Controlling Separation Anxiety In Dogs

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AT RIGHT -- No separation anxiety here! My Miniature Schnauzer, Amy, watching as we leave the house. She doesn't care and as soon as we close the front door, she will put her head down and sleep for the next two or three hours until we return. She has been taught that our leaving is not a big deal and we will return--->

To resolve separation anxiety, your dog needs to learn that you leaving the house is NO MORE IMPORTANT than you getting a drink of water at the sink. That's our goal.

Separation anxiety in dogs is a common problem and affects most breeds. Almost any active, alert dog can suffer from it. It is a mix of dog psychology and dog instinct.

Your dog has a “pack” instinct and wants her “family” of litter mates (or humans) around so she knows where everybody is. She is a highly social animal. When you leave the house, you are gone and she does not know where you are so she feels alone and stressed. Abandoned. She is suddenly put into a state of nervous anxiety when everyone leaves and she is left alone.

So, she finds something inappropriate to chew on, barks at nothing, whines, and tears the house apart out of frustration. She literally gets a little “crazy.” These are symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs.

"Ah geeez, you guys gonna
leave me home alone AGAIN?
(One sad Basset Hound)

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To Manage Separation Anxiety In Dogs:
  • Walk out of the house and say nothing to the dog. Just leave. Come right back in in a minute or two.

  • Repeat this but each time wait a little longer before returning. The dog will gradually get the idea that you are going to return.

  • Each time you return, say nothing to your dog; just come in the house and go about your business like you never left.

  • Ignore your dog as much as possible during this training process. Turn your back on her, don't talk to her, ignore her.

  • Go back out of the door, fuss around the yard several minutes and come right back in. Keep repeating.

  • When you are ready to leave for a longer period of time, such as running to the store, make sure your dog is in inside the house and out of sight of other dogs that might distract her and cause her to bark. Use tough love. Get ready and walk out the door. Make sure your dog has water and chew toys.

  • Act like leaving is a common occurrence and there is nothing to get excited about. Say nothing to her. Just go out the door.

  • Don’t pet your dog or give a big speech about how soon you will be back or how she is to look after the house for you.

  • If you are going to the store and the dog will be alone for an hour or so, tire her out with some jogging, fetch or a walk before you leave. A TIRED dog is less likely to care where you are.

  • Make sure there is something for your dog to chew on, as this will help reduce the separation anxiety when they get bored or scared. Be sure the dog has a comfy place to sleep.

  • When you return, your dog will jump up and down and bark, but ignore her and go about your business. Do not pet or talk to her. Turn your back on her.

  • Walk into the next room and close the door for several minutes. In time, she will understand that being left alone is just part of her day. (Dog-proof the house as best you can before leaving, picking up all the shoes, socks and slippers, etc - - put them away.)

Remember, when you return from a long day away, she will be excessively excited and will be in a frenzy. This extended greeting signifies the source of a psychological disorder and it must NOT be encouraged by paying attention to the dog. Separation anxiety in dogs builds the longer you're away. If you do give your dog the some attention, she will get all the more excited and worked up, thereby ADDING to the problem!

I know it is hard to ignore your dog and pretend she is not there, but there are times you must do it to get a point across.

Border Collie catching a Frisbee
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Some simple advice:

Before leaving the house -

  • Exercise your dog thoroughly before leaving. The longer you’re going to be gone, the harder the exercise. A hardy game of Frisbee or jogging work really well if you have that kind of dog.

  • Distract her. Use baked marrow bones to chew on, for example + chew toys like Kong Toys stuffed with food like peanut butter.

  • Turn the radio or TV on low to calm the dogs — talk shows are good.

  • If possible, give her a view of the outdoors. It’s next best to being outside.

  • Get the dogs used to your “leaving.” Jingle your keys. Put your coat on. Walk to the door and then sit down. Repeat. Do all this again so she/they think you are leaving, and then don’t. Sit down again.

  • Do this until they get bored and your “leaving” is no longer of interest to them.


Soothe and comfort your dogs when they are crying and whining. Don’t EVER say “it’s OK,” or “good girl” when she’s upset. Do not be sympathetic in your voice as it's bad dog psychology. That’s the worst thing you can do in cases of separation anxiety.

Tire your dog out thoroughly when leaving her
for a full day. The more tired this Labrador Retriever is,
the less likely she is to have a separation anxiety problem.

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Anxiety Notes:

After you’ve been gone a half hour or so, the dog’s anxiety will worsen. She will bark and scratch and dig at windows, trying to escape. She may urinate and/or defecate in the house, no matter how well house-trained she is. In extreme cases she might lick and chew her skin until it’s raw, or pull out fur or even engage in spinning and tail chasing. Separation anxiety in dogs is a powerful emotion.

Remember, puppies up to about one year old may LOOK grown up, but actually are still puppies and are not ready to be left alone. This is when you need the CRATE to confine the puppy and make it feel safe in it's own den. Don’t give your puppy a chance to destroy the house. Separation anxiety in dogs knows no age limits.

Also, dogs that were separated from their mothers and siblings too soon have been identified as being especially prone to dog separation anxiety.

Puppies from pet stores are a perfect example of this: they are usually taken from their mothers way too soon and confined to small glass cages or boxes in the pet store for two months or more. This early confinement is psychologically traumatic to the puppies resulting in strong separation anxiety in the dog.

A bicycle is a great way to give your
dog exorcise, Note the dog is on a leash for safe keeping.

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