Monthly Archives: May 2015

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Why does my dog follow my every move? Why does my dog destroy things when I am away? Why does my dog pace or run in circles when I am leaving the house?

  • Cooper

These behaviors and others like:

  • Housebreaking accidents
  • Barking, howling, or whining
  • Not eating or not chewing on his/hers favorite toy
  • Scratching, digging, or trying to escape
  • Excessive grooming
  • Drooling

can be signs that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety.  Separation anxiety in terms of pets describes stress and anxiousness brought on by leaving your dog alone even if for a split second.  Often these signs are confused with “bad manners”, which is true in some cases, but not all.  Separation anxiety can be a serious issue and disciplining (eg. yelling or scolding), can make the anxiety worsen.  Often, regular obedience training does not help.

What can I do to help my dog get over separation anxiety?

First, please consult your veterinarian.  Sometimes the treatment requires a combination of medication(s) with behavior modification, especially when the case is severe.

What types of behavior modifications are suggested for separation anxiety?

First, be sure your dog is not bored by adding more physical and mental stimulation. This will usually take care of  boredom issues but will usually not take care of separation anxiety issues.   Often bored dogs will scarf down their food then look for more, anywhere including your garbage, but in most cases, the opposite is true of a dog with separation anxiety.

Behaviorists suggest changing up your “leaving routine”.  Your pet is very aware of your routine before leaving home, grabbing your coat first, or shutting off the lights, then lastly grabbing your keys.  Mix this up and do some of these things randomly during the day while you are still remaining home.  In time, perhaps only a few weeks, your dog may see that these behaviors don’t mean you are leaving and some or all of this anxiety may lessen greatly.

Also, don’t overcompensate your departure or return.  Don’t give treats or give special attention before you leave or when you return.  Don’t fuss over them, as hard as this is to do, especially when you are so happy to see them when you come home.  Try to ignore your dog for a few minutes before you leave and when you return.  Your dog may get the idea that your leaving is not a big deal.

For extreme cases, there is a program you can try, but first, consult your veterinarian to be sure there your dog is not suffering from some other ailment or illness. This program *  requires a huge time commitment on your part, at least several weeks.    This  will mean you will need to take time off ,if you work, use your vacation time, or find a pet sitter or doggie daycare to assist you.  You will need to spend 30 minutes to an hour every training session.  It requires patience and consistency.  Initially, you leave your home for a few seconds and step right back in so your pet has little or no time to experience separation anxiety.  Always stay calm while inside. Continue to do this until you see no signs of anxiety.  Gradually increase the time you are out, but change up the time (eg. 2 minutes, 1 minute, 4 minutes, 1 minute, 5 minutes) until you see no signs of anxiety.  You continue to do this gradually increasing to an hour, two hours, etc. until you can be away a full work day.

If this does not help, you will need to contact your veterinarian,again, who, hopefully will be able to help you find the cause of your dog’s anxiety issues and perhaps recommend an experience behaviorist who has worked with this disorder and/or prescribe proper medication.

*This program is suggested by Amy Bender, Dog Expert (

Please note: This article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, please consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible.