Solutions for Dog Separation Anxiety - Rescue Dogs 101

Solutions for Dog Separation Anxiety

Does Your Dog Get Stressed Out When You Leave Him Home Alone?

Many first-time dog owners never heard of separation anxiety in a dog, but it happens and way more often than you would think. I honestly never realized separation anxiety was an issue for dogs until we adopted our dog JJ in 2010. JJ would bark and drool excessively in his crate when we left even for 5 minutes. And if we left him out of his crate, he would mark somewhere in the house, even though he was potty trained. If I left the house, and my family was still at home, he would still be visibly stressed, waiting and staring at the front door until I came home.

This behavior slowly got worse and when I took him to the vet for his yearly checkup, the vet explained to me that he is showing signs of separation anxiety. She immediately suggested giving him Fluoxetine, which is basically Prozac for dogs. I trusted my vet and agreed to start him on the Fluoxetine. It seemed to help, but certainly didn’t “cure” him.

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

We were lucky in that I work from home, so the time he was left home alone was minimal. But I feel for the families that need to leave their dog home alone while they go to work for 8 hours, so I hope this article will help you prevent the separation anxiety ever happening. And if you have adopted a dog that already has separation anxiety, some of these tips will help.

What is Dog Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a psychological disorder that manifests in excessive barking, whining or crying, chewing, digging, urination, defecation, and other destructive behavior that is accompanied by excessive panting and drooling when the dog is left alone.

Before you assume your dog has separation anxiety, consider ALL of your dog’s behaviors. Just because your dog misbehaves by chewing on the furniture, or urinating on the carpet when you leave him alone in the house, doesn’t mean he has separation anxiety. He most likely is just bored or not fully potty trained. After all, he is there all by himself with nothing to do.

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Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Foster Dog Griffin looking out the window. He had severe separation anxiety.

Does My Dog Have Separation Anxiety?

If your dog picks up on cues that you are getting ready to leave and starts to follow you everywhere you go, paces at the door when you’re putting your shoes on, barks the entire time you are away, chew on your belongings and you come home to a puddle of drool in his crate… your dog has separation anxiety. Now, he doesn’t have to have ALL of these symptoms, but he will likely have several of them.

If you come home to find your dog has chewed your shoes or furniture, but he’s relaxed when you walk in, he does NOT have separation anxiety, he is just bored!

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How Do I Prevent Separation Anxiety In My Adopted Dog?

Check out these 6 steps you can take to keep your dog happy and healthy while being left alone at home.

  1. Exercise Your Dog. So if you expect your dog to sit in the house all day and never get outside (other than to go potty in the backyard), don’t get a dog. Your dog needs exercise and to go for walks every day! He needs plenty of physical exercise, some dogs need more than others. If your dog doesn’t get exercise then he will be bored in the house whether you leave him home alone or not. Lack of exercise is the root of so many behavior issues! So get outside and go for that walk, it’s good for you and your dog.
  2. Be the Pack Leader. Yes, that’s right, you being the pack leader will help keep away separation anxiety. If your dog feels he needs to protect you 24/7 because he is the pack leader, then when you leave the house he can’t protect you. He goes into a panic thinking about how he can protect you when he can’t see you!
  3. Give Him Something He Can Chew. Dogs are natural chewers, it’s what they do. Leave your dog things to keep him busy, a bone, a kong filled with peanut butter, or a few special chew toys that he doesn’t have access to all the time.  There are many chew toys that you can fill with treats, peanut butter, etc… these are great to keep your dog busy for hours!
  4. Crate Train Your Dog. A crate can create a calm and safe place for many dogs. If your dog is a chewer or not yet potty trained, this is a great way to keep him out of trouble. Read Why I should crate train my dog and How to crate train my dog in 3 easy steps.
  5. Calmly Leave the House. Don’t make a big deal about leaving the house. Don’t feel guilty about leaving him alone, your job is to leave the house and go to work, and his job is to protect the house, chew on some of his toys and sleep (lucky dog).
  6. Calmly Return Home. Don’t make a big deal about coming home either. Yes, your dog is excited to see you and you to see him, but the more excited you are upon returning home, the more your dog is going to be excited, resulting in a barking and jumping dog. Calmly say hello to your dog and move on to normal activities. Pet him only after he calms down. Don’t give the excited dog attention.

Related Articles:
Top 5 Reasons to Take Your Dog for a Walk
How to Be a Pack Leader for Your Dog
Why Should I Crate Train My Dog
How to Crate Train Your Dog or Puppy in 3 Easy Steps

What Should I Do If My Dog Already Has Separation Anxiety?

First, follow everything that you read above.

  • Do not punish your dog for accidents or chewing after you come home. Your dog has no connection to your punishment and something that happened 3 hours ago. Actually, don’t punish your dog for anything you can not catch him in the act for. Even if it was 5 minutes ago.
  • Consider essential oils, such as lavender and calming oils. Rubbing on the dog’s paws before leaving can help calm your dog.  There are also calming collars available, which uses pheromone technology. The Pheromone is a scent that a mother dog uses with her puppies, and is said to help dogs with anxiety issues. Adaptil makes several options from collars to sprays, to room diffusers.
  • Start desensitizing to show your dog how to be comfortable when left alone. Leave your dog alone for a few minutes at a time and return quietly without paying attention to him. Slowly increase the time you leave by 5 minutes over days, weeks and months. Take it as slow as your dog needs. If you leave for 5 minutes and he’s stressed, then leave for 2 minutes and go from there.

My vet says I should give my dog medication to help calm him down, what should I do?
I certainly am not qualified to assess your dog’s medical needs. But please do your research, before deciding to medicate. Many vets won’t take the time to offer natural solutions, similar to doctors, prescribing a medication is often their first solution. So it is up to us as dog owners to do our own research on separation anxiety. Don’t use medication as an easy way out, that isn’t fair to your dog! If you’ve tried every natural remedy available, medication may be your last resort. And you shouldn’t feel guilty for this, you need to keep your dog healthy and happy, and medication may help.

Should I get another dog to keep my current dog company?
There isn’t a yes or no answer to this. Some dogs will do better if they have a friend to stay with. But there is also the possibility that the new dog will not help, or has or develops separation anxiety too… now you have two dogs with issues! If your dog is dog-friendly, maybe try dog sitting for a friends dog for a few days to see if it helps. Or consider fostering a dog, that way you aren’t committed long-term to a new dog.

P.S. I would love to hear how these tips helped you and your dog! Comment below to tell Rescue Dogs 101 community all about it.

About the Author Debi@RescueDogs101

Debi McKee is a dog mom, volunteer foster dog home, and lifetime dog lover. Debi’s mission is to guide you through every step of your dog journey, from adopting the perfect dog for you and your family, to training your dog and keeping your dog happy and healthy. Sign up for our free resource library of must-have resources, containing valuable downloads to help you in your dog journey.

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