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How To Deal With Dog Separation Anxiety


What Is Dog Separation Anxiety?

You leave and your Dog howls. Not just for a moment, but seemingly forever. When the howling finally abates, it is replaced by a whine.

When you return, you find your home a mess — he has engaged in destructive behavior that is completely out of character.

Dogs love their owners and develop a very close relationship with them.

Sometimes the closeness of that relationship can leave them confused and frightened when the owner is gone. Thy dog may seem confused, angry or sullen when the owner leaves and may appear to "lash out" against being left alone by ruining furniture, creating messes or otherwise acting in ways wholly inconsistent with his training.

Your dog has a real problem: dog separation anxiety.

The Dog Separation Anxiety Poll

Why Do Dogs Have Separation Anxiety?

Dog Separation anxiety is relatively easy to diagnose: an otherwise well-adjusted dog seems to transform into a monster when left alone. Unfortunately, it is not always quite as easy to treat the disorder.

Helping a dog to overcome problems with separation anxiety is a process, just like other aspects of training, it takes time and repetition to be truly successful.

The idea of "training away" separation anxiety seems unlikely-how can you address a behavior when you are not present to see, prevent or correct it? Fortunately, there are actions one can take to decrease dog separation anxiety and to prevent your dog's frustrated behavior from spiraling out of control during your absence.

Deal With Dog Separation Anxiety Books and Guides

Sometimes leaving your dog home alone or with another person can be quite nerve wrecking for everyone involved. It's sort of like a new parent leaving their newborn baby for the first time with a babysitter or the grandparents.

Fortunately there are many great resources out there that teach you how to deal with dog separation anxiety; this goes for both the owner and their dog.

The following are some books that present you with great tips and strategies on what to do when you have to separate from your pet for a period of time, no matter how long or short.

Dog Separation Anxiety and Preparing Your Dog For Your Departure

Prepare the dog for your departure. Many people have a tendency to lavish attention on their dog before leaving. They may take extra time to play with the dog or find other ways to try to squeeze in a little extra "quality time" with their canine friend.

Though well intended, this only makes the owner's departure even more noticeable and worrisome for the dog. Instead of petting and kissing the dog goodbye, owners dealing with separation anxiety should take measures to correctly prepare the pet for their absence.

This can be done by intentionally decreasing interaction with the pet prior to leaving. Although one may want to spend extra time with a pet before leaving him alone, the best practice is to actually come close to ignoring your pet for several minutes prior to leaving. This will make your departure less jarring and should serve to decrease the dog's level of anxiety.

If you are leaving for an extended period and feel the need to connect with your pet and to enjoy their company, find ways to do so earlier in the day. Resist the urge to say "goodbye" before actually leaving.

Dog Toys - To Help With Dog Separation Anxiety

Dog Separation Anxiety - Distracting Him As You Leave

Provide an immediate distraction for the dog. Right before leaving, it is desirable to provide the pet with some sort of distraction. A new toy, for instance, may serve to occupy his attentions, allowing for a smoother transition to his “alone time.” Whatever immediate distraction is provided, make sure it is something that is likely to interest the dog for several minutes. The objective, after all is to maintain his attention on something other than your absence for as long as can be reasonably expected.

This technique has the added benefit of teaching your pet that his time alone will result in a pleasurable experience. He will begin to connect your departure with a fun toy or diversion instead of feeling it will only bring anxiety and loneliness.

One should also provide a more lasting distraction. Dogs crave human contact and will unavoidably miss it while alone. However, maintaining something of a human element to their surroundings can decrease the separation anxiety the feel when left without company.

Many have experienced success by keeping a radio or television tuned to programming featuring a great deal of dialogue. The dog will hear human voices and although he certainly won’t be fooled into believing he is in the company of human friends, the sound is still soothing and can reduce feelings of stress and loneliness.

Separation anxiety can be an absolutely befuddling issue for a dog owner. Even the most well-mannered and well-trained dogs can suddenly transform into destructive troublemakers as a result of separation anxiety.

Training away this difficulty can be hard, especially when a dog feels very connected to his owner. However, by preparing your dog and utilizing appropriate immediate and lasting distractions, one can reasonably expect to reduce the anxiety experienced by their dog.

More Dog Advice For Dog Owners

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    Are you having problems with a dog who won't stop digging anywhere they can? It's not an uncommon problem faced by dog owners but the advice here on how to stop your dog digging should help address it
  • How To Potty Train Your Dog
    Have you got a new dog or puppy and need to potty train it? Let's take you step by step through how to puppy train your dog and keep both them and you happy and of course your home clean!
  • How To Make Your Own Dog Food
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  • How To Train Your Dog To Obey - Dog Obedience Training
    Have you recently become the proud owner of a new puppy or an older dog who could do with some dog obedience training. Let's take you through the basics of how to train your dog to obey.

© 2007 pkmcr

Dog Owner Feedback - Dealing With Dog Separation Anxiety

BowWowBear on June 25, 2013:

Some may find it helpful to speak of their dog having "anxiousness" rather than trying to diagnose a psychological condition of "anxiety" in an creature who cannot describe the "why's" o their behavior to you. The conditioning you describe to make one's absence more of a pleasurable time for your dog is very on target. Thanks for sharing!

AnxietyAttackEx on May 16, 2013:

I must get my friends to read this lens, they have a mini schnauzer and you have described the sequence of events to perfection!

Alexandra Douglas from Florida on August 28, 2012:

Very useful info here! THank you!

anonymous on May 20, 2012:

I rescued a 7 yr old shi tzu from a puppy mill in January. We had no idea, but then in February she blessed us with 3 little girls! We are keeping them all, however, Mama Olivia is having separation anxiety and I am afraid that it is rubbing off on the girls. Olivia will bark for an hour and a half and longer even when I go upstairs to bed. I can't take them all up there yet, the stairs are a hazard for them. I come downstairs and my house is trashed. I hate that she is feeling like this but I have no idea what to do for her.

anonymous on September 06, 2011:

our newly aquired bichon/poodle is okay when I leave, but goes into a high pitched barking frenzy when I come back. She will do this even if I have only been away for 2 mins. getting the mail, using the washroom ect.

anonymous on August 09, 2011:

We are experiencing this right now, however all of what you have suggested we have been doing since the beginning and in the last month she has become very anxious to the point of shaking when we leave. Now escaping from the yard or getting destructive inside the house... at a loss with this sudden change in behaviour. Help anyone?

zblessedlife lm on July 22, 2011:

Thanks for the information, Very useful!

CHalloran LM on May 19, 2011:

One of my dogs had this. Nothing we did worked on her. The only time she felt better was when one of her puppies that we kept was with her alone in the house. We used to also put the things she used to like eating here and there in the house so she would find them walking around the house when we were gone. It seemed to keep her busy.

anonymous on July 12, 2010:

Wish I would have found your lens a couple of years ago when my dog became crippled, she went through severe separation anxiety because she could not walk. We have it under control now up it was tough. Great info.

pkmcr (author) from Cheshire UK on April 25, 2010:

@jolou: Thank you and yes you are quite right it also does affect cats as I know from our personal experience. Thanks for taking the time to drop by and comment which I really appreciate

jolou on April 24, 2010:

This is a very real problem with dogs, but I believe cats can have it also. Before my elderly cat died, he seemed anxious when he knew I was leaving, and would follow me to the door. It's hard to deal with as we don't want our pets upset. The information you have provided is very helpful for pet owners.

pkmcr (author) from Cheshire UK on December 14, 2008:

Thanks for the kind comments and I hope that readers are finding the information useful

Take care


Andy-Po on December 04, 2008:

Great lens

Tiddledeewinks LM on August 27, 2008:

I lost my beloved Tobie (Old English Sheepdog)last November. She was my best friend. She would stare at the t.v. if she heard a dog on it and stare at airplanes in the sky, as if to wonder what they were. She hated to be out of my sight and was afraid of thunderstorms.See my lens at DoAnimalsGoToHeaven.

lens4Him on July 13, 2008:

I always leave the TV on tuned to Animal Planet when I go out and leave our dog on his own. I don't know why, it's not as if he can understand it!

alslad on July 05, 2008:

Thanks for adding this helpful lens to the Gone to The Dogs group. Some breeds are more likely to develop separation anxiety, typically those that are more biddable like Border Collies, Labs and Golden retrievers, so it is important for potential owners to thoroughly research any breed they are thinking of bringing into the family


WhippetTalk on April 29, 2008:

You see this a lot with sighthounds. My whippet has mild SA. But some dogs have it really bad. Nice lens!

Adrie on November 26, 2007:


I like your lens, some good info.

Did you know that people with a dog phobia can use self help hypnosis to overcome fear of dogs?

Feel free to visit my Lens: Dog Phobia

You can also visit my site: e-books about dogs .

Adrie Rackers

anonymous on August 05, 2007:

I'm sorry, the correct link for the group is Dog Health Care.

anonymous on August 05, 2007:

Great Lens! I'd like to invite you to join my new group Dog Health. A group that is specifically and only for information and resources for dog health.


Karendelac on July 07, 2007:

Love the lens. I have 4 dogs and can't stand being away from them.

Thanks for putting together such a great lens!

Keep up the great work! All the Best, Karen at Karen's Kinkade Art Store

PatrickNZ on June 24, 2007:

Hey I like your lens on dogs check out my lens -> Dog behavior training

DrDog on June 14, 2007:

Hi pkmcr, Thanks for this important info! Gayle, author of How to Stop a Dog Fight.

maswee on June 08, 2007:

great lens on dog care..Mas from how to make puppy chow

maswee on June 08, 2007:

great lens on dog care..Mas from how to make puppy chow

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