Does Your Dog Suffer From Separation Anxiety?

Separation Anxiety

Most dogs are social creatures and love being part of all the family’s fun. However, many dogs bark or howl endlessly when their dog owners go away. This is called separation anxiety.  In its most severe case, dogs may become destructive – tearing up furniture, clawing doors, and creating holes in dry wall. Some dogs even defecate the minute they see their pet parent leave even though they are house-trained. Dog separation anxiety may occur just when you leave, or even when another person in your household exits. 

Separation anxiety is most often caused by a combination of factors including:
  • A perceived lack of leadership
  • Fear and uncertainty
  • Incorrect conditioning by owners
  • Basic needs are not being met (food, shelter, entertainment)
  • Significant life event (death of owner, other dog, moving, etc.)

As much as you want to show your dog love, it’s important you don’t spoil your pet. Spoiling shows inconsistent leadership. If your dog has been allowed to lead by routinely asking for and demanding what he/she wants, your dog will believe he/she is in control. He will probably object when you leave, because he thinks his job is to protect you. How can he do that when you are out of sight? It is your job to protect your dog and make him feel safe, not the other way around.

A fearful dog has a number of concerns. He will worry about becoming the leader of the pack (because someone has to) and he may feel threatened by people or noises outside. Most dogs don’t have the personality to be pack leaders, but they feel a responsibility to do so.

A true canine pack leader (the dog owner), however, is free to come and go as he pleases because he is capable enough to assess whether leaving is safe for him and the pack. Therefore, the pack does not worry when he is away.

Treating Separation Anxiety

The training for separation anxiety depends on the severity of the condition. If it is mild, you can try:

  • Leaving something with your scent at home in his “den”
  • Keep arrivals and departures low-key (don’t acknowledge over excitement)
  • Keep the TV or radio on and be sure to leave on a few lights
  • Leave interactive toys for your dog so they are physically and mentally active
  • Take your dog to a doggy daycare to interact with other dogs and prevent boredom
  • Exercise your dog — a tired dog is a quiet dog. Take your dog for a walk before your leave
  • Hire a dog-walker to come visit and exercise your dog mid-day
  • Practice short departures, staying away for five minutes at first and then gradually increasing the length of time you are away

For more moderate to severe cases of separation anxiety, we recommend you hire a a professional dog trainer. As a Bark Busters dog trainer, I will teach you to:

  • Demonstrate you are the leader of the pack in a canine way
  • Be sure your dog’s basic needs — food, shelter, entertainment — are all met. We also recommend you review your dog’s diet
  • Practice separation at home
  • Simulate leaving the house
  • Establish your leadership every time you return home
Preventing Separation Anxiety in New Dogs

Getting a new puppy or dog? You can take some preventative measures to reduce the possibility of separation anxiety. If you work outside of the home or know you are going to be gone for many hours in a day, set your new dog up for success by following these tips:

  • Make sure someone is home with your dog for the first couple of days you bring him home. Remember, your dog is in a new place and must get used to eating, sleeping, and house training in this new environment.
  • Keep the first couple of days low key. Although you may want to show off your dog to your friends and family, this can be overwhelming for a new dog. Let your dog settle in for a few days before heading out to new places.
  • Make sure you have a created a quiet space for your dog where he has his own den such as a crate or a spare bedroom.
  • Stay close to your dog, but don’t spoil him too much because he will begin to demand that level of attention.
  • Dogs love consistency so set up a routine. Remember that dogs normally sleep 50% of the day, so set a schedule for outside potty training and meal times.
  • Start leaving your dog for short times during the day. Start by going to the mailbox and build up to being gone an hour or two. These exercises will teach your dog that even though you leave, you will safely return.

Know that separation anxiety is not usually about your dog missing you. If he thinks he is the pack leader, he will be anxious when you are away because there is no way to protect you. Your job is to let him know you will keep yourself and him safe.

If you need help with separation anxiety, call your Bark Busters dog trainer to help you and your dog overcome this distressing behavior.

This information is brought to you as a public service by Bark Busters Home Dog Training-the world”s largest. most trusted dog training company. Bark Busters is the only international dog training company that offers guaranteed lifetime support. Find more information by contacting your local dog behavioral therapist at 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or by visiting or my website at Bark Busters of Alpharetta and Roswell

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