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 until they are faced with the reality their dog has SA (separation anxiety).
I honestly never realized separation anxiety was an issue for dogs until we adopted our dog JJ in 2010 (pictured above). 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.
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.
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.
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!
Dog Separation Anxiety Training
Finding a dog trainer that is local and specializes in dog separation anxiety isn’t always easy nor will it be cheap.
Make sure to find a dog trainer that has experience with separation anxiety and check references.
We 100% recommend Spirit Dog’s Tackling Reactivity Bundle. The bundle includes Separation Anxiety Solutions, along with other courses that will assist you in every aspect of your dogs anxiety.
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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 How to crate train my dog in 3 easy steps.
- 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).
- 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.
What Should I Do If My Rescue 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.
Dog Separation Anxiety Treatments and Solutions
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.
1. Dog Crate for 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.
2. Toys for Separation Anxiety
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:
- A Frozen Kong is the classic, and most recommended. Stuffing it with peanut butter and freezing it will help prolong the enjoyment.
PetSafe Busy Buddy Calming Toy is scented with Chamomile.
3. Calming Treats for Anxiety
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.
- PremiumCare Hemp Oil Infused Calming Treats for Dogs
- Zesty Paws Calming Treats
- PetHonesty Calming Treats for Dogs
4. Calming Jacket or Vest for Separation Anxiety
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.
5. Natural Pheromone Dog Collars and Diffusers
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.
- Adaptil Calming Pheromone Collar
- Pet Essential Oil Diffuser Necklace For Dog Collar Aromatherapy
- Comfort Zone Adaptil Diffuser Kit
6. Music for Dogs with Separation Anxiety
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!
- Calm My Pet Calming Music
- iCalmDog 5.0c Portable Speaker + 5-hrs clinically-Tested Calming Music
- Pet Tunes Bluetooth Speaker Preloaded with Calming Canine Music
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.
Dog Separation Anxiety Drugs and Medication
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.
There is no magic ‘cure’ for dog separation anxiety. Don’t use drugs as an easy way out… do some research and find the best solution for your unique situation.
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.
Will Adopting Another Dog Help?
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.
Check out Spirit Dog’s Online Tackling Reactivity Bundle to help you with your dogs Separation Anxiety.
Now it’s your turn…
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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Hi Debi, my daughter and I bought two pups at 8 weeks old. They are now 5.5 years old and my daughter has been away for over 5 years and would like to have her dog. The two dogs are really good with friends and definitely with each other and my home is the only home they know and me. She wants to take him on the plane and personally I feel we shouldn’t separate them. I feel it would be selfish to split them up. Would,I’ve to hear what you would do or any suggestions. Thank you 🙏
I have had my rescue dog for 11 months, she was settling nicely in my home and out of the blue things have gone backwards. I can’t think of a reason why. She loves her runs off the lead but every time she gets back near the house things change. Her tail goes between her legs she runs upstairs and hides.she doesn’t even want to go in the garden any more, we have to put her slip lead on her to encourage her. Even if we go with her she is anxious to go in. She constantly looks around the room and up at the ceiling like something has spooked her.She won’t play and doesn’t want to come near us. I don’t know what to do. Any suggestion please. She was doing so well and now seems so stressed.
The first thing that comes to mind is to rule out any health issues. I’d make an appointment with your vet. There are so many variables, could be something totally random that happened in the house, the smallest detail… Try to work with her inside, creating a positive association, training, treats, etc.
We should make sure that our pet gets plenty of exercise every day. When we leave, an exhausted, content dog will be less anxious. It is critical to stimulate our pet's mind. Play fetch and training games with your dog. Use puzzles that we can manipulate. Exercise both their bodies and their minds. That will keep them occupied, content, and exhausted while we are away.
We've always had two dogs growing up, it was always a fact of life. First it was Holiday and Maggie, then Maisey and Skipper. Now, our nine-year-old Maisey and four-year-old Taters are the dogs of the house.
I can't remember much about Maisey's behavior when she was younger, though now I am very aware that she has separation anxiety. She would whine and cry when Mom would leave the house, or when she was just outside the fence and Maisey couldn't see her. She's gotten better, I think, and doesn't automatically howl our ears of the moment our mom is away. We used to think this was just a Maisey Problem, but then Quarantine hit.
While spending a year at home with only hour-long-trips away to the store and such, the dogs got used to always having us around. Now that things are going back to how they were and we're leaving the house more often, we've realized that both Maisey and Taters have gotten severe anxiety when we're away, though it appears Tater has gotten much more extreme. One night, after being away for only a few hours to have dinners with friends, we came home to find that Tater had jumped through the window on our back porch. When we came home from a four-day vacation, which she spent at a dog day care, she was so happy to be home with us that she vomited all over my bedroom carpet. (By the way, why do they only throw up or pee on carpets? Not once has any dog I've known done it on the hardwood floor. Maybe they think its grass or something?) Just this Sunday, my dad was out of town, I was at work, and my mom and sister went to visit friends for a few hours, and when everyone got home we found that she had chewed the doorframe of our porch door, the window she had probably been trying to bust in, and also noticed some older marks from where she chewed the side door.
Our dad's been beyond furious, but it's hard for us to train this behavior because it only happens when we're away, and we're very on edge about purchasing any products. I'm definitely going to look into some of the stuff listed here, but if you have any further tips I would be incredibly relieved to hear them! Thank you and stay safe all!
|I got my rescue dog (yorkie/jack russell cross) about 6 weeks ago. He is really well behaved in every respect EXCEPT being left alone. I don't go out much anyway but had a hospital appointment and was out for 45 minutes the first time I left him. I put him in the kitchen but to my horror on my return he had trashed the ceiling to floor blinds on my tri-fold doors, he also tried to escape from the sink window, having got up via the somewhat fragile bin, and while up there he knocked ornaments off the winow sill, damaging them.
I then thought that maybe a cage was the answer but the first cage was a doddle for him to escape from. (again damaging my effects). So I went heavy duty which is an overkill for such a small dog, but after two weeks he still hasnt escaped tho he isnt happy about it and is very very distressed. Ive followed all the advice of building up from 5 minutes etc and to not fuss him on my return, but he barks profusely I am told. I got kongs, licky mats with peanut butter etc but no joy. I asked my vet's advice who wasnt really interested and said "talk to a behaviourist".
One other problem is that he cannot cope with lively TV – I'm a pensioner and by lively I mean Tipping Point or Pointless, He hates them both and shakes violently. What AM I going to do with him?!!
I’m so sorry you are going through this Dorothy. I know how frustrating it can be. It sounds like a pretty severe case of separation anxiety. I recommend following this website: https://malenademartini.com. I’m not affiliated with them but they specialize in separation anxiety and may be able to help you better than I can.
Hello Debi! I have a four year old dog that was trained specifically to be my service animal. I now do not need to take her everywhere and she has severe separation anxiety. She seems to do okay outside of the cage barking wise (still whines sometimes) if I left her alone, but goes potty inside almost every time. She likes to sit on the back of the couch or on the bench to look out the windows or door. In the cage, she excessively barks to the point where cops got called multiple times. Now she has a bark collar where she whines uncontrollably as well, tries to chew through the cage (worried she will choke herself at some point as she tries to stick her head out) and sometimes a blanket (even though recently she hasn’t been chewing on a blanket) and usually goes potty inside of it. Throughout the pandemic I was around all the time which made it harder since I now go to work again. Two members in my family are home with her while I’m gone, so I don’t get a lot of opportunity to leave her completely alone. They couldn’t stand the barking and whining and just leave her out while I’m gone. I have made sure that she is eating her food inside the crate, as I heard it can help and she is food motivated. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I’m going to buy those calming treats and try music for now. I will also take her on a walk if I know I’m going to leave as well. I look forward to your response! I’m sorry for the long message.
I would make sure the dog is getting enough exercise, physical and mental. Have your family help with more, even when you are home. This should help her feel more comfortable when she is home with them and you are at work. If and when you have exhausted all options you can talk to your vet about anxiety meds.
Debi, having adopted numerous dogs over our 41+ year marriage, we’ve seen separation anxiety with many of them (especially the particularly affectionate ones) and every one has overcome it eventually without chemical help. I realize many people want an ‘instant fix’ but time, training, exercise, and patience is IMO the best solution. Perhaps some dogs need chemical help, but we’ve never adopted one.
My daughter adapted a lab mix and he is so sweet, except for his anxiety issues when she leaves to go to work, he has chewed out of his crate and the frame around the back door is were he goes to try and get out…..He chews all his blankets and beds in his crate, even the plastic ones. He acts like he’s mad because she left. When she is home he is just as sweet as can be. I’ve tried all the diffusers and collars and natural meds nothing works….What can we do?
Have you tried any of the other suggestions in the post? Desensitizing? Music? Is he getting the proper amount exercise?
I have a foster poodle age 6, whose owner died 6 a couple of months ago—he was alone in the house with her body for five days. He has been in two other foster homes but his howling and barking have resulted in the fosters telling me he couldn’t stay. He came with chewable Anxitane pills, containing L-Theanine, to calm him, and he’s been getting 1/2 pill twice a day. The other fosters said he eventually stopped the perpetual howling, except when they had to leave the house. Yesterday when he arrived he howled and barked constantly, but when I allowed him in the bed last night he settled down nicely and slept through the night; so far this morning he’s been quiet. I have two other dogs of my own and a foster pup 6 months old, and he’s getting along with them and our 6 cats with no problem. I just want to be able to leave the house without causing a ruckus, as my husband has been tolerant so far but I don’t want to make him miserable. I plan to take the poodle with me when I can, and try to get him more socialized (also hoping someone will fall in love with him, he’s really cute). His owner lived alone, never left the house and life was just sitting on the couch watching TV. Any suggestions?
Unfortunately there is not a quick-fix for separation anxiety. It takes time and patience. Hopefully you can find someone that can be home with him to help train him to understand it’s okay to be alone. Remember, he’s lived 6 years never being alone.
HI! I am fostering a rescue dog and have had her for 4 days now(hoping to adopt her). I have another rescue dog and this dog I got as a playmate for my first dog. They get along fine and are starting to play really well together and I do crate her(she hates it)when I go away but the problem I am having is when I go upstairs at night to sleep. The dogs are not allowed upstairs and even though the first night I left her in the crate, she nearly killed herself in it and nobody got any sleep. I have been sleeping downstairs with the dogs for the past few nights but that has got to stop sometime. She is OK when she is outside with the other dog but if I go outside or even to the bathroom and she is in the house, she goes nuts. I know that I have not had her for very long but I want it to work and I am in need of some ideas to ease her discomfort when she cannot see me while in the house. It is kind of a weird type of separation anxiety situation and I have had a lot of dogs in 45 years and have seen a lot of separation anxiety cases but nothing like this. Any help would be great. My other dog is just great but she is not much help with the new dog in this situation even though they get along really well. Maybe it is just a time thing. Thanks, Kathy Hess and Annabelle
Kathy, every dog deals with stress in different ways. I would continue to slowly build up the time you spend away from her. By “goes nuts” what exactly is she doing? Barking, tearing stuff up, what? I recommend reading: How and Why Crate Train Your Dog in 3 Easy Steps. And also join our Facebook group for rescue dog parents… you may find comfort in talking with others in similar situations. https://www.facebook.com/groups/690535831406635/
Considering a rescue dog that is still living with owner. However, dog has major issues with thunderstorms. Currently on medication. At the same time, dog is left alone most of the time due to family kids activities and such. Family wants to do what’s best and rehome dog. This dog is not from a shelter and I still need to ask more questions. Could the issue with thunder storms be because of lack of attention? What do I ask and who should I speak with other then the family, the rescue people, current vet to help make sure that we do right by my family and for the dog??? Help!
We adopted our Frenchie a year & a half ago…he was owner surrendered due to his separation anxiety so we were aware of the issues. We have been working to get him crate trained for about 2-3 months & he was doing amazing…then we went on vacation & left him with family member that he was familiar with. They left him for a few hours to go to the store & he chewed through the crate like he did for his previous owners hence why he barely has any teeth. We have tried everything on the market for separation anxiety & none of it works! We are working on crate training again, but I think he will eventually need a daily prescription. I’m thinking of hiring a trainer to come work with us at our house, but at what cost? Eeeeek! I’m definitely the one he wants to protect & I think he sees me as the alpha over my husband, but maybe not if he’s trying to protect me? Any suggest are appreciated
My rescue displays all these signs when I leave her side just to go to the bathroom. Hopefully some of your tips/tricks will help calm her down. She whines excessively if shes not right next to me, she will try to break down anything in her way to get to me. I am REALLY hoping some of these help. She really needs help and I don’t want to see her hurting herself.
Hi Tonya, Remember to be patient with her. And I too hope some of these tips help you!
Great tips. Thanks. Is panting heavily & farting part of anxiety. My rescue gets worried when i leave the room. Its only his first daY but im pleased to say hes accepted the crate & enters it himself. How can i reduce his panting..
Panting can a sign of separation anxiety, but since you’ve only had him one day, then he needs more time to adjust to his new environment. Please read Bringing Home a Rescue Dog and the 3-3-3 Rule.
Really important tips. I think it will help me a lot.
So glad you found it helpful.
Regular exercise is the best solution