January 4, 2021


7 Tips to Reduce Separation Anxiety in Pets

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

Many people are growing tired of our pandemic lifestyle changes. They are longing for things to go back to “normal.” For many people, part of going back to normal means going back to work instead of working from home. Our pets may need to get used to us being away from home again, and they may experience some separation anxiety.

Going back into the office may cause you to feel excitement, anxiety, stress, comfort, escape, or more. It may also bring these same feelings on for our pets who have grown used to having someone home with them most of the day.

Having a plan on how to ease this transition for you and your pet can help to make things less stressful for you both. In return, it may make going back to “normal” feel truly normal for you both.

1. Set Up a Routine Now to Reduce Separation Anxiety Later

Getting ready for transitioning back to work starts with getting back into a routine. This may mean that you start by waking up earlier to help prepare your pet for your leaving for work.

Additionally, you may also start leaving your house temporarily. You may just walk out to the garage and back, or maybe you go for a short drive so that your pet gets used to your leaving for short periods of time. As your pet gets used to you stepping out for brief intervals, you can gradually extend the time to help her prepare for your time away.

2. Dog-Proof Your House Again

Put away things that could be bad for your pet including foods, medications, and the like. Pick up and put away any items that aren’t supposed to be chewed.

If your dog has previously been crate trained, now is also the time to get her reacquainted with the crate. Give your pet short times in her crate with yummy treats to make it an enjoyable refresher for crate time.

3. Install Video Cameras

If you want proof that your pet is okay while you are away, invest in a camera that allows you to peek in on your pet. Some cameras will not only allow you to see into particular rooms in your house but will also allow you to talk to your pet as well. Being able to see your pet can help ease your stress, and the sound of your voice can also help to reduce your pet’s anxiety.

4. Make Time to Play

Make sure that you remember to take some extra time for your pet. With you being back to work and away from the house, it is important that you take time when you get home to play with your pet. Give him lots of belly rubs and chin scratches. Take your dog for a walk or play fetch with him to burn a little energy so he can sleep better at night.

5. Leave Some Familiar Things

Try leaving on the radio or TV for your pet while you are away. The sound of people talking can be very comforting so that she doesn’t feel alone. You can also leave something with your scent for her to cuddle up with, like your favorite sweatshirt. While it isn’t the same as having you there to cuddle, the familiar smell can help to relax your pet.

6. Keep Pets Challenged

Use puzzle toys to alleviate separation anxiety while you are away. With toys like these, if your pet figures out the puzzle, the toy will dispense treats. You can fill a Kong with special treats as well. Also, if you freeze certain treats inside the Kong, you can slow your pet down and keep him entertained longer.  A treat ball can dispense treats as your pet bats it around. Any of these entertaining toys can keep your pet’s brain stimulated and keep him busy during the day.

7. Stay Relaxed and Positive Yourself

Animals can feed off of our feelings and emotions. If we are nervous or are worried about the transition back to work, then our pets may feel nervous, too.

Try to stay positive when you transition back to “normal.” Playing relaxing music, using lavender scent in the house, and planning your routine can all be ways to also help you AND your pet relax.

Hopefully, transitioning back to “normal” is just around the corner. Personally, I like to be prepared for whatever might be ahead of me, and I don’t like last-minute “surprises.” If you are like me, having a plan in place will help put your mind at ease!


Dr. Heintz and her dog, MimiDr. Heintz is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Her passion is helping all animals, whether furry, scaly, or feathered, lead long and healthy lives.