When you're asked to look after a dog when her owner is away temporarily or when the two must separate for good, you might have to deal with separation anxiety or more long-term longing. Don't shout at or swat a dog who pees, chews, or seems to misbehave during the initial stage of the separation — that will only make things worse. Understanding how to comfort a dog dealing with loneliness or sadness due to separation issues will help you keep yourself and your charge in the best spirits possible.
Try to provide physical familiarity
One way to reduce dog anxiety caused by a separation is to try to make him feel comfortable using familiar surroundings. If you're taking the pet away from his home, bring his old bed rather than treating him to a new one. Look at how his bed, water and food bowls, cage, and toys are set up at his old residence and try to recreate the same flow and proximity at your house if possible.
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The more you can make a dog's new surroundings seem like his old home, the less dog anxiety you might expereince. If you see your dog moving his water bowl or dragging his bed somewhere else, don't stop him. See where he ends up and decide if you can live with that new placement.
Recreate the pet’s routine
Another way to comfort a relocated pet or one without her owner at home is to recreate her routines. Ask the owner what the dog usually eats, when she goes for a walk, and when she goes to bed. If you can keep to the same routine the dog has had for years, this can help produce the familiarity and routine that dogs crave. If necessary, hire a professional pet sitter or even a neighbor to take the dog for walks and feed her on the schedule she's used to.
Let him explore his new surroundings
If you're bringing a dog to your house, don't bring him straight to an area where you'll be confining him. If you plan on closing off rooms to the dog, let him explore them so he sees there is nothing scary there. Talk to the dog while he's exploring so he knows you're there to protect him. You might even hide some treats for the pet.
Let her burn some calories
Dogs who lie around all day don't use up energy and can become agitated, restless, nervous, and overtired. Make sure the dog gets plenty of exercise each day so she can release nervous energy, burn excess calories (so she doesn't put on excess weight), and experience deep, restful sleep at night.
Depending on the size of the dog, you can play inside your house or apartment. When you take the dog for walks, try to jog part of the time or rollerblade to increase the pace of the dog's exercise. If you have a treadmill at home, this type of exercise can be safe and fun for the dog. Look online or talk to a vet or trainer to find out the right amount of time and intensity you should use based on the dog's breed, weight, and age.
Avoid starts and shocks
Look around your house or apartment if you're taking care of a dog at home and think about what might startle the pet. Do you have a grandfather clock with loud chimes? If so, bring the dog near the clock right before the next chime, hold him, look at the clock, and point to it and be there when the noise starts. This will let the dog know the clock is part of the house and not a problem.
Does your heater kick on with a bang or loud "whoosh" every once in a while? If so, keep the dog's bed away from vents. Have you set a timer on your oven, or does your microwave beep? How often does your doorbell ring, and does your garage door opener make a loud noise you can hear inside? Introduce the dog to these noises while you're in contact with him to let him know these sounds are harmless.
Add a friend to reduce dog anxiety
One way to reduce a dog's loneliness and anxiety is to add another pet to the situation. See if a friend will lend you her cat, dog, or other pet to provide comfort to your pet. Be aware that this pet might freak when your grandfather clock chimes for the first time or when the doorbell rings and prepare her accordingly. If you can bring in a puppy, an older dog may take over caregiving and focus on the pup rather than her own feelings.