Dog Separation Anxiety: How You Can Help

Dog Separation Anxiety: How You Can Help

You have found this article, so you might be familiar with the term dog separation anxiety and probably have an idea of what it is about. Ask yourself: Does your dog get extremely excited when you come home after a long day of absence? Does your dog get nervous when you leave the house? Does your dog chew your shoes, urinate all over the house or claw the door during your absence? If your answer is yes to all these questions, your dog may have separation anxiety.

What is Dog Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a common problem most dog owners face – they usually complain about how destructive their dog gets when left alone. Sometimes, it could mean that their dog needs to be taught basic house manners, and other times it could mean that their dog is anxious when they want to leave the house. Separation anxiety occurs when dogs are upset or sad when separated from their guardians because the dog is very attached to his or her owner. It involves a lot more than your dog being up to some mischief when you are gone or whining when you are leaving.

Sometimes, dogs with separation anxiety may attempt to escape, and this could result in household destruction and even injuries, especially at exit points like windows and doors. Some dogs display distress behaviors to prevent their owner from leaving the house. The condition can be very serious, and it sometimes even causes dog owners to give up their dogs because they get frustrated.

Dog separation anxiety is a common issue faced by many dog owners, and it is a stressful situation to go through. Keep reading to find out more about separation anxiety and how you can help your dog.

How You Can Help a Dog with Separation Anxiety

You should know that dogs can get a little destructive when they have separation anxiety – urinating, chewing, defecating, howling, digging, and trying to escape – simply because they do not want you to leave. As stated above, you can do a few things to help your dog with separation anxiety. You first need to understand why your dog is acting the way they are – what exactly the trigger is.

Working through separation anxiety may take a lot of patience and some time, but it is possible. Let us look at some common symptoms you should look for to know whether your dog has separation anxiety.

Symptoms of Separation Anxiety

These are the common signs that may indicate separation anxiety. Most of these signs are done in the absence of the dog owners.

Excessive Barking, Whining, or Howling

When a dog with separation anxiety is separated from their owner or is left alone, they may bark, whine and howl excessively. It is usually always persistent, and as expected, it is triggered by the fact that they are left alone.

Digging Holes, Chewing Things Up, and Causing Destruction

This is another symptom of dog separation anxiety. When left alone, your dog may destroy different items in the house or chew on different objects. They could also dig at doorways and doors in order to try and escape, and all of these are usually done in their owner’s absence. This destructive behavior can lead to injuries such as damaged nails and broken teeth.


If a dog is exhibiting this symptom because they have separation anxiety, they do it in their owner’s absence. It involves pacing in an obsessive or fixed pattern, and it could either be back and forth in a straight line or in a circular motion.


This occurs when a dog defecates and eats their feces afterward, and it is a symptom of dog separation anxiety that is usually done in the absence of their owner.

Treatment of Dog Separation Anxiety

Depending on how intense your dog’s anxiety is, there are a few different ways to go about treating it.

Treatment for Mild Separation Anxiety

If your dog has mild separation anxiety, the best treatment for them is counterconditioning – a treatment process whereby an animal’s adverse reaction is changed to a pleasant one. It may reduce or completely solve the problem. It involves associating what the animal fears (could be a place or even a person) with something the animal loves. As time goes on, your dog will realize that being alone is not so bad after all, and it brings good things.

The best thing for you to do for a dog with separation anxiety is to associate being alone with some nice things that your dog loves, and here are some ways to do that.

  • Don’t announce when you leave your house and come back like you usually do. When you return, give your dog no attention and ignore them for a while.
  • Leave your clothes out when you are gone – the clothes should be recently worn with your scent all over them.
  • Anytime you leave the house, give your furry friend a special treat (such as a food puzzle or food-stuffed toy).  When you get home, take the treat away from them as it is advisable only to provide them when you are not around.

Treatment for Moderate to Severe Separation Anxiety

For moderate and severe cases of separation anxiety, a few treats will not do the trick. You will need a much more complex counterconditioning program to help your dog. The best thing to do is to get your dog used to your absence by starting with short separations that are not likely to produce anxiety and increasing it over time to get your dog used to it.

Your dog may be used to your tiny habits when you are about to leave the house, like putting on your shoes, and they will surely get nervous when they see you doing that. So, when you put on your shoes, do not leave the house like you usually do – fry some eggs to eat or watch TV for a little while. Turn this into an everyday routine.

Your dog will start to feel less anxious over time; this is when you can slowly start to leave. First, try leaving and closing the door behind you. Then stay for a few seconds before coming back into the house. As time goes on, you should slowly increase the time you will be gone because your dog will gradually get used to it.

There are times when behavior modification medications and visits with a veterinary behaviorist are the very best ways to manage separation anxiety. Your veterinarian can guide you as to when these options should be pursued.


Dog separation anxiety can be stressful for every dog owner as it is not an easy task to deal with. In cases like this, you should first contact your veterinarian to confirm if your dog has separation anxiety. Then, you can try any treatment methods above depending on whether your dog has mild, moderate, or severe anxiety. Lastly, consider how your dog could feel in situations like this – it will surely be difficult for your dog, so do not be too hard on him.

If you are concerned about your dog’s separation anxiety, reach out to Wilmington Animal Hospital in Wilmington, DE at (302) 762-2694!