Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein present in areas of the brain which is associated with mood, emotion and cognition.
Ask for help
Plan ahead if you’re approaching a time when you’re going to be out of the house more. You can help to manage the transition for your dog by establishing a network of people who can help. Family, friends, dog walkers and day-care centres could help to smooth the change for your dog. Make sure you start using their support before the change in your routine though, so your dog has a chance to get used to them.
How long should you leave your dog alone?
If your dog’s suffering from separation anxiety, or you’ve been spending a lot of time at home with them, you may need to begin with shorter periods of separation. You may also need to start by introducing time alone when you’re still close by – in another room, for example. Once your dog’s comfortable with being left alone, you can gradually extend the length of time you’re away.
If your workplace allows employees to bring pets to the office, this can be useful to limit the amount of time your dog spends at home alone. However, it's important to remember that your dog may still need to have time on their own, so when they can't be brought into the office they're fully prepared for the situation.
Tips for leaving your dog home alone
The following suggestions may help when you start spending more time away from your dog.
Use enrichment activities
Try using feeding toys or hiding food around your house while you’re away. This will give your dog something to do, stimulate their brain and enable them to express their natural behaviours. Start slowly and allow your dog to get used to any feeding puzzles while you’re around before giving them one to use when they’re alone.
Leave your scent
When you leave your dog, make sure they have a quiet comfortable place to rest with a special treat or toy. You could also leave a blanket or piece of clothing carrying your scent with them, as this may help to comfort them.
Leave a TV or radio on
If you leave a TV or radio on or play some music while you’re away, this can also help to soothe your dog. It will make the house feel less quiet in your absence.
Check your dog’s diet
Sometimes, nutrition can help dogs adapt to stressful situations and maintain their emotional balance. Talk to your vet about which diet might be right for your pet. They may suggest Royal Canin’s Canine Calm, which is available only through veterinary recommendation. It’s a dry diet containing nutrients such as milk protein and tryptophan, which are shown to have calming effects on the brain. Or you could try Royal Canin Canine Comfort Care, which is available over the counter in both dry and wet textures and is formulated to help dogs handle stressful circumstances.
Ask an expert
If your dog has separation anxiety, don’t blame yourself and don’t try to deal with it alone. Make sure you contact your vet first if you think there’s a problem. They may then refer you to an animal behaviourist who can give you extra support with specialist guidance. And remember, whichever approach you try, preventing or reducing your dog’s separation anxiety takes a lot of patience and love. So be kind to yourself as well as your dog.