Separation Anxiety in Dogs and How to Help

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Do you have a dog that experiences separation anxiety? Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs are separated from their guardians, the people they’re attached to for a short or long period of time. Dogs have a pact instinct and they find comfort in numbers. When left alone they can became anxious and confused and may develop destructive behaviors or attitudes. Some of the most common forms of separation anxiety are barking/howling, chewing, urinating or defecating in the house, pacing or even trying to escape. But separation anxiety doesn’t always just stem from being alone- it can be a contributing factor to another underlying reason or cause.

So what causes separation anxiety?

Though, there is no conclusive evidence showing exactly why dogs develop separation anxiety –there are many factors that can cause or contribute to the feeling of nervousness in a pet. Many dogs reach an age when they not only want, but feel the need to be with us, this is especially true if your dog spent a majority of time with its humans as a puppy and younger dog. Other contributing factors can include:

  • Changes in Schedule
  • Moving into a New Home
  • Changes in Ownership
  • Medication
  • Extended Periods of Being Alone

What can I do to alleviate separation anxiety in my dog?

Establish a Routine

Dogs need routine, especially when they exhibit anxious behaviors or nervousness. Begin by making the day calmer and more predictable whether you are home or away. Establishing a daily routine will allow your dog to begin to predict when they can expect attention (exercise, feeding, training, play and bathroom breaks). It will also teach your dog when they should be napping or having self-play time. In other words, they should be prepared when they are not getting the attention of their owner or family.


One of the best cures for separation anxiety comes from obedience training and discipline. Dogs are much smarter than we realize and they often recognize that they are exhibiting wrong behavior without us even indicating it. Training and letting your pet know what is good behavior and what is bad behavior shows what is expected of them and encourages good behavior to become a habit.

Prepare for your Departure

Exercise and active play are encouraged before departure. Spending 15 to 30 minutes with your dog will not only help to tire your pup out, but will encourage happiness- alleviating stress, stimulation and connection to its environment. When you leave your pet, do not make a fuss. After getting your car keys and putting your shoes on, leave the house and re-enter. The goal is to slowly extend the period in which you are away from your pet. When you go into another room, tell your pup to stay. This will help to calm them and not assume every time you get your car keys or put your shoes on that you are leaving. You can even try leaving from and coming into different doors.


Unfortunately, there are times when no amount of preparation and training will help, especially with older dogs that are set in their ways and have spent a lifetime developing certain behaviors. Medications such as amitriptyline, which is used to treat depression, or alprazolam, which is used for anxiety and panic disorders may be prescribed by your veterinary to ease anxiety.

Herbal & Homeopathic Treatments

Another option and an increasingly popular with pet owners is natural supplements and homeopathic treatments. These may include St. John’s Wort, amino acid L-theanine, chamomile, passionflower, and valerian root. These supplements will help your pet to feel a sense of calm without the side effects of medication. It is best to speak to your veterinary before giving your dog any kind of supplement.

What NOT to Do

Do not scold or punish your dog. Anxious behaviors are not the result of disobedience or spite. They are signs of distress in your pet. A dog doesn’t know how to cope with stress or anxiety and so begins to show anxious or destructive behaviors. Yelling at or punishing your pet will only make them increasingly more upset and can make the problem much worse.

Please have patience with your little one as they do not understand emotions like we do. Separation anxiety can be overcome with consistency – some dogs can be turned around fairly quickly, with others it takes time, patience, and stability.

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