Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Here are some steps we can do to help us, as well as our animals feel more comfortable and relaxed when left alone.
1.) Our attitude
Our attitude is the most important. It starts with us taking responsibility emotionally. Try not to make a big deal about leaving or returning home. A casual hello or goodbye, keeping body language relaxed and create space within yourself that everything will be fine. We must be the leader emotionally.
Encourage a calm atmosphere 20 minutes before leaving. If your dog gets anxious when you are preparing to leave and are picking cues, such as wearing your jacket, you can put your jacket on throughout the day and take it off, without saying anything to your animal.
2.) Give them entertainment.
The type of entertainment depends on their personality, their likes and dislikes. Give them long lasting and high value entertainment or treats when left alone. Make sure they are single ingredient treats, made with real meat, cottage cheese or yogurt. Naturally dried cow’s ear, or freezing a Kong toy with yogurt, cottage cheese or peanut butter (ensure there is no xylitol). When frozen, the Kong toy will last longer.
3.) Create a relaxing environment with all good and safe things!
Make sure they can stay in the area where they would normally retreat to on a day-to day basis when everyone is at home. Classical music or audio books can soothe your animal. One of my teachers, has created a wonderful sound therapy album which has a beautiful calming and healing effect on the body and mind - Animal Whispers Sounds Therapy https://www.elizabethwhiter.com/animal-whispers-sound-therapy/. Be mindful about leaving the radio or tv on as certain sounds and vibrations can have a stimulating rather than a calming effect.
Aromatics are very powerful when combined with the above suggestions to reduce your animal’s anxiety. Hydrosols, also known as floral waters, are the perfect support to be left our for your animal to self-select and self-heal in their own time. As they are much gentler than essential oils, it is perfect to place a few drops in a saucer of water (100ml) when you are away.
Depending on the character of the animal, aromatics such as angelica root, neroli, lavender, roman chamomile, frankincense and valerian root are relaxing and calming. They relieve restlessness and tension. Please reach out to me if you would like support on which aromatics to offer your animal.
5.) Ensure their day to day stress levels are in balance.
Balance can be achieved through nutrition, aromatics, exercise and simple training when they are not under stress.
Nutrition- Anxious dogs often have sensitive gastrointestinal tracts, showing up as frequent diarrhea when they feel anxious or if they eat something different.
Supporting their gut health is a good place to start, which will benefit many areas in their lives. I recommend starting on a pro-biotics if they are on dried food. Reducing their carbohydrate intake and increasing protein will help. Protein sources such as turkey will have a calming effect. Eggs and yogurt are other good additions. These foods contain Tryptophan which decreases anxiety in the body by making more serotonin. For dogs, protein should make up around 75% of the diet. If they are on dried food, you can add fresh meat to their meals. Only feed eggs, yogurt and cheese as treats, only feeding small amount every 2-3 days.
Exercise, Dogs need 60+ minutes of exercise plus mental stimulation per day, but also be mindful not to over do it. It is worth considering hiring a dog walker if you cannot do this amount.
Each aspect alone will not magically make anxiety disappear, but will decrease subtle forms of stress in the animal’s life, restoring themselves back to balance. Try walk your dog before leaving. If this is not possible, taking them to doggie day care a few days a week is a great option.
Spot the little signs of stress when they are slightly out of balance. So you can help them self-heal and self-medicate either by adjusting their nutrition, more or less exercise, spending more quiet time with them or offering aromatics. By doing this, you are already doing a lot for them. When slight imbalances are spotted in early stages, they often do not manifest into physical issues. Just check in with them, without making a big fuss. Ask them how you can help. The answer will often come to you or they will show you in their own unique way.
If your dog gets very stressed when you leave and their adrenaline levels go right up, teach them a ‘quiet time’. Practice this when you are not actually going out, off adrenaline time. Teach them to ‘go to’ and relax on their bed or their usual resting place, give them their entertainment (natural treat or Kong toy). This paired with leaving aromatics down for them greatly enhances their environment, allowing them to self-soothe.
I hope this has helped you and your animals! Please reach out to me if you would like any support at all.