10 Things You Need to Know About Dog Separation Anxiety

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dog separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is a very common concern among pet owners. However, despite being common, a lot of them still struggle to understand the condition. Some pet owners feel too frustrated with their dogs that they choose to abandon them. There are pet owners who resort to using force and punishment in an attempt to solve the situation.

In reality, these things only make things worse.

If you are struggling to treat your dog’s separation anxiety, here are the top ten things you need to know about the condition.

1. It doesn’t have a definite reason

There’s no definite reason why dogs develop separation anxiety. The condition, however, is triggered by scenarios that result in panic. This includes being left alone when your dog is used to human contact, being exposed to a traumatic event or change in the family’s structure or routine.

2. Never leave your dogs for more than 8 hours at a time

For your dog’s health, limit the number of hours you’re away. The longer you are gone, the more anxious your dog will feel.

In addition to making him anxious, leaving your dog for a long time can also compromise his health. Dogs, no matter what their age, shouldn’t be expected to be able to hold their bladders for more than 8 hours.

Puppies, in general, can only hold their bladders for 4 hours. Older and sick dogs may have to pee more frequently than younger and healthier dogs.

3. It manifests differently in dogs

Some dogs exhibit destructive behaviours when they are left alone. They can start chewing on furniture, scratch carpets and break things at home. Meanwhile, there are dogs that resort to whining, howling and barking in an attempt to reunite with their owners.

There are dogs that experience excessive panting, licking and trembling. Urination and defecation when your dog is well-trained are signs of separation anxiety, too.

4. Punishment won’t help

Getting home after a hard day’s work only to find your furniture and valuables broken and torn into pieces can easily make you angry. Although it’s tempting to physically punish your dog, remain calm and be objective.

Using punishment can only make your dog’s anxiety stronger. In addition to the trauma, your dog will likely associate your absence with negative effects, too. As a result, he’ll feel more anxious and worried about your return.

5. Getting another dog isn’t the solution

Contrary to what most people believe in, separation anxiety in dogs doesn’t result from being alone. In essence, it is your dog’s response to being separated from you. Getting your dog a companion won’t solve the issue. It can even make him feel uncomfortable, especially with the change in the family’s structure.

Img source: Pixabay

Img source: Pixabay

6. Lack of obedience training doesn’t always lead to separation anxiety

Engaging your dog in a formal training can help him with socialization. Failure to do so, however, doesn’t mean that your dog will develop behavioural issues right away. Separation anxiety is a whole different issue and requires a different approach to solve.

7. Providing distraction can help keep your dog from destroying your home

Providing chew and food dispensing toys is one good way to help your dog pass away the long hours of not being with you. They also make a good distraction to keep your dog from chewing your valuable items at home. You can set up a couple of pet cameras at home to check on your dog from time to time.

8. A dirty laundry can provide a calming scent

Leaving a piece of your used clothing can calm your dog by providing an olfactory cue. Since they can’t be with you, they are trying to find a way to remain close to you and your scent makes a great alternative.

9. Leaving some background noise can help break the silence

Leaving your radio turned on or playing a soothing music while you’re gone can help ease your dog’s anxiety. There are tracks specially created for dogs having this issue.

Take note that this approach may not work for all dogs. Some of them can experience an increase in anxiety when exposed to foreign sounds and noises. Before you actually leave your dog with some music, be sure to test it out first. Play a track, leave the room and see how your dog will respond.

10. Aromatherapy works for dogs, too

Like humans, dogs can also benefit from aromatherapy. Lavender, when used properly can help calm dogs and ease away stress. Chamomile, cedar and peppermint also have the same effects.

You can use these essential oils as spritzers or you can add them in air diffusers and shampoos. Although you can use them in candles, too, it isn’t generally recommended especially if you’ll be leaving your pet alone at home.


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About the Author: Rose Cabrera reviews pet cameras and other gadgets for TopSecurityReview.com. She spends most of her free time walking and playing with her adorable shih-tzus.

There are 22 Comments

  1. Pam Rowgo says:

    Help, I have a teacup yorkie. We have had her since she was 9 weeks old now 1. She is put in her cage when we leave. OMG!! As we are getting around to leave she starts shaking. We put her in cage she starts barking, crying…basically screaming. How can I get her to stop.


    Minette Reply:

    She is a baby. Babies don’t like their cribs, either. But at some point we have to let our children learn to self soothe just like we have to teach our dogs. Without that, they will never learn to be independent


  2. Lorraine De Marco says:

    I have tried all of those things for Koby. We even went to the vet and asked for anti anxiety/anti depressant medication for him and to recondition him to no avail.
    Koby is a rescue/shelter dog who was picked up off a very busy highway last year. I do not what else I can do to help him. I really do hate having to keep him locked up in his kennel although his kennel is for a dig upbyo 120 pounds and he weighs just 65 pounds. We are never gone for more than 2 hours except if we go to the doctors then maybe 5 hours, but that is usually 1 orc2 days a week. Is there anything else i can do to help him with his anxiety separation is this going to be a permanent condition do you think for him?


    Minette Reply:

    Dogs are den animals. They like their den, like we like our house it really isn’t a bad permanent condition


  3. Ross says:

    Good info, but very little help in fixing the info. Lavender did nothing, music made it worse, my laundry also did nothing. I try to empty his bladder as much as I can about 30-40min before I leave, but it’s like clockwork… no matter how long I’m gone… there’s a large bathroom mess on my kitchen floor. Any help would be great. Retraining the way I walk my dog isn’t the answer either.


    Minette Reply:

    I like crates http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/sleep-knife-pillow-crates-crucial/


  4. janet Amighi says:

    I have never read a source that describes dogs with separation anxiety who don’t destroy and don’t defecate. My dog has terrible separation anxiety, but he doesn’t destroy things at all. He stresses down mostly. Often he will leave his favorite chewy (pigs ear) untouched until I return but alternatively will polish off a box of greenies if he finds them (near fatal).
    Food refusal is one sign of stress. Other signs are whining if I walk ten feet away from him and he’s tied up, tongue flicking, and frantic greeting when I return including snapping the air or clothing. Patricia McDonnel and others recommend desensitization and counter-conditioning, but how do I never leave him for 6-8 weeks to do the training? The only upside of separation anxiety- in the competition ring, his eyes never leave me: perfect attention.


    Minette Reply:

    true separation anxiety is destroying and urinating or defecating AND SELF INJURIOUS behaviors. A dog that will literally hurl itself out of a window or break his teeth or lacerate his skin trying to get out of a crate.

    A dog that simply won’t eat a treat or play with a toy and whines and barks is probably not one with separation anxiety but a lack of ability to be independent.


  5. Ellyn Camp says:

    My dog started chewing the wall by my bedroom.


    Minette Reply:

    Crates are wonderful things!


  6. Yvonne says:

    Our GSD doesn’t do anything when we leave her. She doesn’t eat, or play with any of the toys we leave out for her. She just lays there, looking depressed.


    Minette Reply:

    Looking depressed is really anthropomorphizing the dog. Most dogs just chill and sleep until their owners return


  7. Al G Magaw says:

    The #1 thing on my list of things to do to treat separation anxiety is to provide LOTS of structured exercise – a leashed walk is sufficient for smaller breeds, or elderly dogs, but the use of a bicycle attachment on a bicycle is needed for larger or high energy dogs – the structure is what turns the exercise into a job so it exercises the mind, and the run allows the dog to run off it’s frustrations and it also raises serotonin levels – ( free runs don’t help as much and can even add problems ) after a good run, a dog is quite happy to have a nap by itself – daily runs gets the dog into the habit of relaxing – after the structured run, place the dog where it can be alone for an hour at first, then as the dog gets used to the idea that being alone isn’t a bad idea, increase the period that the dog is alone – we list structured exercise as #1 on the list for all behavior issues


  8. Joni says:

    My dog just tired 1 yr old & I have tried music, food, toys and everything I have heard of without success. I come home to disaster in the one room blocked off. She goes potty and spreads it all over the floor and then eats up everything. I have lost eye glasses and anything that will fit in her mouth. She is small (11 lb ) but can jump up on a table and take everything off and distroy it. Needless to say I have to crate her, even if its just to walk out to get the mail. I am completely frustrated, since I have read everything I can and tried them all. If I’m home with her she will play with toys for hours, but the minute i leave the room, she becomes distructive.


  9. Lorraine says:

    Dogs stress as they worry you won’t return.practice going ou the door and coming back in without looking or talk to them then lengthen time your gone. 2 mins then add more time. Don’t leave it until they are in full panic mode. They will learn you will return. Just ignore them until they are calm then call them for a treat or cuddle. I did that with my dogs and now they act the same as if I am going to another part of the house. You can always practice it with any door that separates you. Come in like you own the place


  10. Sheila says:

    I have my rescue dog about 1 month now and she follows me everywhere. Even when my husband is with her she cries if I leave the house and keeps watching the dooor and window. When the two of us have to go out we leave our bedroom door and hallway for her to roam about in. We can hear her bark as we go out the front gate. Heart breaking. She has never destroyed anything. She is about 5 months old a cavalier King Charles


  11. Jill Wing says:

    My dog is a rescue from Puerto Rico. He’s kind, quiet, funny, loves to play and cuddle. I’ve had Ernie for three weeks, the perfect little guy. Then, today, I left for work and he barked at the door as I waited or the elevator. I live in an apt. building and was beguiled by his manners until today. I don’t know how long he barked. I think I’ve given him so much attention since I adopted him that he’s a bit spoiled. He’s been left alone before, but just gave me his hang-dog look as I closed the door and didn’t bark. Today he did. So, I think I’ll quit fawning over him so much and let him practice his independence. He has a crate in the house that he often goes into on his own. I never close him in. He doesn’t chew anything or defecate or pee when I’m gone, I just can’t have him barking. Any suggestions. He’s a great little, well-behaved friendly dog.


  12. Edna Fitler says:

    Are you able to help with potty training an adult dog that has been wearing diapers for over a year?
    I have a rescue dog whose foster mother was not good with potty training so she put diapers on her while she was at work in the evenings, and it got to be permanent.
    She is 6 1/2 and will use s potty pad, but also goes on the floor. She will go on the couch if I forget and leave her on it.

    She is a Yorkie. She can’t get up and down from the couch. Any help is greatly appreciated!!!!


    Minette Reply:

    use the search bar at the top of the page to search for articles on potty training


  13. Linda says:

    I have two rescues adopted 1 year apart. Both had extreme separation anxiety. I cured both of them with LOTS of exercise and ignoring them when I was going out..They would pick up on MY anxiety before I left and would start getting stressed knowing I was leaving. So I calmed down…and exercised them before I left .A tired dog is much happier when you leave… I also started by picking up my keys ( another trigger I was leaving )at random throughout the day and just sat down and watched TV or did some cooking .( ignoring them for a while)..I would also lock up..put makeup on,( more triggers) ignore them , leave for 5 minutes or drive around the block…come back and ignore them…Do this many times until they understand that you will be returning home…Finally they stopped associating my keys and other triggers with me going out…DONT make a fuss when you come home or when you are leaving……just ignore them for a few minutes…and BE calm..because they understand energy…..


  14. Carol Meiring says:

    My dog is a shelter dog and it has been hard for both us. She is 9 now and I am her 3rd owner since her original abandonment from her original owners. It took her about 2 months to adjust to the new owner and house. I thought I was going to loose my mind. All she would do was pace in the house, whine and squeak this rubber chicken day after day. It took her 2 months to get past that.
    She has been with me a year now and doesn’t bark quite as much when I leave the house like she used to. She doesn’t tear up, pee or poop, but when I take her for a car ride and we pull in some where she starts to pace in the back seat as she know’s I’m getting out soon. She will bark from the time I get out until I come back. It’s really quite embarrassing. I don’t know how to break her of that. She loves to ride, but I can’t even go into the gas station to buy a lottery ticket, she gets all worked up.
    We live alone and I’m concerned as I am loosing my job soon. I have a new job lined up but it is a 12 hour shift, 2 on, 2 off, 3 on and the next week is the opposite with more time off. By the time I drive there and home will add another onto the time away for a total of 13 1/2 hours. My heart is breaking but at my age of 60, I have to take what I can or she won’t have a home at all if I loose my house.
    I am working on putting up a fenced in area with a dog door so she won’t be inside all the time while I work and try to sleep some. My new shift will be 6;30 pm to 7 am which bites, but I try to look at it that I have to work 15 days but will also have 15 days to spend with her a month.
    Can you think of any way I can break her panic’s in the car and what will be a good way to help her adjust to the new hours. I feel guilty already and I haven’t even started the new job yet.
    If I knew I was going to loose my job, I would have never got a dog as I know its not fair to her. I feel bad and sad but I made her, the shelter and myself a promise that I would make this work. I can’t abandon her again.


  15. kat says:

    I have a 4 year old English Springer Spaniel who is the king of Separation Anxiety. I’ve actually been worried he’ll have a heart attack or stroke one of these days! I read somewhere that when you leave the house, ignore the dog and just leave. Same when you come home, ignore and go about your business. It does help a lot but doesn’t eliminate the anxiety completely. He’s not destructive but he will pee on the back of the couch he lays on to look out the window. That has stopped. We also leave the tv on for him. Just like one person above, home with husband ok for about an hour then starts crying for me. I was pretty ill when I got him as a puppy so he would stay by my side 24/7. Maybe the reason? Also, I take him out and play in the backyard a bit before I leave, so agree with the exercise prior. Although he’s crate trained, he won’t go in the crate except when he’s visiting my son.


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