How to support a dog that is anxious or unhappy without their owner

How to support a dog that is anxious or unhappy without their owner

Pet Psychology

However much you love your dog and try to spend time with them as much as possible, all dogs need to be left alone or with someone else from time to time, and this shouldn’t be a stressful or upsetting experience for them.

Training your dog to be happy in their own company and confident when under the care of someone else is important in order to avoid separation anxiety and similar problems – and even if you spend most of your day with your dog, it is still important to work with them so that they take spending time with other people in their stride.

If your dog doesn’t handle being looked after by someone else very well and spends all of their time acting anxiously and counting down the hours until your return, they won’t be very happy – and the experience isn’t likely to be much fun for the person looking after them either, as well as causing you to worry how things are going while you aren’t there.

In this article, we will look at some of the ways in which you can make time that your dog spends under someone else’s care – be that a friend, relative, dog sitter or kennelling – comfortable, enjoyable, and stress-free. Read on to learn more.

Familiar surroundings

If your dog has to be cared for by someone else, keeping their surroundings consistent can help them to retain their feelings of familiarity and security even though someone new will be looking after them.

If possible, try to plan for your dog to be cared for in their own home, so that they don’t have to face a change of scenery and someone unfamiliar at the same time.

Home comforts

If your dog can’t remain at home with their temporary carer, take some of their favourite things with you to create a home from home environment to help your dog to settle in and feel secure. Their own bed, some of their toys, and something that smells like home, such as an old t-shirt you have worn can all help with this.

However, if your dog will be spending time in someone else’s home where they have dogs of their own, be a little speculative about what you take so that problems won’t arise if the other dog wants to investigate or share what the newcomer has brought with them.

Taking the time to get to know someone else

When you leave your dog under the care of someone else for the first time shouldn’t be the first time your dog meets their new babysitter. The more familiar your dog is with their temporary carer before they spend time with them the better, so try to organise meetings and some time spent together with you present first.

Your dog’s routine

Routine is very important for dogs, and keeping as much as you can consistent will help your dog when something does change, such as who is looking after them for a day. Make sure the other person knows when your dog is usually fed and walked, and stick to the routine as much as possible.

Bonding and communication

The person who is caring for your dog should begin to build a bond with them to help your dog to relax, not worry about being left, and enjoy their time with their new babysitter. The same principles apply to forging bonds between dogs and other people as they do when you first get the dog yourself – talking to the dog, petting them, and giving them treats all help to create and reinforce the bond, enable your dog to relax.

Fun and entertainment

If your dog has lots of fun and really enjoys themselves whilst they are with their sitter, they will build up positive associations with it, and view the company of others as a new opportunity for fun and entertainment. Let your sitter know the things your dog enjoys and what makes them happy, and this will help them to keep your dog active and occupied with having fun, having less time to miss you!


Giving your dog something to do, play with or concentrate on can help them to keep their minds off wondering where you are and when you are coming back, and this can be a favourite toy, something new, or a special treat, like a stuffed Kong or a dog-safe chew or bone.

Allowing the person who is caring for your dog to be the person to give it to them also helps, so try to make plans and provisions to give your dog something to enjoy and do while you are gone.

Calling the dog, petting them or otherwise diverting them if they start to get anxious or spend all of their time staring out of the window looking for you can all help too.



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