You come home to find that your dog has escaped his crate and destroyed the couch. Or pacing and drooling in his crate so bad it’s flooded with saliva. And maybe the neighbors complain your dog is barking all day long!
These are all symptoms of a dog with severe separation anxiety.
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 urinate in the house, even though he was potty trained.
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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 these were all separation anxiety symptoms. 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.
I know from personal experience how frustrating it is when you have a dog with extreme separation anxiety. You will find all the tips and information you need to help your rescue dog and his separation anxiety, right here.
I also highly recommend reading I’ll be Home Soon: How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety by Patricia B. McConnell Ph.D.
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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The common milestones your new dog or puppy will go through will be the first 3 days after bringing your dog home from the shelter, then 3 weeks, then 3 months.
Download this beautiful PDF as a reminder as you transition with your new rescue dog.
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!
How do you prevent separation anxiety in your rescue dog? Check out these 6 easy training steps you can take to keep your dog happy and healthy while being left alone at home.
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First, follow everything that you read above.
There are many products available to help dogs with extreme separation anxiety. These can help alleviate destructive chewing, barking and other unwanted behaviors. Please remember, there is no magic “cure” for separation anxiety. I recommend the below products to help ease your dogs anxiety and suffering. Training your dog to learn that it is okay to be left at home is key to truly helping him.
All the products I mentioned in this article are listed in my Amazon shop: Dogs with Separation Anxiety.
Some dogs with separation anxiety will do everything in their power to escape the crate. But the crate keeps them safe from eating and chewing on things that could be toxic. If you have a dog that is an escape artist, you need to search out a heavy-duty dog crate. I recommend the Gelinzon Heavy Duty Dog Kennel.
Keeping your dogs mind occupied will help during times he needs to be along. Just be careful not to leave your dog unattended with a toy that he could choke on if destroyed. Here are just a few dog toys available that should help:
PetSafe Busy Buddy Calming Toy is scented with Chamomile.
Hemp has been making a huge impact on how we can treat our dogs anxiety. There are some great natural options for you to choose from. These are great for any type of anxiety your dog may exhibit.
Calming vests apply an even hugging pressure around your dog. Many dogs respond well to this solution and others don’t. Another idea is to leave something with your scent, like the shirt you wore the day before, with the dog when you leave.
Calming collars work by using natural chemical called Pheromone. Do not expect instant results. It usually takes a few weeks to notice a difference in your dogs behavior.
Playing music has been proven to help a dog with separation anxiety! Some people claim their dog does best with classical music, and many others vow by country music. You can just leave the radio on, or you can try one of these specialized music players for your dog!
I have also read a story about a man that recorded his own voice and looped the recording every time he left. Every dog is unique, so I recommend testing what works best for your dog!
To make it easier for you, I have listed all the products I mentioned in this article in my Amazon shop: Dogs with Separation Anxiety.
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 or aren’t aware of all the natural solutions. Prescribing a medication is often their first solution. It is up to you as your dogs parent to do our own research on separation anxiety and what the best way is to help your unique situation.
Some common medications prescribed to dogs with anxiety are: Alprazolam, Amitriptyline, Buspirone, Clomicalm, Diazepam, Fluoxetine, Lorazepam, Paroxetine, Sertraline, Sileo.
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.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, our vet prescribed, our dog JJ, Fluoxetine. Looking back, I wish I had tried more natural remedies first. Hindsight 20/20.
I hear this question a lot! 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. 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. Maybe consider fostering a dog, that way you aren’t committed long-term to a new dog. Read about how to introduce a second dog.
Leave a comment below to tell me about your dog’s separation anxiety. By sharing your situation, it could help someone else in our community with the same problem or question. I always reply to comments, so let’s start a conversation…
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Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, two dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.