What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs and How Can You Help? What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs and How Can You Help? - SitStay

What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs and How Can You Help?

German Shepherd looking out the window for their owner

Have you ever noticed your dog becoming particularly badly behaved when left alone? The panic of their best friend leaving causes them such distress that you feel guilty for ever leaving the house without them. It is possible that your dog isn’t just acting badly when alone, these problems might be the symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs.

Separation anxiety can be difficult for dogs and owners. Your dog is going to be unhappy being alone which can mean you feel too bad to leave them by themselves. However, there are some things you can do to try and solve the problem. Leaving your dog alone doesn’t have to be a bad experience for everyone.


What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

Separation anxiety in dogs is a condition in which a dog becomes too attached to their owner, and become incredibly distressed when left with them. Being alone can then cause the dog to become very anxious, panicked, and generally unwell.

It is more than just missing you, a dog with separation anxiety will be entirely unable to cope when left alone. This is more than just missing their friend, separation anxiety in dogs can cause some severely bad behavior.


What are the Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

Yellow Lab Laying on the tile floor next to the door for their owner to get home

If you’re worried about separation anxiety in dogs, then there are some clear signs that you need to look out for. These are the main symptoms you’ll see:

Destructive Chewing

A dog suffering from separation anxiety is likely to be quite destructive when left alone. It is easy to get mad at them for this behavior. However, they are acting out of anxiety rather than malice.

Barking/ whining

Separation anxiety in dogs can manifest itself as whining and barking. A dog that is anxious about being alone is likely to howl and express themselves audibly, this can be a problem if they do this all night when alone.

Pacing

Old beagle with separation anxiety waiting for its owner to come home

A dog suffering from separation anxiety is likely to pace in a repetitive pattern when left alone. This symptom is harder to catch since they won't do it in front of their owners. It is a compulsive behavior that shows your dog is stressed.

Peeing/ Pooping Indoors

Separation anxiety in dogs can lead to them ignoring their toilet training when left alone. When they’re stressed and frightened, they might not be able to hold it in.

Escaping

A dog might try to escape from wherever they are if they have separation anxiety. This can cause some destruction with digging and scratching t doors. It can also lead to health problems for your dog by breaking nails or teeth.


What Causes Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

Poodle trying to get under the fence to their owner taking a photo

Separation anxiety in dogs is caused by them being too attached to their owners and getting distressed when left alone. It is unclear why some dogs are more inclined to it than others though. A change in circumstances like one owner leaving or more humans coming into a household can provoke these kinds of reactions from dogs. Some breeds of dogs that associate more with people than other dogs are more prone to separation anxiety.

In puppies, separation anxiety is likely caused by the way they’ve been raised. If they’ve spent little time alone, a dog may have separation anxiety until they are taught that it is okay to be alone.


Other Behaviour Problems That Could Be Mistaken for Separation Anxiety

Not every dog has separation anxiety. It may be easy to misdiagnose the problem since the symptoms are common across a few different dog problems. If your dog is exhibiting some signs like destructive behavior, it may be possible that they’re just bored or badly behaved. If your dog gets up to this kind of thing when you’re home as well, you should look into whether they are bored before you assume that it is separation anxiety.


How Can You Help Your Dog with Separation Anxiety?

Old pug with its tongue out looking out the door for its owner

If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, then you need to try and help them. It is tempting to assume the best way to do this is just to indulge the dog and stay home with them! However, this isn’t a great solution. You need to be able to live your life without upsetting your dog, so how do you go about this?

Reverse Training (Desensitization)

Desensitization for separation anxiety in dogs is a difficult treatment but it can be quite effective. To do it properly you need to be sure that you’re helping the dog to recover from their anxiety and not just putting them through more bad experiences. To start with, you need to identify when your dog gets anxious.

If they begin to get distressed when you start getting ready to leave, you need to teach them that this process is nothing to be afraid of. At a random point throughout the day, you should go through your normal routine for leaving the house. This will gradually teach your dog that this doesn't always mean being left alone.

To deal with their anxiety while you aren’t there, you need to train them into becoming okay when alone. This starts by ensuring they can effectively perform sitting and staying without you in the room. Practice this the normal way you’d teach your dog a trick, but getting further away from them over time. You should then practice this game around the door that you normally exit from.

After some time of doing this, your dog will feel reassured that leaving through this door is part of the game, and they'll be rewarded for good behavior when you leave. Repeat this while gradually increasing the length of time your dog is alone for.

Crate Training

Crate training can be an effective way to ease separation anxiety in dogs. Using a puppy crate, you need to teach your dog that it is okay to be alone. Allow them to use their crate as a safe space. This should give them a sense of ease when around the crate. If your dog has a positive response to going to their crate, then they won’t have the same anxious reaction to being left alone. You can practice this similar to desensitization, training your dog to go to their crate on command until it becomes routine to them. This is easier with a comfy crate or even an added crate bed for your dog.

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CBD Oil for Dogs

CBD oil is a great tool for helping dogs that are suffering from anxiety. This works for separation anxiety in dogs by stimulating areas of their brain that deal with anxiety and calming them down. CBD will help your dog to stay relaxed when you aren’t around, preventing the destructive behavior that howling that you can’t stop when you’re not around.

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Weighted Blanket in Their Dogs Bed

Weighted blankets are a recent invention for treating anxiety, they work the same for dogs and humans. They are similar to thunder shirts, the weight on a dog provokes them to feel naturally less anxious. A weighted blanket will be helpful for easing your dog’s symptoms when you aren’t around, as long as they’re willing to use the blanket.

Soothe anti-anxiety weighted dog blanket by BuddyRest

Soothe anti-anxiety weighted dog blanket by BuddyRest

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What Should You Do about Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

If your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety in dogs, then treating it will help improve your quality of life and your dogs. Desensitization treatment takes quite a bit of time and work. However, it is effective at makes things easier for everyone. You should combine this treatment with others like CBD oil or weighted blankets to ease your dog into being okay being alone. You can then feel free to enjoy your life without the guilt of leaving your dog in a distressed state.

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What is separation anxiety in dogs? By Jordan Ashley

Jordan Ashley
Jordan is an experienced author who enjoys writing about all things dogs. He loves all animals and when he is not working he spends his time curled up with his two dogs playing video games and maybe enjoying a craft beer.