Dog Separation Anxiety

One of the most difficult behavior problems to correct in dogs is separation anxiety.

Symptoms include:

  • digging and scratching at doors and windows
  • destructive chewing
  • Barking, howling, whining
  • Urination and defecation from an otherwise house trained pet.

Of course, many of these activities could just be the result of bad manners. But if the misbehaving happens when your dog is left alone even for just a short while, then your dog could be suffering from separation anxiety. Other signs to watch for include:

  • Your dog follows you constantly when you are home.

  • Your dog’s greetings are frantic, excessive and way over the top.

  • Your dog becomes anxious and depressed just watching you getting ready to leave.

There are a variety of situations that can trigger separation anxiety in dogs. If the dog has never been alone before. The dog has suffered a traumatic event such as being held in a shelter. Loss of a family member, another pet, or a change in the regular routine. Remember, even though the resulting behaviors of separation anxiety is frustrating and in some cases expensive, do not punish your dog for the damage. Your dog will not understand the reason for the punishment and it could make the problem worse.

Treating Dog Separation Anxiety

If you believe separation anxiety is to blame for your dog’s behavior issues, then there are many steps you can take to help your dog cope. First, avoid acting overly excited when you first get home. Your dog will already be anxiously anticipating your return. If you make your arrival a big deal then it only enhances the dog’s anticipation of your return which causes greater anxiety. Instead of feeding into your dog’s anxiety with an excited homecoming, ignore your dog upon coming home and wait about ten minutes before giving your dog some calm affection. Over time this will do a lot to diminish your dog’s anxiety.

Before leaving, take your dog for a walk. The exercise helps burn off excess energy and will give your dog an opportunity to go potty before being left alone. A good walking program may help curb the separation anxiety problem all by itself, but keep reading, because I have a lot more advice to share.

Another way to help your dog cope in your absence is to give him something to do. Keeping your dog busy while you are gone just might save those slippers. Offer challenging, but tasty treats, I recommend either the Everlasting Treat Ball or a frozen Kong stuffed with biscuits, <, and organic peanut butter. Yum!

Another way to comfort your dog is to leave your scent behind. A blanket or just any old t-shirt that you’ve slept in will work great. Your dog is anxious, because he’s missing you. Having some dirty laundry available ensures your scent will remain even while your away.

When you’re home teach the sit, down and stay commands to your pet. When your pet knows these basic obedience commands, begin training your dog to stay in one room while you go to another. Along with being valuable training, this will help to teach your dog to stay calm even when you’re not present.

Also start associating a phrase or word with leaving. Tell your dog, “I’ll be back.” Then mean it. This safety cue will eventually train your dog not to worry, because you’ve promised to return.

If your dog is a puppy. Then he has gone from a loving puppy mound of motherly care to solely you. When you leave, your puppy feels alone and vulnerable. To ease your puppy’s transition, limit him to just one room. Like with the t-shirt above, if you know the person whom you got the puppy from get an old blanket and rub it on the mother dog. This way you’ll have the mother’s scent. If you don’t have access to the mother dog. Then you can use your own scent.

In more severe cases of dog separation anxiety you may need to combine the above techniques with creating a safe place. Choose a room with a window and plenty of distractions. Put in a few of those busy toys: such as the Everlasting Treat Ball mentioned above to distract your pet. Also give him that smelly t-shirt mentioned above, or any other dirty laundry to help your pet relax with your scent.

Combined with the above recommendations, you may also consider using Pet Calm. It’s an all natural calming product you apply to food or treats. It has herbs, which help sooth and calm your dog when anything distressing happens.

Be Patient

It may take a while to correct separation anxiety in your pet. You may even need to seek counseling from a professional animal-behavior specialist. But in the meantime, you can cut your dog’s anxiety and some of your frustration by taking your dog with you when you leave. If you can’t bring your pet with you. Then consider leaving your pet with a family member, friend, neighbor, or dog day care facility. If you’re diligent, eventually you’ll be able to leave your dog home alone, but until you’ve resolved your dog’s separation anxiety it will help your pet to avoid any undue stress.

Remember your dog is behaving badly because he/she is missing you. Punishing your pet will not correct these behaviors. Neither will getting another dog, crating, leaving on the radio or TV to create noise, or strict obedience training. The only way your dog will stop being anxious is when he/she learns that you will always return and that being alone is okay.

Learn how to stop your dog’s behavior problems now! Using the fastest and healthiest methods that exist, I recommend Secrets to Dog Training. Buy it today!!

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  1. Vincent Lopez says

    A mountain of help! My American Eskimo follows me everywhere and cries when I leave. Thanks for the pointers and help, now time to get to work!

  2. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the article. Let me know how your American Eskimo responds to the changes.

  3. Melinda Lance says

    I recently became into possession of a swiss mountian dog, he is very calm and follows me everywhere when I am home, but when I leave for work he destroys the doors around the house. This is my uncles dog and I am keeping him until he gets moved, what can I do to ease his anxiety? I have only had the dog for three days and already have to replace the front door and another door in my home, because I have to work and be gone for at least nine hours during the day.

  4. I have a four year old Beagle. He is a very calm dog most of the time. I think that he has separation anxiety when my husband leaves or if he is not invited to be around when we have company. He wets in his crate and has torn up two wooden blinds in our home. It is really strange that when I am home he is constantly around me and normally will not leave my side, but if we let my husband put him away in his crate he will pee in it and doesn’t care that he will get in trouble for it. We were trying to give him freedom to be in the house without locking the crate and one day when my husband was the last one to leave he tore up the blinds. Why is he like this with my husband? He is not the one that Buster follows around, but Buster sure does misbehave when my husband is the last one with him. Is it because he rarely is the last one to leave? I am usually the last one to leave and he normally does fine.

  5. Thank you so much. These are great and loving advice. I have a new puppy that needs some assistance and I plan on using some of your advice. Thank you for providing this information.

  6. Julie Baumer says

    My dog has shredded the blinds in one room and started chewing the doorframe to the front door. These events happened after my 16 y/o daughter leaves. She left the door open to her BR when the blinds were destroyed and this window faces the parking lot so he could see us leaving. When she left yesterday, she was gone about an hour before returning and he had chewed the doorframe. I have just moved into this apartment from a home with a backyard. Devo is getting frequent walks and he gets off leash time to run (he is a Whippet.) I cannot afford to continue repairing the damage but we really want to keep him. I do tell him that I will be back and I command him to “guard the house.” I am going to get a Kong and some of the Pet Calm as well but I would appreciate any additional advise ASAP! Thank you so much.

  7. Does your dog act out just when your daughter leaves? If so have her act like she’s leaving and observe your dog’s reaction. If he acts out you can start working on his behavior by having your daughter leave the house without paying any attention to your dog at all. Then when your daughter returns ask her to ignore the dog for at least 10 minutes. I know this may seem cruel, but it lessens the expectations your dog has when she’s leaving and coming home. I would also recommend when you leave that you cease using any words such as “guard the house…” this phrase is being associated with the separation and is a cue telling your dog “the pack is leaving: time to stress.” I would just ignore your dog when you leave, then later ignore again when you first return home. Plus, be sure to greet all humans prior to your dog to help reaffirm that your dog is not high in the household’s hierarchy.

  8. Angela Lawrence says

    Hi! We recently adopted a Shih Tzu who is 2 years old from a shelter. We heard that he was mainly tied to a tree. We are crate training him. Most of the time he does OK when we are home and letting him out often. But, when we leave even for a short time he cries and poops in his cage. All over, and he sits in it. He sleeps in his cage all night with no problem. But, when I leave the house and he is alone it is a mess. What can I do to help this dog?
    Thank you for any help you can give.

  9. Dogs, just like children have separation anxiety. Taking them for a walk, giving them something to do, create a safe environment for them, but all in all patience is the key.

  10. blueskies29 says

    I found many of these pieces of advice to be helpful! Frozen kongs, a sweater that smells like you, tiring them out, ignoring upon arrival.

    I would (respectfully) disagree that crating can not be of help in some situations. As you said, part of treating SA is creating an environment where the dog feels safe and assured that you will return. A crate -when used properly and not soley as a punishment- can become that safe place, like their own little room where happy things like treats and food happen. I would have to argue about the “windows with lots of distraction”. It *can* potentially lead to redirected aggression (out of stress and frustration) or, in cases of severe SA, a dog going through a window.

    Overall, For many people this will be a wonderful starting point on working with their dogs and a fantastic reminder that punishment isn’t effective but adds to the stress!

  11. Thanks for your comment. I have never used a crate, however if a dog feels safe in their crate I would agree that it could help. Most people I have seen using creates, use them as a way to punish their dog and not as a way to make their dog feel safe. As for the window, I think it would have to depend on the dog, some dogs like being able to have something to watch for example my dog Sadie, while with other dogs it can lead to problems. I would recommend you try a window and see how your dog reacts.

  12. I also have a 6y/o female boxer and she has separation anxeity, whenever we leave the house, she sratches at all the doors, runs from room to room looking for us. it has got worse since we moved into our new house, we had to put her in the garage when we leave so she would not ruin the floors and the door frames, we dont know what to do, the garage is huge (3 car garage), i leave her bed, food/water, a bone and the radio on, and still she is in a panic when we get home, there is drool all over the floors she is out of breath, painting, and nervious for at least 20 minutes after were home again. do you have any more suggestions?
    should i keep putting her in the garage or is the making matters worse?

  13. Are you taking her out for long walks? If she has good recall and there is a place I would take her somewhere where she can run off leash. If that doesn’t work maybe you can try taking her to a doggie daycare and see how that will work. If those do not work I would contact a good dog trainer in your area and talk to him/her about the problems you’re having. You can also purchase Secrets to Dog Training to have as a reference.

  14. Nancy Glynn says

    I am the owner of 3 big boys and I am at my wits end! I no longer work from home anymore, and have an hour commute one way. I have a pit/choco lab mix, and 2 boxers. The pit is fixed. I feel so bad for them because they no longer have me full-time, taking them for walks and playing in the backyard. By the time I get home it’s late, and I have to walk them separately as they fight if I try and take them more than one at a time. I need help! I love my dogs, but it’s becoming very overwhelming. They are pottying and have chewed everything up in the backyard. I am in the midst of making them outdoor/indoor dogs by taking a 1/4 of the yard and fencing it off, with 3 insulated dog houses, a tube, and a bridge to run and play. I don’t know it this will help or make things worse since they are so spoiled.


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