“Separation anxiety, in some dogs, is really noticeable within about five minutes of the departure of the owner,” says Basil Theofanides, dog trainer and owner of doggy daycare Hoochy Poochy. “We see symptoms such as the dog urinating, defecating, or barking and howling, pacing. Even the dog starting to pant and get anxious when the owner does certain things, such as getting ready to go.”

Whether you leave your dog with a family member, professional pet sitter or at doggy daycare, you can prepare for separation with a few behavioural tips from Black Hawk, plus packing a few key comfort items.

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With the right training and behaviour routines, parting shouldn’t be such a big deal, says Theofanides. For example: “Teach your dog to stay on his bed in a positive way and off his bed until you give him a release command.”

“The other thing is not to fuss over the dog when you leave,” he says. “People should simply walk out the door as if nothing’s happened and then, when they come home, they should ignore the dog for the first couple of minutes because the dog is overstimulated.”

Treats are your best friend

Treats are a simple way to relax your dog and a necessary part of reinforcement. Theofanides suggests using a few different types to keep things interesting. “We use Black Hawk as part of our treats process and sometimes we make our own treats as well,” he says. “The main thing is you have to have a combination of treats to be successful in your training.” Another benefit of treats is the cost. A small investment like Black Hawk’s Chicken or Kangaroo Jerky Treats are all around the $15 mark, can make all the difference in your dog’s training and behaviour.

While treats can be great on their own, there are a few things you (or your dog sitter) can do to improve the effect. “Get your dog’s favourite dry food or dry food treats and hide them in clumps around the yard or inside where they’re staying. You’re creating mental stimulation for the dog – he’s got to actually search for those treats to get them. [It] has a way of also calming the dog down.”

A reminder of home

When you go away, leave your dog with something familiar that smells like you. “You might put an old shirt that you’ve got. Chuck it in with your dirty washing so it’s got your scent on it and leave that with the house sitter to minimise the possibility of that dog being anxious,” says Theofanides.

And it doesn’t have to just be your familiar clothing, either. “If it’s an anxious dog, jackets are quite good because they feel enclosed. We also sometimes recommend people get a compression jacket. That compression actually does calm a dog down.”

Food vs Toys

Toys create positive mental stimulation when you’re not around. Throwing a tennis ball or a chew toy is great but blending toy time with food can also be an effective distraction. Theofanides recommends something chewy like a feeding toy, filled with wet food and chicken stock, and frozen solid.

“As it starts to melt, the dog’s going to be licking, playing with it, chewing it, and then they’ll start to chew and chew and chew,” says Theofanides. “When a dog chews a lot, their brain releases serotonin which actually calms them down. That’s why, if you observe dogs doing a lot of chewing, they just look like they’re in heaven. They are, because there’s [endorphins] flowing through their body and chilling them out.” .

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Black Hawk Pet Care. Find the best food for your pooch – no matter their size or needs.