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.
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.
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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