogs entertained as they chew to release treats which are placed inside. It is suitable for larger dogs anywhere up to 30kg and is great for boredom, teething and even weight management.
  • CAROZEN Interactive Dog Puzzle, Amazon, £24.99: This entertaining puzzle can help lower separation anxiety and provide hours of fun for a restless dog. The treat toy promises to make your dog more intelligent as they manoeuvre their way through flaps and doors to retrieve treats.
  • PetSafe Kibble Chase Roaming Treat Dispenser, Pet Safe, £38.99: This treat toy encourages active play and can be loaded with treats as well as regular dry food. It is battery-powered and roams around dispensing treats, keeping your dog engaged and entertained when you are not at home.

3. Create a calm environment for your dog to relax in

If your dog is prone to separation anxiety, they are likely to be energetic and emotional when you are trying to leave. To help soothe this panic that many dogs feel when their owner leaves, music can be the answer. Soothing sounds can have a great calming effect on your dog and help lower their anxiety when you’re away.

Adem explained that “playing classical or soft music can help your dog relax, just like us humans. I’ve found Classic FM always to be a winner! Music can also help drown out any external noises that might cause your dog to worry outside the comfort of your home.”

4. Creating comfortable spaces

Dog in dog bed with bone looking away

One way to reduce your dog’s separation anxiety is to create relaxing spaces where they can feel comfortable and stress-free. This way, when you leave, they have somewhere to go, which is familiar and safe. Adem says, “I recommend ensuring your dog’s designated bed area is an inviting space to entice them to keep calm and relaxed whilst you are away.

“This should be trained from a young age. The bed should be a safe space, entirely theirs, with all their favourite things there too. This is a great place to leave their toys or treats when you leave, to distract them from your departure.” Here are our three favourite pet beds:

  • PetFusion Ultimate Solid, Just for Pets, £59.99: Great for all shapes and sizes, the PetFusion Dog Bed can easily support over 50 kg of weight. With a solid 10cm memory foam base and recycled ‘green’ polyfill support bolsters, this dog bed offers optimal support, while the removable, machine-washable cover ensures ease of use.
  • Bedsure Large Dog Bed Washable, Amazon, £49.99: With innovative design and durable fabric, this versatile dog bed offers maximum support and comfort. Designed to distribute weight and alleviate pressure on joints evenly, this orthopaedic dog bed helps to comfort older dogs, while the ‘egg crate’ foam base aids air circulation, keeping your pet cool.
  • Silentnight Airmax Pet Bed Grey, Pets at Home, £35: The Silent Night pet bed has a soft outer fabric with the inside covered in soft and cosy teddy fleece lining. It is walled by mesh fabric allowing air to travel through the cushion to prevent overheating and to help keep your pet at a comfortable temperature.

Also, make sure your bed crate is comfortable, check out our guide to the best dog crates to see how to choose the right one.

5. Be calm when returning to your dog

When we get home to our dogs, it’s often the most rewarding part of the day (for us and them). It might be exciting, and your dog may be jumping up at you, but Adem advises us to stay calm when we return to our pups to lower their future anxiety.

Adem explained that “although it’s tempting to make a huge fuss about our dogs when we return, this can make us leaving again a bigger deal than it necessarily needs to be. We want our dogs to learn that our coming and going throughout the day is normal and not to be looked forward to or feared.”

6. Consider a dog sitter

If your dog is really struggling with your absence, then it might be time to call in some reinforcements. Adem advised that “if you’re away consistently for long periods of the day, another consideration is to hire a dog sitter to entertain you whilst you’re gone.

“Dogs can easily become susceptible to changes in scenery, so keeping them at home where they’re comfortable with a regular sitter will calm them, rather than in kennels which may cause further stress (if they’re not used to this environment!).”


Want to read more expert-recommended pet product round-ups and guides? Check out our Pets page for a full list of recommendations, including our list of the best dog beds, the best dog toys and the best dog treats, all recommended by dog experts.


Finn ByrneEcommerce Writer

Finn Byrne is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media. He works across several brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeforMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. Finn has previously written for publications including MyLondon, The Mirror, The Express, and The Star. When not writing Finn enjoys spending time on the football pitch and getting stuck into a book.