Does your sweet tempered dog become a nervous wreck when left home alone? Does he wreak havoc on the place - and your stuff - while you are gone only to transform back into the loving fur kid you know as soon as you return? If so, the chances are good that your pup is one of the many who suffers from separation anxiety. And it is not easy for him, or you to deal with.
The fact is though that with the best will in the world most pet parents have no choice but to leave their anxious pups at home by themselves at least occasionally, and doing so becomes a problem for everyone. Fido is worried. You are worried. The neighbors may even be worried (why is that dog howling like that?) and the whole situation can become quite a problem.
13 Best Toys for Anxious Dogs
One of the things that experts agree can help a dog with separation anxiety is having the right toy to play with while they are alone. But what are those recommended "calming" dog toys? Here's our guide to some of the best toys for dogs with separation anxiety for your distressed pup.
1. West Paw Rowdies Sanders Dog Toy
If a pup is alone and anxious it can be very comforting if he has a furry friend of his own to play with, and maybe even snuggle with if he tires himself out. The problem with many furry or fluffy dog toys though is that a dog suffering from separation anxiety will often rip them right apart before they ever get the chance to enjoy them properly. That means that an anxious furkid needs a 'friend' that's as tough as it is lovable.
Enter the West Paw Rowdies Sanders Dog Toy - proudly made in the USA. This cuddly, squeaky critter (it is hard to tell just what kind of creature it resembles) is designed to stand up to the roughest play. Many pet parents report that it has withstood 'loving assaults' from their larger breed anxious dogs admirably, far outlasting many of the dog toys they've purchased before.
Many also commented on how fond their furkid became of the toy, and were delighted to find that it is safely washable so that it's useful life can be extended. This is one of the pricier toys you'll find that is great for dogs separation anxiety though, but the majority of reviewers seem to think it's well worth the money.
2. Ruff Dawg Om Dawg Stress Reduction System
The idea behind this clever 'system' is to provide a home alone pup with the two things they need to make it through until their pet parents get home; a little fun playtime followed by some relaxed downtime (and maybe even a nice little nap).
The Ruff Dawg Om Dawg Stress Reduction System consists of a tough, built for chewing rubber ball and a 'sound bath' CD that when played fills the air with calming sounds designed to help your pup relax and unwind. It's very similar to the CDs humans use to relax themselves - but pitched to appeal to a dog's sensitive ears.
Those who have tried the Ruff Dawg Om Dawg Stress Reduction System out for their furkids love the ball portion of the kit. They report that it's tough and able to withstand lots of chewing and those who have tried out the CD said, sometimes to their surprise, the gentle sounds really did seem to help calm their fur kid down.
3. Tuffy's Zoo Peacock Dog Toy
Bright, colorful and whimsical this dog toy just looks like it will be tons of fun for pups to play with. But it's cute exterior hides a very tough interior - seven layers of tough to be precise.
The Tuffy's Zoo Peacock Dog Toy - is the toughest soft dog toy - designed to be the distraction and dog suffering from separation anxiety needs. It can be chewed, tugged, thrown and tossed and thanks to its hardy constructions which consists of three layers of fleece, followed by three of industrial grade luggage material and then one of plastic. That's a lot for even the most aggressive chewer to work their way through.
Hooman fans of the Tuffy's Zoo Peacock Dog Toy report that their pups, on the whole, responded well to the toy, which is larger than most, so very well suited to bigger dogs. This Peacock dog toy seems to please both 'destroyers' and 'cuddlers' and is safely washable, so can be returned to a nearly new (read less stinky and slobbery) condition with relative ease .
4. Hide-a-Squirrel Puzzle Toy
Separation anxiety can hit smart dogs particularly hard, and so they tend to need a toy to play with when alone that will keep their mind busy as well as their jaws. The Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Puzzle Dog Toy is just the toy to do that, according to most of its many fans.
The Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Puzzle Dog Toy consists of a plush 'puzzle tree' that is designed to hide a cuddly set of squirrels (three in the smaller size, six in Ginormous). The squirrels squeak and rustle and have a nubbly, fuzzy texture that disguises just how strong and durable they are.
Once a pup has 'rooted out' all of the squirrels they can then continue to play with them as they would with other dog toys - or cuddle with them if they prefer and it's a game many pet parents say provides just the right amount of stimulation for their easily stressed pups.
5. Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Mazee Interactive Dog Toy
This is another great dog toy for pups that enjoy a little mental challenge, as well as the occasional treat. The ball-shaped toy features a clear, tough but pliable outer shell and an inner maze puzzle that can be stuffed with your dog's favorite treats. As one of the more challenging puzzle toys for dogs on the market, it can keep an inquisitive - but anxious - dog busy for quite a while, helping take their mind off the fact that they are alone. Made in the USA, 100% Guaranteed and it's non-toxic.
While many shoppers report that their pets really enjoy the challenge the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Mazee Interactive Dog Toy offers them most do caution - as do the company themselves - that this is not a chew toy, so is probably not the right choice for the very eager chewer. For a slightly less aggressive on their toys pup though many feel it's a great option to help minimize the negative effects of separation anxiety on your dog, yourself and your home.
6. PetSafe Busy Buddy Jack Dog Toy
It's fair to say that when you first see the Busy Buddy Jack Dog Toy it's unusual looks make it a little hard to figure out exactly what it is. In fact, it is part puzzle toy, part chew toy and part treat holder, so it has a lot to offer in what is a relatively small, but surprisingly durable package.
The toy itself is crafted from a pet safe, durable nylon that is designed to satisfy even the most enthusiastic chewer. The puzzle element allows dogs to keep themselves occupied as they work out just how to manipulate the toy in the right way to claim their reward and the slot in rawhide rings are both delicious and a great way to help keep their teeth clean while they play.
The fact that the Busy Buddy dog toy, pet parents report, can stand up to even the most active pups - those that love to chew and chew, is a definite plus and the challenging but not overly difficult level of the puzzle means that most dogs can enjoy the challenge without becoming too frustrated. This calming dog toy can even be washed and the rawhide rings can be easily replaced when they wear down.
7. Ethical Pet Skinneeez Jumbo Bite Duck Dog Toy
The Ethical Pet Skinneeez Jumbo Bite Duck Dog Toy 24" is a great choice for a dog suffering from separation anxiety who is comforted by having a 'luvie' at his side when home alone. It's a long, silky unstuffed duck that is perfect for carrying around or simply snuggling up to at naptime. It can, if you prefer, be 'stuffed' with an empty 2-liter soda bottle to create a more robust chew toy for pups with a preference for those.
Although durable some who have purchased the Ethical Pet Skinneeez Jumbo Bite Duck Dog Toy admit that it may not escape a play session with a larger dog unscathed but that often did not seem to matter, as many owners reported that their fur kid still loved the toy even when a little bitten up. The fact that there is no stuffing to clean up should that happen is something that a number of reviewers were very grateful for as well.
8. Busy Buddy Barnacle Dog Toy
This is another somewhat odd looking puzzle toy for dogs, but who really cares what it looks like if it helps to keep a dog with separation anxiety calm and amused?
The Busy Buddy Barnacle dog toy is designed to do just that. It is comprised of two puzzle chambers that can be filled with your pet's favorite kibble or other treats and soft inner prongs help keep the treats in place a little longer to provide a more challenging experience.
At the same time, however, the ball is scented with chamomile flower, a safe, natural way to promote relaxation and ease anxiety that has been used to help both humans and animals by alternative medicine practitioners for centuries.
This toy is surprisingly well-loved by pet parents, despite its slightly unusual nature. The majority report that their dogs love the puzzles themselves and in many cases believe that yes, the chamomile has the desired calming effect even for some very nervous dogs .
9. KONG Wobbler Dog Toy
On the face of it, this is a very simple dog toy, but the fact is that it can be very engrossing for some dogs and as keeping their mind busy is one of the keys to helping a dog with separation anxiety the KONG Wobbler Dog Toy's simplicity may be the key to its success.
The toy is designed to hold your pet's favorite kibble and the challenge for them is to nudge and push the toy until the various wobbling and rolling actions the dog causes releases a treat. The toy itself is large enough that for smaller breed dogs it can even replace their regular food bowl to encourage slower, calmer eating.
The Wobbler comes in several different sizes, but some pet parents reported that although they did not purchase the largest size their bigger breed dog still enjoyed playing with it as most of the options are very generously sized. Most reviewers also loved the fact that the toy is both easy to use and easy to clean and is fairly durable, even when used by a larger dog.
10. Pet Qwerks Talking Babble Ball Dog Toy
The Pet Qwerks Talking Babble Ball Dog Toy takes the concept of providing a buddy for your home alone dog to a whole new level, as it makes sounds that actually make it seem as though the ball is communicating with your pup. The sounds - of which there are more than 20 - are touch activated when the ball is bitten or rolled. when playtime is over it turns itself off (to conserve batteries) but can quickly be reactivated the same way if your pup changes his mind and comes back for more.
Although the Pet Qwerks Talking Babble Ball Dog Toy was a little too much for some pet parents (as they, not their dog, quickly grew tired of the noise) most reported that their pups had fun with the ball, with a few reporting that it had become their anxious doggo's favorite play companion of all, whether others were in the home with them or not.
Dog Calming Aids
We'll let this very BRIEF video tell you about the science behind some of the following top picks of dog calming products and treatments that are out there and WHY you should consider them for your pet while the mama and papa are out.
ThunderShirt Polo Dog Jacket/Vest
This Dog Thunder Jacket comes highly recommended by a number of vets and is designed to provide a comfortable, constant pressure that can be very calming.
The ThunderShirt Polo fits like a standard dog coat and many reviewers report that it has made a huge difference in their pup's life, not only when they are left alone but also when other scary occurrences - like thunderstorms or fireworks - appear to upset their tranquil world.
Sentry Calming Collar
Sentry are well known for producing some of the best collars in the pet industry and, in the minds of many pet parents, the Sentry Pheromone Dog Calming Collar is no exception for a dog misbehaving when left alone or when travelling. The fully adjustable collar makes use of clinically proven Good Behavior pheromone technology that mimics the scent mother dogs naturally exude to calm their puppies.
Adaptil Electric Dog Diffuser
The Adaptil Electric Dog Diffuser makes use of the power of aromatherapy and pheromones to help calm and soothe anxious pups in a safe, noninvasive way that can be rather delightful for humans as well.
The diffuser, which can be plugged into any standard household outlet emits a dog appeasing pheromone and its effects can spread up to 750 feet with each pheromone vial lasting up to a month.
Pet parents like Adaptil DAP Dog Appeasing Pheromone Electric Diffuser because it offers a simple, passive way to calm an anxious dog at and affordable price and without potentially harmful drugs. Some are so impressed by its effects that they say they now could not imagine what their dog - and their own - life would be like without it!
In Summary....How to break a dog's separation anxiety with toys!
These are just some of the best dog separation anxiety toys, there are many more to choose from. To find the best one for your unique pup it may help to analyze just what is right for them specifically. If your dog is one who tends to chew, rip or bark when alone durable chew toy may be the best answer.
For those who get easily bored and start taking their frustration out on furniture when HOME ALONE, the best dog toys to help with boredom are interactive toys.
For those who tend to become very nervous and frightened and hide or cower then a calming aid, combined with a nice, fluffy cuddle buddy may be just the right combination to help ensure that when you do have to leave your pup that time is far less upsetting for you both.
Have you had good luck with one of the toys on this list or have any recommendations for other great toys for your anxious pup? Tell us in the comments section below!