How To Stop Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety for Good

Separation anxiety can wreak havoc on your home, your peace, and your relationship with your dog, which is why treating it in a timely manner is so essential. No one wants to come home to ripped-up bed sheets, poop and pee on the floor, or worse: a dog that injured himself because he was in such distress about you leaving the house. Luckily there are several ways to treat separation anxiety, and some may not be what you think. Old methods of curing this phenomenon have been de-bunked, so here are the latest and greatest ways to scientifically end your dog’s separation anxiety for good. 

What are the signs of dog separation anxiety? 

There is a difference between a dog who doesn’t like to be left alone and a dog with separation anxiety. True separation anxiety can be defined by ONLY urinating and defecating in the home when the owner isn’t present or refusing to eat or drink when their human isn’t home. It can mean being destructive out of fear only when their human is gone. Otherwise, they haven’t learned to pee in the house or chew things up, which is another problem. You can also identify true separation anxiety by a large amount of anxiety before you leave and extreme happiness when you arrive home. 

Curing dog separation anxiety quickly can be pursued by using these simple steps: 

Crate training

Dog separation anxiety crate training should look vastly different than you think it should. I have heard the term, “let him cry it out.” This method can work for puppies who want to get in your bed at night, but it harms a dog with true separation anxiety. When dealing with a tried and true fear of being alone, it is important that you slowly get your dog to LIKE the kennel. Feed your dog in the kennel with the door open. Please give them a kong in the kennel while you are still there. The kennel should never be used as punishment. It should be their friend. You want your dog to associate positive things with the kennel, not being forced in there to be left alone for a few hours while they desperately try and escape. 

Desensitizing and counter-conditioning: 

You will want to desensitize your dog to being alone and even condition them to like it. To do this, you can use a treat they ONLY get when you leave. Give it to them right before your departure, and they may start looking forward to your leaving. Another thing you are going to want to do is to start by only leaving them for short periods. You can gradually increase the time you are gone as they get more comfortable with it. This shows them that you are indeed coming back, and you haven’t left them to starve and fend for themselves in the temperature-controlled home with fresh water you left them in. You can also counter-condition them by doing what you do when you leave when you are not leaving. You can pick up your keys and put them down again. Grab your shoes but don’t leave the house. The point of this is to detach those things from your leaving. This will decrease their anxiety when you grab their shoes and keys to leave home. 

Playing it cool

When you leave, it’s important not to make such a big deal. You want it to seem like you aren’t leaving forever and show them that it’s normal for you to leave and that you will be right back. You can also help them become less scared of you leaving by playing, “the door is a bore.” This game is where you go in and out the front door many times until they lay down and look at you like “silly hooman.” When they get desensitized to your departure, leaving them alone for long periods won’t be quite as hard. 

        Exercise and mental stimulation

These two are essential to any dog’s routine, but keeping a dog with anxiety’s mind distracted and their body active, so they are one tired pup works wonders for soothing separation anxiety. 

Medication/supplements: 

Dog separation anxiety medication can be a useful tool for a dog that could use some chill. Several products on the market can help with this, including CBD, meds from your vet, or even pheromone collars or diffusers designed to help ease your pet. 


Dog separation anxiety training takes time and patience; re-wiring their brain not to panic when you leave the house will take some structure. Keeping them on a schedule during this training is ideal, but it is only possible for some dog owners based on their work schedule, etc. Finding what works best for you and your dog is key! 


What causes separation anxiety? 

Many myths about having your dog in your bed or spending too much time with them cause separation anxiety. This is false. The more your dog trusts you, the more likely they will be calm in the home. Leaving them for short periods as a puppy is recommended, but most people have to run an errand or do something without their dog occasionally, so there is rarely a dog who has NEVER been left alone. Separation anxiety is caused by biological factors and changes in the home, like an abrupt schedule change and how long they have been left alone or being with a new guardian they do not trust to come back yet. 


How long does it take to fix dog separation anxiety? 

Separation anxiety is a treatable condition; the average time for a dog to become comfortable being alone using these methods is around two months. 


Dog separation anxiety toys 

Dog separation anxiety can be soothed through distractions, but distractions alone won’t cure the condition. Toys such as a dog puzzle toy, snuffle ball, or kong can be useful tools to keep your pup happy, healthy, and mentally stimulated, which can prevent separation anxiety. Each of these toys makes your dog work for their food and use their sense of smell and brain to find all the pieces. 


Is separation anxiety easy to treat? 

Lucky for dog owners who struggle with this all over the world, separation anxiety has a high rate of treatment success. Unfortunately, it is also a leading cause of surrendering dogs to shelters because of the vast amount of misinformation. With a little patience and a lot of love, your dog can and will become well-adjusted and able to have some zen in the household as they wait for you to get home. 


What not to do: the threshold

Dog separation anxiety accidents happen. The worst thing you can do is punish a dog for being anxious. Also, whether they peed or pooped 8 hours or 30 minutes ago, dogs cannot associate pooping that long ago with the actual poop. They may act scared or “guilty” because they know that the poop being there will make you mad, but they cannot connect the dots that squatting down 7 hours ago made it get left there. Please pick it up, and plan to potty train your dog the right way. Leaving a dog to “cry it out” in a crate is also a big mistake because this will make them HATE the crate because they will associate negative experiences with it. Leaving a dog in a crate over its anxiety threshold is a big no-no. Anxious dogs can hurt themselves if they are left in a crate because they will go into panic mode. It’s important to take it slow and allow your dog to trust that you are coming back before leaving them there for long periods. 


Conclusion


Separation anxiety is 100% treatable; even if your dog has a genetic tendency towards anxiety, they CAN learn to be calm in the home. We can give you the tools and tips, but you will have to provide the time and patience to make your furry friend the best they can be. Dogs look up to us in so many ways; they don’t know that you will be back soon unless you teach them. Dog training is not a journey for the faint-hearted, but it is oh-so-worth it to see that progress and see your pup thrive