Does my dog have Separation Anxiety?

Posted by GardenState
Aug 9, 2007
I have not had my dog all that long, and when I leave for the day to go to work I am afraid what I might find when I return. He starts to look anxious before I have even left the house, and I can hear him crying from my driveway. For the past few days I have come home to shredded pillows, chewed up shoes and even poop! I was told that my dog was totally housetrained, so when I called the breeder she said that maybe my dog was suffering from separation anxiety. How do I stop him from behaving this way. I feel terrible leaving him on his own!
Posted by anniepup
Aug 9, 2007
Hi there,

Yes, it does sound as though your new dog is suffering from Separation Anxiety. This is a common problem, but one that is quite distressing for both dog and owner.

There are a number of things that I can suggest to help with this situation.

Firstly, you want to start desensitizing your dog. You can do this by making your arrivals and departures very low key. If you make a big deal out of leaving and coming back home, it will be more stressful for your dog when you are not there. However, if you quietly leave the house and come home again, your dog is less likely to get all worked up. If your dog starts to get stressed when you are about to leave the house, you should just ignore this behavior. The same applies when you arrive back home. If he goes crazy with excitement when you come through the door, ignore him until he calms down. By paying him attention when he is anxious or flipping out, you are only reinforcing the behavior, so it is important to ignore it completely.

You can also try desensitizing your dog by practicing leaving the house. Grab your coat and your keys just as you might do any other day and walk out the door. However, wait for 5 minutes and come back in again. Praise your dog for calm behavior. Later in the day, try this again, but wait for 10 minutes. Try to do this a number of times throughout the day, gradually extending the time you are spending out of the house. Practice this as much as possible and hopefully your dog will start to understand that you leaving the house is not really a big deal.

There are other things that I can suggest that will hopefully help with your dog’s separation anxiety.

- Before you leave in the morning, try taking your dog for a brisk walk, or even better, for a 30 minute jog. If you tire your dog out, he is more likely to spend a large part of the day sleeping, and therefore is more relaxed.

- Try leaving the radio or television on – the voices will help keep your dog company.

- Leave a piece of your clothing with your dog. . Your distinct smell on that piece of clothing will hopefully ease your dog’s anxiety.

- Make sure that your dog has lots of toys to play with. Chew toys are great because they provide your dog with something to keep him busy, and therefore his mind off the fact that you are not home.

- Try leaving your dog confined to one room. Some dogs find this less stressful than being allowed to roam the entire house.

- If possible, have a friend or neighbor come visit your dog while you are at work. If this is not possible, you might like to hire a dog walker.

- If you have a friend with a dog, you could organize an all day play date.

- You may want to consult your vet about drug therapy. I would recommend that you ask about Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) treatment. I have heard that this is extremely effective. This pheromone calms dog’s nerves. DAP comes as a vaporizer that you plug into a wall socket, the vaporizer then releases small amounts of DAP into the room. You can buy DAP from a well-stocked pet store or several on-line pet stores.

- Alternatively you could try putting a few drops of Rescue Remedy into your dog’s water bowl. Rescue Remedy is great for easing tension in both humans and animals.

I hope this helps. Best wishes from the Kingdom of Pets Team!