A Guide to Separation Anxiety for Dogs and Owners

Separation anxiety for dogs is very real and sometimes dangerous. When your dog loses his nerves even if you leave for a few minutes, he has a behavioral problem. In some cases, dogs can even harm themselves, like jumping through glass windows.

The main signs are:

  • Scratching doors or windows, digging and chewing.
  • Excessive barking and howling.
  • Accidents even after house-training.

Alleviating your dog's anxiety requires patience. Canine behavior patterns can be changed, but it requires altering your behavior pattern as well.

Gradually Detach

While any dog is sad when you leave, one that goes overboard needs special care. Separation anxiety for dogs is similar to an abandonment complex in humans.

Owners have success when they separate from their dogs slowly. It's gradually getting your pet used to the idea of your absence and that you will return.

Start by taking your dog to a separate part of the house. Give him a treat and then leave the room for a minute, shutting the door behind you. Repeat this process and increase the time you spend apart. Eventually, he will get used to your return and stay calmer.

Strategies for Leaving the House

After your dog becomes accustomed to being in another part of the house without you, step it up a notch by leaving the house for short periods of time.

At first he will act as if you've been gone for weeks, but take care not to baby your dog. Don't make it a big deal that you're leaving the house. Likewise, be just as calm when you return. By using the proper tone and behavior, you will communicate that it's normal for him to be alone for a limited time.

Ease separation anxiety for dogs with these tips:

  • Leave a light on to provide a sense of comfort.
  • Turn on the radio: hearing another voice provides company for some dogs when they're home alone.
  • Leave your dog a special treat that you rarely give him; he will look forward to getting this treat more than the fact that you're leaving.
  • Walk him before you leave, and he's likely to sleep the entire time you're gone.

Consider Medication

For some owners, giving their dogs medication is a last resort for tough cases. Prescription drugs that stimulate a brain chemical called Serotonin are popular treatments for overly anxious behavior. If nothing seems to quell your dog's anxiety, medications like these can help.

Other widely recommended drugs are Amitriptyline (Elavil) or BuSpur, which helps normalize nervous behavior. Avoid treating separation anxiety for dogs with tranquilizers, which only makes them sleepy instead of less anxious.

More Ways to Relieve Anxiety:

  • Get another dog. In some cases, having another pet in the home provides company and companionship for your dog while you're away.
  • Try crate-training. For some dogs, being inside a crate melts away their fear and anxiety. Give it a try. However, if you sense your dog being uncomfortable with this, don't force it because he can hurt himself.
  • Learn what household items can trigger separation anxiety for dogs. Sure-fire panic buttons are suitcases, pocketbooks, keys and jackets - all signs that you're getting ready to leave.
  • Expose pets to the "panic" items even when you're not going anywhere. Put your keys in your pocket and let them jingle around while playing with your dog. Slip a biscuit in your suitcase and let your dog try and find it. Your dog will then start dissociating these as "panic" items.