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Training 201 – Dealing with Dog Separation Anxiety

11/15/2012 by Colleen Williams
November 15th, 2012 by Colleen Williams

Dog separation anxiety is very common and easy to manage. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs is important for pet parents. The next step is getting a dog with separation anxiety treatment. Training and behavior modification can greatly improve the quality of life for a dogs with anxiety.

Causes of Dog Separation Anxiety

Dogs with anxiety have often experienced a traumatic event, such as abandonment or abuse. Pets adopted from shelters are more likely to show symptoms of dog separation anxiety. Puppy separation anxiety is also common. Major changes in your pet’s life, like moving homes or the loss of a pet or pet parent can also trigger anxiety in dogs.

Dog Separation Anxiety Symptoms

The most common signs of separation anxiety in dogs include:

  • Destructive chewing
  • Digging / scratching at doors
  • Urination and defecation in house trained dogs
  • Howling, barking, or whining

Dogs with separation anxiety will show these symptoms right after you leave the house. When you return, your dog may be overly excited, even if you were only gone for five minutes. Dogs with anxiety will also follow you from room to room and appear anxious when you prepare to leave.

Treating Dogs with Separation Anxiety

In minor cases of dog separation anxiety, pet parents can make a few small changes to relieve symptoms. Leave an article of your clothing near your pet’s bed; your scent will calm your pet and reassure him or her that you’re returning. Don’t make a big deal when you leave or come home. Pick a phrase to say every time before you leave, such as “I’ll be back!” When you return, ignore your dog for a few minutes and then calmly pet him or her. More severe cases of dog separation anxiety require more intense measures:

  • Do loosely confine your pet to a small room, like a bathroom or laundry room. Dogs with anxiety need distractions, like toys or a window to look out.
  • Don’t crate a dog with separation anxiety. This will only increase your pet’s fear and feel like a punishment.
  • Don’t punish your pet for destructive behaviors. By the time you get home, your pet won’t know what he or she is being punished for.
  • Do ask your vet about anti-anxiety medications. Some pets can benefit from dog separation anxiety medications.


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