How to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Dogs: A Common and Distressing Problem - Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a condition that affects many dogs, especially those who are very attached to their owners. It occurs when a dog becomes extremely anxious and distressed when left alone, or even when separated from their owner by a door or a barrier. Separation anxiety can cause a dog to exhibit various behaviors, such as:

  • Barking, howling, or whining incessantly
  • Chewing, scratching, or digging at doors, windows, or furniture
  • Urinating or defecating in the house
  • Panting, drooling, or salivating excessively
  • Trying to escape from the house or confinement area
  • Showing signs of depression, such as loss of appetite, lethargy, or hiding

These behaviors are not only stressful for the dog, but also for the owner and the neighbors. They can also result in damage to the property, injuries to the dog, or complaints from the authorities. Therefore, it is important to address separation anxiety as soon as possible and help the dog overcome their fear of being alone.

What Causes Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

There is no definitive answer to what causes separation anxiety in dogs, as it can depend on various factors, such as the dog’s personality, history, environment, and relationship with the owner. However, some possible triggers or risk factors are: - Anxiety in Dogs
  • A change in the owner’s schedule, such as working from home to working in an office, or vice versa
  • A change in the dog’s routine, such as being left alone for longer periods, or at different times of the day
  • A change in the dog’s living situation, such as moving to a new house, or being rehomed or adopted
  • A loss or addition of a family member, human or animal, such as a death, divorce, birth, or adoption
  • A traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, an accident, or a break-in
  • A lack of socialization, training, or mental stimulation
  • A medical condition, such as pain, illness, or cognitive decline

Some dogs may be more prone to separation anxiety than others, due to their breed, temperament, or genetics. For example, dogs that are bred to work closely with humans, such as herding, hunting, or service dogs, may be more likely to develop separation anxiety than dogs that are more independent, such as terriers, hounds, or spitzes.

How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

The best way to prevent separation anxiety in dogs is to teach them from an early age that being alone is not scary, but rather a normal and positive part of life. This can be done by following these steps: - Prevent Anxiety in Dogs
  • Start by leaving the dog alone for short periods, such as a few minutes, and gradually increase the duration and frequency of the absences. Always reward the dog with praise, treats, or toys when they remain calm and quiet during the separation.
  • Create a safe and comfortable space for the dog to stay when alone, such as a crate, a pen, or a room. Provide the dog with water, bedding, and chew toys to keep them occupied and relaxed. Avoid leaving the dog in a place where they can see or hear the owner leaving or returning, such as near the door or window, as this can increase their anxiety.
  • Establish a consistent and predictable routine for the dog, such as feeding, walking, playing, and sleeping at the same times every day. This helps the dog know what to expect and reduces their stress and confusion.
  • Avoid making a big fuss when leaving or returning home, as this can make the dog more anxious and excited. Instead, act calmly and casually, and ignore the dog until they settle down. This teaches the dog that departures and arrivals are not a big deal, and that the owner will always come back.
  • Provide the dog with enough exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation every day, as this helps them burn off excess energy, reduce boredom, and increase confidence. A tired and happy dog is less likely to suffer from separation anxiety than a restless and frustrated dog.

How to Treat Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

If a dog already suffers from separation anxiety, it is not too late to help them overcome their fear of being alone. However, it may take more time and effort, and in some cases, professional help. Here are some tips on how to treat separation anxiety in dogs: - Treat Anxiety in Dogs
  • Consult a veterinarian to rule out any medical issues that may be causing or contributing to the dog’s anxiety. The veterinarian may also prescribe medication or supplements to help the dog cope with their stress, such as anti-anxiety drugs, pheromones, or natural remedies. However, medication alone is not enough to treat separation anxiety, and should be used in conjunction with behavioral therapy.
  • Seek the advice of a certified dog trainer or behaviorist, who can assess the dog’s situation and provide a customized treatment plan. The treatment plan may involve desensitization and counterconditioning, which are techniques that aim to change the dog’s emotional response to being alone, from negative to positive. This is done by gradually exposing the dog to the cues that trigger their anxiety, such as the owner putting on their shoes, grabbing their keys, or opening the door, and pairing them with rewards, such as treats, toys, or praise. The goal is to make the dog associate being alone with good things, rather than bad things.
  • Use positive reinforcement to encourage the dog to behave calmly and confidently when alone, rather than punishing or scolding them for their anxious behaviors. Punishment can make the dog more fearful and stressed, and worsen their separation anxiety. Instead, reward the dog for staying calm and quiet when alone, and ignore any unwanted behaviors, such as barking, chewing, or urinating.
  • Provide the dog with distractions and enrichment when alone, such as puzzle toys, stuffed Kongs, interactive feeders, or chew bones. These can keep the dog busy and entertained, and reduce their anxiety and boredom. You can also leave the dog with a piece of clothing that smells like you, such as a shirt or a sock, to comfort them and make them feel less lonely.
  • Consider using alternative options to leaving the dog alone, such as hiring a pet sitter, enrolling the dog in a daycare, or asking a friend, family member, or neighbor to look after the dog. This can help the dog cope with their separation anxiety, and provide them with socialization and stimulation. However, these options should not be used as a permanent solution, and should be combined with behavioral therapy to help the dog learn to be alone.


Separation anxiety is a common and distressing problem for many dogs and their owners, but it can be prevented and treated with patience, consistency, and professional help. By following the tips above, you can help your dog deal with their separation anxiety, and enjoy a happier and healthier relationship with them. Remember, your dog is not trying to be naughty or spiteful, they are just scared and confused. They need your love, support, and guidance to overcome their fear of being alone. 💕

1Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Signs, Causes, and Prevention 2How to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Dogs | Purina 3What to do if your dog has separation anxiety | Dogs Trust 4Treating Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety – DogTime 5How Can I Ease My Dog’s Separation Anxiety When I Leave the … – PetGuide

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