Separation anxiety is an enormous problem in the canine world. This article discusses ways us dog lovers can ideally prevent separation anxiety in dogs or at least treat it effectively.

One of the greatest joys of dog ownership is the tight bond we experience and encourage with our dogs. However, if your dog becomes too reliant or dependant on you, dog separation anxiety can develop.

Dog Separation Anxiety is an enormous problem to an estimated 10% of all puppies and older dogs. Somewhat ironically, it is the major cause for dogs ending up in animal shelters. I wish I could say dog separation anxiety is an easy fix, but the truth is it can be a very difficult and time consuming problem to turn around.

Cure your dog's separation anxiety today

Let’s take a look at separation anxiety from your dogs perspective. You are the most important thing in your dogs life. Dogs are very sociable creatures and thrive on company for many reasons. If your dog had a choice he/she would spend every bit of his time with you. So it’s only natural that when you go out, your dog can experience varying degrees of distress and anxiety. He becomes confused, vulnerable, doesn’t know where you are going, why he can’t be with you and if you will be coming back to him. When you are separated all he wants is to be reunited with his pack – which is you.

Punishment is never the answer to treating dog separation anxiety!

Does Your Dog Suffer From Separation Anxiety?

There’s every chance your dog is suffering from a Separation Anxiety disorder rather than another dog behavior problem if:

1. Your dog gets really worked up and anxious when you are preparing to leave the house. Things like picking up your car keys or putting on your coat can trigger the behavior.

2. Your dog engages in inappropriate behavior only when you are separated. I expand on this topic further down the page, but behavior such as urinating inside, excessive barking and destructive behavior are common symptoms of Separation Anxiety in dogs.

3. Your dog follows you everywhere you go and immediately becomes distressed if he can’t be near you.

4. When you arrive home your dog is over the top with his greeting and takes a while to calm down.
Why Do Dogs Suffer From Separation Anxiety?

There are many theories on this one. In some cases the cause or trigger can be pinpointed to a particular event, but often there appears to be no explanation for the Separation Anxiety to commence. What I can say is that Separation Anxiety in dogs regularly occurs:

* Straight after a change in routine. Such as your work hours changing or a family member leaves home. Remember dogs are creatures of habit and any changes can be very unsettling to them.
* If you have been on vacation or unemployed for some time and have been spending heaps of time with your dog. When you go back to work your dog becomes anxious and distressed.
* Unfortunately dog’s rescued from animal shelters contribute a highly disproportionate number of Separation Anxiety cases.
* After your dog experiences a traumatic event while on his own. If a thunderstorm lashes your home while your dog is alone, this can trigger Separation Anxiety in the future.
* If your dog is rarely left alone and becomes overly reliant on his pack.
* When you move house to a new neighbourhood.

How Does Dog Separation Anxiety Manifest Itself?

* Barking
* Whining
* Licking
* Destructive Behavior
* Chewing
* Howling
* Panic Attacks
* Digging
* Inappropriate Urinating
* House Soiling
* Self Mutilation
* Escaping
* Diarrhea
* Loss Of Appetite
* Excessive Salivation
* Vomiting
* Jumping Through Windows
* Crying

What Can You Do To Help Your Dog Overcome Separation Anxiety?

The treatment administered to your dogs separation anxiety problem depends on its severity. You will find lots of theories and suggestions regarding the correct way to treat separation anxiety – I’ll just inform you of what’s worked for me.

The 4 Step Program I Used To Fix My Dalmation’s Separation Anxiety Problem

My dalmation Harrison developed Separation Anxiety seemingly for no reason when he was about 7 years old. He would start digging and crying as soon as I left the house, even if my other family members were home. My Veterinarian suggested this training process, it achieved the desired result but took plenty of time and patience.

Aside from the 4 step program listed below, I continued to practice the general day to day duties of responsible dog ownership. By this I mean things like providing a safe and comfortable bed, plenty of exercise and obedience training.

Harry would start to get anxious (his whole body would shake) at the very first sign of me leaving the house. This typically would be putting my shoe’s on or turning off the TV or heater. It became a real problem for Harry, myself and the rest of my family, this is how we eventually solved it:
Step 1

Since Harry was always by my side when I was home I had to slowly teach him that he didn’t always need to be close to me. I started out by ignoring his attention seeking behavior (jumping up, barking etc.) and then did some solid practice of his down stay. Little by little we extended the time and distance we spent apart, until he was happy to be alone for up to 30 minutes. Of course, we still spent lots of fun time together.
Step 2

The next step was to get him used to being outside when I was inside. Again we started off with very small periods apart and gradually lengthened the time over a couple of weeks. If you try this Separation Anxiety treatment make sure that you don’t just leave your dog outside to get all worked up and stressed. The trick is to start out leaving your dog out for a few seconds, then going out and reuniting before he shows any signs of Separation Anxiety. Give your dog a treat or dog toy to keep his mind off missing you. Only initiate contact with your dog when he is calm and quiet.
Step 3

The next step in fixing Harry’s Separation Anxiety problem was to eliminate the distress caused by me getting ready to leave the house for work. What I did was write a list of all the triggers that started Harry’s anxiety. I then set about desensitizing him to these triggers. I’d put my shoe’s on, and not go anywhere. Put my coat on, then sit down to read the paper. Pick up my car keys and just carry them around with me, jangling along as I went about my business. After a while (about 3 weeks) Harry barely offered a sideways glance at my shenanigans.
Step 4

When Harry was completely calm in situations that would have unsettled him in the past, I left the house. At first I just stepped outside, shut the door and came back inside within 20 seconds – before he made a sound. Again this was a slow process, similar to step 2. I extended the time outside the front door and then graduated to starting the car, then driving around the block before I came back inside. You can provide a tasty treat to your dog on your way out the door, something that he can work on for a while. Harry’s favorite was a frozen Kong stuffed full of peanut butter and a few liver treats, this eventually kept him occupied for hours. Remember that when you return home, don’t make a huge fuss. Come inside, get changed, pour yourself a nice hot coffee, then greet your calm dog.

This process did prove effective for me and my anxious dalmation. All up the 4 steps took about 5 weeks to work through and fix Harry’s Separation Anxiety problem. My Vet suggested that I supplement this training with some medication. I didn’t go down that path, but it would have been my next step if required.

Whichever method you choose to treat dog separation anxiety, be sure to stick with it and don’t expect any immediate results.

Chris Smith is a long time dog owner and runs a website designed for people who choose to train their dogs the right way, at home. You can read more about it here – http://www.dog-obedience-training-review.com

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Comments

  1. Ms Alwyn Stapleton

    What a very good “down to earth” simple article – I will definately be following his tips – whish I’d realised what was wrong with my dog and read these tips months ago!

  2. Robbin

    Hi. What did you do during the training time when you had to leave the house (for work, for example :-) for an extended period of time before Harry was ready for it? How did you separate those times (no pun intended) from the training sessions?

  3. Jennifer Busby

    Thank you so much for this article I never realized that my dog sees my as her family and worries about me. I will follow this plan and hope she gets better

  4. Laura

    im intrigued about this as well robbin, how did you carry out this training process while you were at work?

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  6. Joan

    We have to crate our rescued dog when we leave or she will destroy anything in her path. Interestingly, she will spend all day in the back seat of the car while we go about our business and do nothing but sleep. As a result we very seldom leave her alone and when we do it is usually for a lengthly period. When we return her greeting is more than over the top, we live in a townhouse community and the noise this little dog makes is amazing. I have no idea how to stop her from making the racket because she’ll keep it up until everyone pets her. She is my 9th dog and the first one with this problem. Any suggestions?

  7. Goldie

    I have just had my puppy 6 days and she started having seperation anxity the second day she was with me. She is only 10 weeks old and I have to kennel her when I leave. I took
    a week off work to work with her. Now I have to go back to work and am worried. She is very good about going outside to releave herself, but when I leave her she poops all over her kennel, dog chew toys and her blanket and herself. I don’t know what to do
    now. Help !!!

  8. Someonee

    Omg.
    My dog wont even stay alone for 1 minute. AT ALL! Everytime we leave him alone, he’ll bark so hard. He wont even stop! He even peed the other day when he was left alone! I dont know what to do! I dont want to give him away! HELPP! Some of this worked but not alot! :(

  9. debs

    Hi this is a very good article but my dog is fine at home, I have a well trained staff, begs, sits, rolls over, well fed, plenty of chew toys, LOTS of exercise, but if i go into anybodys home she chews there front door to bits, shes two years old now and i try not to always bring her but sometimes i unexpectedly visit a friend while i have her out with me.

    Can anyone help i have tried all sorts all web sites.

  10. angela

    please help i have a 11 week old lhasa apso and ive owned him for three weeks he just will not stop barking when i go to bed.ive got his bed in a crate and also his toys but everytime i go to bed he constantly barks all night.

  11. kctippi80

    Hi, Tonight I would have been and could possibly still be visiting our 6 month old puppy possible new owner. I think our 6 month old has a serve case of separation anxiety. Licking himself, chewing his own legs, constant barking, scratching at the doors, whining, following us around the house etc….it’s literally become too much. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be his hard. I physically feel warn out and could end up in tears thinking about it. He is in no way spoilt but he does live a good life. He just goes ballistic when he doesn’t have human contact. Mornings and evenings he comes over to the horse field with me for a good few hours, late evening walks as we live in a flat then during the day he is taken to a family farm and put into a polly tunnel with other family dogs to play and socialize, as soon as the humans are out of sight, my god, all hell breaks loose. He will not stop until you go to him. Because of this, I feel he is not welcome due to it being a farm shop. So now he comes to work with me which has to stop. He will sit in a car/van and will happily sleep, at the office he’s happy and yet he cannot see me. At home, please help!! If I’m in the bath, he’s there, in bed, he’s there, cooking dinner, he’s there, it has to stop. We’ve tried the spray collar (it felt like our last resort then) and guess what, even the smell of citronella didn’t work, in fact he barked more. I’m at a loose end now and can only feel that giving him to someone who can spend 24hrs with him is the only way for him to be happy. I won’t feel happy until we can leave him at home to attend work and return without him or the neighbors being stressed out. This article sound like it could help and tonight will be put into practice if I can talk my partner into keeping him. If you have any other advice please help!

    Thanks

  12. Rebecca

    Thank you so mucu for this article….I’ve recently rehomed a 22 month old dog from a rescue centre, where he has been for the past 15 months. He’s as good as gold while we’re about but causes total destruction while we’re i’m out at work! Having read this I now have more some faith in getting over this problem.

  13. cheech

    my dog apparently has separation anxiety and i think that this easy to understand article will work for me

  14. Alison

    nothing seems to work for my dog. I got him about 1 year ago from the shelter when he was about 10 years old. He’s a Border Collie/Australian Shephard mix.

    Starting about a month ago, he’s just not himself anymore. He trembles when I get ready to leave the house and had really caused some destruction – demolishing 2 wood blinds, jumping on my coffee table, chewing many things (including my seatbelt when he was in the car – while I was just right outside, but he did it anyway), throwing himself at doors, etc, etc.

    I took him to the vet and they gave him Reconcile (prozac for dogs). This seemed to make him manic and he would not sleep at night. He also got agressive and stubborn. The vet took him off the Reconcile and now he just has Xanax. He was good for about 5 nights, but now he’s back to staying up all night and trying to keep me awake, too. Oh, and I also got him a trainer who recommend trying the crate. He was fine for about 3 hours, but as soon as he woke up, he went crazy. He won’t go back in.

    I’m afraid I have no choice than to take him back to the shelter.

  15. Dog

    thank you so much for the article, my dog suffers from anxiety, he goes bat crazy every time i leave and come back, he gets so jittery like hes about to explode, but Ive learned a lot thanks i hope i can get him to settle down now

  16. Gabby

    hi, we have a 2 or 3 year old Shih Tzu that only likes my mom and suffers major anxiety issues… i think this might help the anxiety but do you have any tips to get him to be friendly to everyone in the house?

  17. Jen

    I used to have this problem with a dog I rescued from a shelter. I finally started shutting him off in my bedroom/bathroom area away from the front door so he couldn’t see me actually leave the house. I think he knows what’s up now, but all I have to do is tell him to “load up”, and he runs into the bedroom and hops on the bed. I really thinks he likes the security of his own space while I’m away, and when I come home, he is always at the front door waiting to greet me. (I always leave the door to the bathroom cracked open, so he can nudge his way out when he wants to.) This set up has worked perfectly for the last several months. After many months of him getting anxious, shaking all over, and ultimately him bolting out the door and ending up in doggie jail for one night, I am happy to report that we are doing well. :)

  18. Sharon Block

    We recently adopted a 1 yr old maltipoo that has been in a kennel a large part of her life due to her owner’s hospitalization. We had her a week before we had her spayed. Since her surgery, she keeps us up at night. We gate her in our laundry room with her bed and toys. She wakes us up at least 4 times a night crying or barking. I’ve been putting her back in her bed and telling her “no barking” in a stern voice.It takes several times of putting her back in her bed, each time that she wakes us up. But after reading your info, I feel like I’m punishing her. Help, we’re exhausted.
    Thanks
    Sharon

  19. Karen

    What is your feeling on the idea of leaving the TV or radio on for the anxious dog while you are gone?

  20. Sascha

    Just in case someone missed the MAJOR point here.

    This artcle basically says:

    work slowly to desensitize your dog.

    If you are having problems with your dog barking …. Enter into the situation which causes it.
    And if it is leaving. Then maybe as far as you can go is to sit at the door and hang out.

    This takes understanding of your dogs triggers…
    And the willingness to engage into these triggesrs while being ready to stop at a moments notice.

    You also want to ensure a good outcome. So stop before the behavior starts and consider treats…

    Pretty obvious.
    Also, we know animals respond to repetition.. So repeat!!

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  22. sheila

    I have read all above articles, all very interesting. We have an 8 month old jack russell cross, who has been fine, no big problems with him apart from him not liking being left home alone, but he didn’t chew anything, then – we left him for about an hour whilst we went shopping and what a shock when we got home, he had chewed the corner of the sofa and the nest of tables. we got some spray to put on furniture and when we next left him for about the same time, he had ripped even more of the sofa and tables. Not knowing what to do next we said he would have to stay in the kitchen next time he is left alone. He goes frantic in there, scratched the door to pieces, barks, whines, pees etc, I hate having to leave him alone, but there are times when he has to be left alone. I have been told to buy a crate and train him to go in there, but have my doubts if this will work. He is fine in the car, loves sitting on back shelf, but can’t or won’t leave him in car for very long.

  23. n.james

    I have a Border collie/australian shephard mix, We got him from a shelter about 2 months ago. I am away at class or practice most of the day. He whines, tears into anything laying around, including pens, jumps up on the kitchen table, wont eat his meal food or treats we leave for him while we are gone, will not leave our sight when we are in the house with him, constantly craving tremendous amount of attention every minute we are home, and is overly aggressive about seeing us upon our return. We have tried some of these things, some work, but when he is left alone for numerous hours, his old ways return. His short-term calmness while we are gone has gotten much better, but what can we do about the long term alone time?

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