Dec 12

What To Do About Separation Anxiety

Separation AnxietySeparation anxiety is not only common; it is one of the most difficult behaviors for dog owners to deal with.  It can be annoying, frustrating and at times, difficult to diagnose.

Is your dog tearing things up because he’s bored or is he stressed when left alone?  If your dog is getting enough exercise, and he still barks and destroys things, he is most likely experiencing separation anxiety.

Some people believe separation anxiety is developed during the first year. Others believe the owners themselves cause it.  While both of these can be true, we really don’t know what brings it on.  I have seen dogs develop separation anxiety at all ages. If your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety, changes in your relationship or environment should be first thing to consider.  Many dogs coming from shelters will develop separation anxiety when their new owners leave the house.  Some dogs will show signs of separation anxiety as a result of something that happens while the owners are gone, while others may show signs because of the owner’s actions.  Here are just a few things that may bring on attacks of anxiety in our dogs.

One thing to keep in mind is that dogs are pack animals and prefer to live in groups rather than alone.  They form a bond with family members and sometimes have a hard time being separated from them.  How can you help them handle being alone?  When you bring a new dog or puppy into your home, try to plan the homecoming during a time when someone can be home.  Leave your dog for short periods of time, starting with five minutes and gradually building up to several hours.  This can be accomplished by leaving several times during the day.  This method teaches your new family member that even though you leave him alone, you always come back.

Furthermore, humans, as well as dogs, are creatures of habit.  When we leave the house we will typically do the same things in the same order.  We put our shoes on, then our coats, and then we pick up our keys and head for the door and leave.  These are all cues that you are leaving.  Try changing your routine.  Put your shoes on and don’t leave, put your coat on and take it off a few minutes later.  Pick up your keys or take them out of your pocket and walk around with them, put them away and sit down.  It’s amazing how much changing our routine can help our dogs.

In conclusion, what can we do with dogs that show signs of separation anxiety?  There are things you can do yourself, but your best option for success is to contact a local trainer or behaviorist with experience in treating separation anxiety.


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  1. JackPDB

    Some good points here. I wrote an article covering some aspects of training through separation anxiety. Feel free to link or reprint, if you find it useful.
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    dog beds and more

  2. rtouhey

    Great article Jack. I enjoyed and have implemented some of the techneques you mentioned with some of my clients.

  3. Lindsay

    Separation anxiety can be so frustrating! I’ve dealt with it with a number of my foster dogs. I think it’s harder to deal with than aggression. The main thing to keep in mind is being patient. Separation anxiety takes a long time to work through. It doesn’t happen over night.

    1. rtouhey

      It is frustratiing. It took my about 2 years to get my yellow lab comfortable being left alone. He had been in four homes before he was six months old. He’s a great dog now, doesn’t mind being home alone. One of my clients is a very patient lady. It took about a year before she could leave the house for a couple hours. Daycare really helped her.

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