6 Humane Ways to Help Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

It’s that time of year again…the kids are going back to school after an action-packed summer. It’s been fun for the children, and Fido has been so happy with the extra attention and playtime. Then one day, his world changes. The house is empty and he’s left home alone.

The stress of suddenly being alone may cause behavioral changes: excessive barking, destruction, escaping, pacing, chewing, scratching and even the inability to lie down and rest.

While there is no evidence showing why some dogs have separation anxiety and some don’t, dogs are naturally social animals. So much so, that behaviorist and author John Bradshaw says, “Surprisingly, most dogs, given the choice, will actually prefer human company to other dog company.”

The ASPCA states,

“When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.”

How can you help?

1. Mix Up Your Patterns

Dogs are smart. They are constantly studying all of our behaviors, actions, and routines. If you always put on your shoes right before you leave the house for the day, the shoes tell Fido that you are leaving. If picking up your car keys is always a precursor to leaving, Fido may start to panic just at the sight of your keys. Start mixing up your routine. Pick up your keys and start cooking dinner. Put on your shoes and walk to your computer. Do the opposite and put on your shoes, open the door, but don’t leave. The idea is to keep Fido guessing so that he starts to unscramble the patterns you’ve already set in place. Certified Professional Dog Trainer and behavior specialist Nicole Wilde calls it “The Faux Go.” In her book, Don’t Leave Me! she says, “You’ll be teaching your dog that the door opening and you walking out is nothing to worry about.”

Time For Dogs

2. A Little at a Time

Start practicing on a weekend with very short departures today. If all goes well, start increasing your time away, little by little. A human minute may equal a dog hour, so take puppy steps when increasing your time away incrementally. In extreme cases, you may have to start with leaving for only a minute at a time and very gradually increasing your time away.


3. Tire Him Out

A tired dog will less likely be inclined to tear up the linoleum while you are gone. Get up extra early to take Fido for a long walk. Play ball with him. The amount and length of activity depends on breed, size and age. But, the closer you can exercise Fido to when you leave, the better.


4. Training and Dog Tricks

While exercise and long walks are great at keeping him in shape, he’ll get more tired from mental stimulation combined with exercise. I joke that the more I hike with Gina, the better shape she gets in to prepare for even more physical activity. But, add in some agility training, and she actually gets tired. Don’t have any jumps at home? Try teaching Fido some new dog tricks daily.


5. Special Treats

Give your dog a special treat that she never gets with you, preferably something that takes a long time to chew. I do this with my dogs and when Gina figures out that I’m leaving, she is practically pushing me out the door so she can get her frozen kong stuffed with peanut butter and banana.


6. Take a Multi-Sensory Approach

We know that dogs have heightened senses. They can hear almost twice the frequencies of humans. And the olfactory system is more essential to dogs than any other sense. Without their ability to smell, dogs couldn’t function easily. So, it makes sense that canine sound therapy and scented calming sprays have also been helpful at relieving anxiety in thousands of dogs. If music can replace pain pills for people post-surgery, surely music designed to calm the canine nervous system can keep Fido company when alone. Anxiety wraps have also been effective at relieving anxiety, similar in concept to a baby being swaddled. Combining all of these modalities can have a very powerful effect.

Does your dog have separation anxiety? What has helped him when you depart? Thanks for sharing your thoughts in a comment below.

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Glennis W
Glennis W7 months ago

Lovely doggy photos Tahnk you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W7 months ago

Very informative Tahnk you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W7 months ago

Great information and advice Tahnk you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W7 months ago

Very interesting article Tahnk you for caring and sharing

Anna R
Past Member 7 months ago

thank you

Sue H
Sue H7 months ago

Helpful information, thanks.

Thomas M
Past Member 8 months ago

thanks for sharing

Danuta W
Danuta W8 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Chrissie R
Chrissie R8 months ago

Thanks for posting.

heather g
heather g11 months ago

It's heartbreaking to hear the sound of a dog's loneliness. But not if you live next door.