It can be hard to head for the door when you know just how bad it makes your dog feel. Separation anxiety in dogs is something that’s not always an easy fix, but there are certain things you can do to alleviate your nervous dog’s stress and anxiety levels while you two are apart. One way is to provide stimulating dog toys that can help to put that nervous energy to more productive use!
Dog toys are useful for keeping any dog busy, but certain dog toys are great for relieving anxiety that your dog may feel while you’re gone. Dog puzzle toys are great for nervous dogs because they “help put your dog in a more relaxed state,” says Jennifer Mauger, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KSA and owner of L’Chaim Canine in Akron, OH.
The one thing you should always try to do is keep your pooch guessing! Mauger suggests hiding a few toys at home before you leave, so your dog can search for them throughout the day.
“The trick is to start easy and build it up from there. That way, dogs are able to work on the toys when their people are gone,” says Mauger.
But the first step is finding the right toys for your anxious pup! So, we’ve listed our top 5 picks for dog toys that will help with treating separation anxiety in dogs.
Dog Toys Help Relieve Separation Anxiety in Dogs
1. Treat Dispensing Toys
Mental stimulation can do wonders for nervous dogs.
You can also leave your pet with calming, treat dispensing toys for them to play with, like the Busy Buddy Calming Dog Toy.
This durable rubber toy has a calming chamomile scent that’s perfect for treating separation anxiety in dogs while they expend energy searching for the treats inside. You can stuff this toy with all different kinds of hidden treasures for your pup to find.
2. KONG Classic Dog Toy
This toy isn’t a staple for no reason—pups go crazy for it. Or, in this case, calm down from it! The KONG Classic Dog Toy is a great toy to give your pet right before you’re leaving.
“If someone has a small dog, I’ll tell them to get a large KONG to start, so it’s easier for them to get whatever you put in it out,” explains Mauger. “I recommend putting something of high value in there that will appeal to their dog, like peanut butter.”
Once your pooch becomes a master at getting the good stuff out, “You can start increasing the difficulty by getting smaller sizes later down the road,” explains Mauger.
The trick is to make sure the dog interactive toys are providing a constant challenge. By increasing the difficulties when your dog gets comfortable, it will continue to keep your pup focused on the toy and not the fact that he is alone. KONG offers versions of their Classic toy that are suitable for puppies, senior dogs and tough chewers, too.
3. Jolly Pets Teaser Ball
A ball within a ball? Talk about a dog’s dream come true! The Jolly Pets Teaser Ball Dog Toy can easily keep your pup’s mind off the fact that his favorite human isn’t home. The outer ball is made from highly durable material, and has an attention-grabbing, bright color rubber ball inside. Your pup will love the challenge of tossing the ball around to get to the smaller ball.
Mauger does not recommend this toy for dogs that get overly “frustrated with not being able to get the ball… for everyone else, putting some treats inside the ball can add a level of excitement.”
4. Ruff Dawg Om Dawg Stress Reduction System
“Relaxing music is definitely something I am a big fan of, as well as white noise,” says Mauger.
The Ruff Dawg Om Dawg Stress Reduction System comes with a CD filled with soothing, resonant vibrations that are specially tuned to help anxious pets get into a deep state of relaxation. While your dog enjoys the relaxing music, you can give them the durable rubber ball it comes with to chew on, which will gently massage his teeth and gums. It may be helpful to turn the CD on an hour or more before you leave, so your dog doesn’t associate the sounds with you leaving.
5. Smart Pet Love Care Bear Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Dog Toy
“A favorite comfort toy is something that you leave on top of the food puzzle toys,” says Mauger.
The Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Dog Toy has a pulsing heartbeat and a heat source that work to calm and soothe your pup naturally. This could be the toy your pup turns to the minute he puts his food puzzle down and misses you; it will recreate the comfort and safety that your pup desires in those moments of anxiety. You should supervise your pet with this toy before leaving him at home alone with it. Since it is a plush toy with an electronic heartbeat, it might not be the best option for motivated chewers that love to shred toys.
Other Helpful Tips to Reduce Separation Anxiety in Dogs
“It’s important to create a safe space for your dog,” Mauger says.
You should put his favorite dog bed in the room and anything else that would make the environment a tranquil place to be. Dog-appeasing pheromones, like the Adaptil Electric Dog Diffuser are great as well, says Mauger. You can also give your dog supplements that will help with his anxiety. Mauger is a fan of Zyklene calming supplements and has seen it help tons of dogs.
“It’s important to keep in mind that it is not a quick fix when it comes to finding solutions for a dog that’s diagnosed with separation distress or anxiety… it’s something that won’t be resolved overnight and takes patience,” Mauger says.
If you are concerned that your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your pup’s behavior.
“If you believe your dog suffers from separation anxiety, the first thing you should do is go to the veterinarian to get a proper diagnosis,” Mauger says. “If your dog is confirmed to have separation anxiety, you should keep your veterinarian in the loop while you work on the anxiety at home.”
With the right toys and mindset, your dog will be able to calm down when you have to be away from the home. Once you find the perfect dog toys that are irresistible to your four-legged friend, you can continue to use them in efficient ways that will excite him and redirect his nervous energy in a healthy, positive way.
Lindsay Schencker, Pet Central Editorial Assistant
The moment Lindsay started her career here at Chewy, she hit the ground running in customer service; she knew that this is the company she wanted to grow with from then on. When Lindsay isn’t spending her time writing for Pet Central, she’s most likely binge-watching a Netflix series and cuddling up with her 80-pound fur baby, Dexter.