Iso Gave My Dog Wild Separation Anxiety So Here’s How I’ve Been Helping Her Get Through It

separation anxiety

This is Nala. She’s an almost two-year-old moodle, and this photo I’m about to show you is from mid-lockdown.

She would watch you like a goddamn hawk.

Nala wasn’t always like this. Before lockdown hit, she was a thriving, independent young lass. She’d spend her days trotting around the house, doing her own thing.

It wasn’t until I read an article about the effects of lockdown on our precious pups did I realise Nala was suffering a terrible case of separation anxiety. And I don’t blame her. Usually, only my mum is around to keep her company during the day and take her for morning walks. Then I’d come home and take her for an evening walk – that was the routine. Dad would brush her and give her cuddles and then she’d pass out at about 9pm. All was well. But since lockdown started, we’ve all been working from home. It’s a huge change for us, sure, but I forgot about Nala. To put it bluntly: we gave her too much attention. We filled the time by spending it with her. She wasn’t used to it.

Her change in behaviour wasn’t immediate, but after about two weeks, Nala started to really, really cling to us. Well, my parents, not me. I’m like the last choice for cuddles. The hierarchy goes my mum and dad, my brother, my boyfriend, the couch, then me. I’ll try and pat her when she’s sleeping on my dad and she’ll bloody growl at me, but that’s another story.

My parents didn’t believe me when I told them about the separation anxiety. They thought she was just a spoilt pup, which she is. She sleeps in my parents’ ensuite on a bed that is three sizes too big for her. But Nala’s behaviour just got more and more intense over time. My dad would go outside to grab the mail and Nala would cry.

Last year, my parents went on a holiday for two weeks leaving me to look after Nala. It was her first time away from my parents for a period longer than three hours and she was completely fine. Absolute trooper. We got on like a house on fire. Not a hint of separation anxiety.

This video was taken mid-lockdown when my parents went to the shops for two hours.

That was the first time I’d heard her howl, I swear to God.

My favourite bit of that video is the fact that I was home the entire time, but obviously not good enough for her. I tried everything. I tried speaking to her in Indonesian like my parents do, I tried cradling her like a baby, I played with her, took her for a very brief walk up and down the street, but nothing worked. She wanted my parents, full stop.

So once I showed them the video and they responded with a big HOO BOY, it was time to start managing it. To be honest, I just Googled all the symptoms of separation anxiety, watched a couple of YouTube videos, and read about some ways to help comfort Nala.

Since we’re all familiar with the RSPCA, I used their tips on how to manage separation anxiety. These three tips in particular have been working aces for me.

Changes in leaving and return routines

So according to the RSPCA, owners should try and ignore the dog for 15 to 30 minutes prior to leaving. And then when you return home, you should greet the dog in a soft and calm manner and only attend to the pooch when it is calm and quiet.

Just gonna say it: easier said than done. Ignoring Nala before leaving the house was fine, because usually she’s just sitting near us. But returning home and trying to avoid her when she’s jumping on you is hard. But surprisingly, this tactic worked. When Nala realised we weren’t reacting to her, she sort of just sat her ass on the ground and frowned at us. We’ve been doing this for about four weeks now and Nala is a lot better. Sometimes she still jumps, but most of the time she rolls right over and waits for belly rubs.

Decreasing the anxiety associated with departure

This is a HUGE one. Any time any of us would grab our keys during lockdown, Nala would bolt. She’d run to the door and start barking and yapping uncontrollably. It was really bad.

Decreasing her anxiety associated with the keys meant jiggling them throughout the day, every day. I’d sit on the couch with my keys and just play with them next to her. At first, Nala was extremely fidgety. After two long weeks – she’s stubborn – the keys meant nothing to her. She was less stressed when she heard them. Her ears still prick up, but no more barking.

We also did this with our front door. Again, if Nala hears the front door open she panics. So throughout the day, at random times, we’d open and close the door. She barely reacts when we do it now, unless someone is at the door. In fact, she knows we’re tricking her so she just looks very unamused.

You can also try counterconditioning, which means “to re-teach the pet to have a pleasant feeling and reaction toward something that they previously feared or disliked.”

We give Nala these dental hygiene bones to chew on. She absolutely loves them! So every time my parents leave the house, I give Nala one of the bones. It takes her like an hour to get through one, maybe a few more if she takes a break. Upon return, I’d take away the bone. So Nala only has access to the bone when my parents have to go out. One time last week – after repeating this tip for a month – my parents left for the shops again. So I gave Nala the dental bone and she disappeared for two hours. No howling. You love to see it.


Long story short here: I just took Nala for longer walks. I’d let her off-lead in the dog park and played with her until she was knackered. We’re all still working from home at the moment, but after a long walk, Nala doesn’t follow us around the house anymore.

She’s too busy doing a big snooze.

If it was raining, we’d play with her until she was tired. She has a toy box. Again, very spoilt.

I don’t think Nala’s completely back to her pre-isolation self just yet, but she’s definitely getting there. She doesn’t freak out as much when she hears the keys or door open. And she isn’t as anxious when my parents leave the house. Sometimes she has good days, sometimes she has bad days. I think the real test will be when we all go back to the office. Stay tuned.