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5 Easy Tips to Help Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

It’s that time of year again… the kids have gone back to school after an action packed summer. It’s been fun for the children, and Buster has been so happy with the extra attention and playtime. Then one day, his world changes. The house is empty and he’s left home alone. Uh oh, does Buster have separation anxiety?

The stress of suddenly being alone may cause behavioral changes… excessive barking, destruction, escaping, pacing, chewing, scratching, and even the inability to lie down and rest.

While there is no evidence showing why some dogs have separation anxiety and some don’t, dogs are naturally social animals. So much so, that behaviorist and author John Bradshaw says, “Surprisingly, most dogs, given the choice, will actually prefer human company to other dog company.”

The ASPCA states,

“When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.”

What You Can Do to Help Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

1. Mix Up Your Patterns

Dogs are smart. They are constantly studying all of our behaviors, actions, and routines. If you always put on your shoes right before you leave the house for the day, the shoes tell Buster that you are leaving. If picking up your car keys is always a precursor to leaving, Buster may start to panic just at the sight of your keys. Start mixing up your routine. Pick up your keys and start cooking dinner. Put on your shoes and walk to your computer. Do the opposite and put on your shoes, open the door, but don’t leave. The idea is to keep Buster guessing so that he starts to unscramble the patterns you’ve already set in place.

Certified Professional Dog Trainer and behavior specialist Nicole Wilde calls it “The Faux Go”. In her book, Don’t Leave Me! she says, “You’ll be teaching your dog that the door opening and you walking out is nothing to worry about.” Separation Anxiety training protocol by famed dog trainer Victoria Stilwell can be found here.

2. A Little at a Time

If the kids aren’t going back to school for another three weeks, start practicing with very short departures today. If all goes well, start increasing your time, little by little. A human minute may equal a dog hour, so take puppy steps when increasing your time away incrementally.

3. Tire Her Out

A tired dog will less likely be inclined to tear up the linoleum while you are gone. Get up extra early to go for a long walk. Engage in a good game of retrieve. The amount and length of activity depends on breed, size, and age.

4. Training and Dog Tricks

While exercise and long walks are great at keeping him in shape, he’ll get more tired from mental stimulation combined with exercise. I joke that the more I hike with Gina, the better shape she gets in to prepare for even more physical activity. But, add in some agility training, and she actually gets tired. Don’t have any jumps at home? Try teaching Buster some new dog tricks daily.

5. Let Music Soothe His Fears

Don’t leave Buster home alone. Leave him with his own iPawd. While iCalmDog is the portable solution to canine anxiety, the clinically tested music works just as well at home as when Buster is on the go. Thousands of veterinarians and dog trainers worldwide have recommended the slowed down, simplified, classical compositions. Take a lesson and enjoy a soothing sound bath with your pup.

 

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Has your dog experienced separation anxiety? What have you found to help? Thanks for sharing your experiences in a comment below.

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21 thoughts on “5 Easy Tips to Help Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

  1. My dog has been crate trained. When I try to leave hin out, he pees on the floor or gets into stuff and tears it up.

    1. Deborah – Many dogs benefit from staying in a crate when their people are out. Good for you for crate training him. I forgot to mention in my post that all of these tips can also apply to dogs who stay in their crates when they are home alone.

  2. I have rescued many street dogs in Mexico and found them good homes after returning them to good health.
    My two dogs are the ones I kept for myself.
    Anything I can learn about helping dogs to recover physically and emotionally from a traumatic past is a big help.
    I am retired, and this is my heart work for my life now.

    1. Cherrie – Keep up the great work. Those dogs are fortunate you have been there to help.

  3. My Dogue de Bordeaux suffers separation anxiety. He broke the door off his steel crate (hurt himself in the process). Then he would do battle at the door to go with me. I was at my wits end when a vet told me about Through a Dog’s Ear. I trained him by creating a calm routine associated with my leaving. I put on the music at first, letting it lull him. Then I would put on the music, pick up my keys/purse and stand by the door (no eye contact, no speaking) until he was calm. Then not leave. The final stage was to put on the music, pick up my things, stand by the door and leave when he was calm (sometimes up to 10 minutes). This took about a month of progressive training. Now I put on the music, he goes to his bed, and doesn’t even look up as I leave. The bed was his idea, not mine. It has been 5 years of peace since I first found your products. I’m SO grateful.

    1. Nicole – What a fabulous testimonial and what wonderful work you did with him. I’m so glad to hear how much Through a Dog’s Ear helped his separation anxiety and has continued to help for five years now. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Appreciate all tips and fyi, your calming classical piano is awesome. Forget my pooch! It so relaxed me after a tough day at nursing home, I fell asleep. Bingo is muy little yellow lab and she is doing better all the time. She’s a 6 year old female rescue dog ( who had been used to make puppies, puppies, puppies, I love her dearly. No more puppies. Just me and Bingo . Thank you for being a good part of our lives. :–)

    1. Barbara – So glad that you and Bingo are enjoying Through a Dog’s Ear so much. Yep, research shows that the same sounds that calm humans also calm dogs. Continue to enjoy it together, and no need to feel guilty when you play Through a Dog’s Ear just for you.

  5. My dog does not have seperation anxiety, but then again from the moment I got her I put in place everything that is recommended, desensitised her to my leaving, doing short trips at first, making sure she was tired, had things to keep her occupied, etc.

    I always take her for a long walk before I leave, I always leave your music on, and I always leave food filled toys to keep her occupied. As my dog is not a barker and loves to watch the world go by, I also leave her with a view to the outside world, something I would not do if the dog was going to bark at people or dogs going past, or become distressed by it. When I first got her I also used a DAP plug in.

    As for through a dogs ear, well it is true that my dog is calmed by it, but I think I love it more as I have never found anything to clam me as much as it does!

    1. Thanks for your wonderful feedback Belinda. So glad to hear how helpful Through a Dog’s Ear has been for both the 4- and 2-leggeds in your home!

  6. Our female corgi, Prema, is a year and 4 months. She came to us at 4 months with some anxiety, esp. around noise and large objects. She is getting less startled day by day. What is an issue is that when we leave the house, she has to go outside in the yard. We have a dog igloo and she goes into that to the far back corner and from what I can determine doesn’t come out until we get home, not even to go to the bathroom. I try not to leave her for long periods of time. She is crate trained and sleeps in the crate at night. I would like for her to feel more comfortable outside when we are away from the house. If we are home, she will come and go outside with no hesitation. She knows when we are leaving and are going to put her out.

    1. Elizabeth – Do you know about our Separation Anxiety training program? It’s created for the iCalmDog ~ The Portable Solution to Canine Anxiety. It comes with training instructions by Victoria Stilwell. The iCalmDog would be perfect for Prema’s dog igloo. It would keep her company when you are gone, and following Victoria’s training protocol would help her build confidence. Here’s the link to Separation Anxiety:
      https://icalmpet.com/product/separation-anxiety-sound-card-for-icalmdog/

      Let me know if you have any questions.

  7. Our new baby is dong really well learning commands, but when leaving her stress level is out of control. She’s 4 months old. We really want to try your music to see if it can help her relax. Thanks!

  8. Any tips for a recently developed noise phobia? Your player doesn’t work in UK. I leave your CD on but it must finish quite soon. Am trying to buy a mobile CD player with a replay function. He’s never left more than about 3 hours & I also leave on calming essential oils for dogs in a plug-in diffuser. Noise is unpredictable – I live in area where they shoot pheasants and, though a gun dog breed (lab), even one shot can now make him shake and pant. He takes cover in his felt igloo (his safe spot – almost totally enclosed). Any other ideas for things I can do?

    1. iCalmDog actually does play in the UK and auto-repeats After the four hours of play. If you need it charging while playing it will play forever. It’s helped thousands of dogs, some in the UK, even with the most severe separation anxiety. It’s highly recommended by vets and trainers and comes with a 60 day money-back guarantee.

  9. I absolutely LOVE the iCalm dog–both for my two dogs as well as for me! In fact, after hearing me play it so regularly, my son-in-law asked about getting one for his office–and he’s NOT a vet! One of my dogs is now 15+ years and experiencing some dementia–in addition to other physical issues. He has recently become quite restless at night, waking up and pacing about the house–seeming quite disoriented. I discovered that, if I leave the iCalm on, playing the music for elderly canines, both of us are able to have a good night’s sleep! Thank you, Lisa! And thank all those who have commented and offered so many great tips!

    1. Ah, that’s music to my ears Fran.

  10. Lisa,

    Thank you for the informative article! We adopted a previously neglected 5 year old Chinese Crested about 9 months ago. He suffered from extreme separation anxiety to the point where he would commonly harm himself in attempts to get out the door and find out while we were away. The only things that seemed to ultimately help were 1) crate training and 2) a Thundershirt.

    I think the crate training provides a safe place for him to be throughout the day. I watched him on a camera while we were gone and observed that he would race around the house all day pacing back and forth waiting for us to come home. I think being in a big empty house by himself was intimidating and the crate helped alleviate that issue.

    The Thundershirt is designed for thunderstorms but has also been effective for separation anxiety. Even when we do have him in the crate now, if for one reason we forget to put his Thundershirt on before we leave for the day we can hear him barking when we come home and he seems more stressed out on the days that we don’t put the shirt on him.

    Also, music also helps calm him and I would recommend that to be added in conjunction with any other techniques.

    1. Hi Ashley – Have you tried iCalmPet’s clinically tested music? It’s helped hundreds of thousands of dogs with anxiety issues, including separation anxiety. Listening samples can be found here https://icalmpet.com/listening-samples/

  11. My 9 month old boxer puppy has separation anxiety. He tore up my kitchen floor a few weeks ago then required surgery. He does fine in the crate when I am home with him but he barks all day when I leave – starting as soon as the door closes. I just purchased this program for him along with the adaptil diffuser. I sure hope this helps him. I worry about him the whole time I am gone!!!! Can’t wait for it to arrive so I can begin training him to be calm 🙂

    1. Kathy – Let us know how your puppy responds. It’s helpful to follow Victoria Stilwell’s training instructions.

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