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How to Help a Dog With Separation Anxiety

Savanna has three furbabies and enjoys sharing helpful tips along with her experiences as a dog mom.

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Is your furbaby whining when it's time for you to leave? Is he or she peeing on the carpet or tearing up your house, slippers, and getting into the garbage while you're away? If you answered yes, your sweet angel might be suffering from separation anxiety. Here are a few tips and tricks to help your furbabies and you!


Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs

  • Howling or excessive barking
  • Destructiveness
  • Accidents (urinating inside)
  • Attempts to escape confinement
  • Scratching at the door
  • Running off when you open the door

What Causes the Behavior?

  • Moving: If you move around a lot, or only moved once, this may be the reason your pet has separation anxiety.
  • Changing Owners: If you adopted your pet from a shelter, you might see anxious behaviors.
  • Changing Schedules: Dogs often get used to a set schedule, and when it's changed in the slightest way, they may get upset.

Medical or Behavioral Issues

It may seem your pet has separation anxiety, but sometimes it can be other issues.

Possible Medical Issues

If your pup is urinating around the house, make sure to rule out incontinence. Incontinence occurs when your pet can't hold their bladder—they may have small leaks on accident. If your dog is on any medications, make sure that they aren't the cause. Many medications can cause your pet to urinate more frequently.

Possible Behavioral Issues

If your dog isn't completely potty trained yet, this may be the issue. Or, if your dog barks when you leave, he may be bored. If your dog doesn't seem anxious, it may just be a case of incomplete training or boredom.


Tips and Tricks

1. Exercise

Try taking your pup for a walk before you leave home. Tire them out some; that way while you're away, your pup will be in rest mode.

2. Start Out Small

Leave your dog alone for five minutes at a time, then twenty minutes, and so on until your pup is comfortable being alone for longer periods of time.

3. Don’t Make a Big Deal

When you're leaving for work, don’t make a big deal about leaving. When you come home, your pup may be excited to greet you, but try to resist participating in the excitement until they calm down. After calming down, greet them.

4. Leave Some Clothes Out

As silly as this may seem, you can calm your pet's anxiety by leaving out some clothes out that smell like you. It has worked for me before—both of my pups love to lay on my clothes. Just make sure you don't leave them the clean ones.

5. Be Assertive

Going out? Stay calm but be assertive. Let your pup know that you are the leader in this pack and that everything is going to be okay; that can soothe your pet.

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6. Try a Calming Vest

A calming vest is a wrap that goes on your dog, kind of like a sweater. If fitted correctly, it creates a pressure or weight on your pet as if they are being held, similar to swaddling. This calms your pet down and gives them a sense of security and comfort. The calming vest can be used for many reasons, not just an anxious pet. It can soothe them during fireworks, car rides, thunderstorms, and vet visits.

7. Lick Mats

A lick mat is a grooved mat that you put a treat on such as peanut butter. This keeps your pet occupied for a while. Lick mats can also help with oral health and give your pet mental stimulation.

My Experience Using a Calming Vest

I was skeptical of using one of these vests, but I decided to try it out for my pup Leo. He has separation anxiety and is very scared of thunderstorms. I got one from the pet store; it's called a thunder shirt.

I tried it on him to make sure it fits correctly and waited for the right time to try it out. A few days later, a thunderstorm came. I put the thunder shirt on him; it was very easy. Leo loves to wear clothes!

Anyway, he started barking at the thunder at first as usual. But a few minutes later, he had stopped barking and laid down. I couldn’t believe it had worked that quickly. My fur baby was calm during a storm!

It had worked and I still use it often during storms or fireworks and it calms him quickly. It also works when I leave to run errands or go to work. He is usually with someone, but the vest helps calm him while I’m leaving as he usually whines and barks.

My Experience Using Lick Mats

When I hear about lick mats. I thought they were a wonderful idea. They are great for mental stimulation, oral health, slowing down eating, and helping with anxiety. I bought some and tried them out on my two dogs. While they did lick the peanut butter off the first time. The second time I tried them. They weren't interested. I left them with one to lick while I went shopping. And when I got home the treat was still there. While this hasn't worked for my dogs yet. It may still work for yours, all pets are different and like different things. Find some here if you wish to try them out lick mats

Thank you for reading!


  • Separation Anxiety | ASPCA
    One of the most common behavior issues pet parents encounter with their dogs is separation anxiety. If your dog is distressed when you’re not home, learn more about how to train your dog to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Savanna H


Savanna H (author) from Texas on August 20, 2018:

Happy to share, thanks for the comment. :)

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 20, 2018:

I've heard of calming vests for dogs and wondered how effective they were. Thanks for sharing your experience with one.

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