What Is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety in dogs is a common behavior problem. Dogs are highly social animals who are happiest spending time with their loved ones. For some dogs, being left alone results in distress and undesirable behaviors. Behavioral symptoms of separation anxiety include destructive behaviors like chewing, scratching or inappropriate elimination. Other dogs may engage in disruptive barking, howling or whining. 

All dogs can benefit from the below tips and learn to be more comfortable when left alone. For severely affected dogs, it may take considerable time and a series of baby steps to get to the point where the dog can be safely and calmly left alone. 

Avoid Punishment

Never punish your dog for acting up as a result of separation anxiety. Remember that your dog is only acting out in reaction to his distress. Punishment will only reinforce his belief that bad things happen to him when you leave, leading to even greater anxiety. Above all else, your dog needs your love and reassurance while working through this challenge together.

Crate Wisely

While a crate is an excellent tool for housebreaking and can help keep your dog out of trouble, a crate will not cure separation anxiety. Some dogs may even become more agitated when left alone in a crate. Take extra care to condition your dog to enjoy her crate before using it when leaving your dog alone. Make the crate a fun and comfortable place to be. Blankets or a bed can help to make the crate cozy. Sometimes shy dogs enjoy a blanket or crate cover over the top for a more private hideaway. Treats and toys in the crate add an element of fun for your dog. To help your dog get comfortable with their crate, try leaving the door open when you are home and letting your dog go in and out at their leisure.

Use High Value Treats

For dogs with mild separation anxiety, it may be enough to simply offer your dog a special treat when he is left alone. Stuffed KONG style toys are a popular option. You can stuff the KONG with a tasty treat like cream cheese or peanut butter. Only offer the KONG when you are leaving the dog alone. Your dog will soon associate your leaving with something good (the KONG) rather than fear.

Provide Physical and Mental Stimulation

While exercise and mental stimulation alone will not put an end to your dog’s anxiety, activity is an important component to solving this problem. A dog that has had ample physical and mental stimulation will have less energy to expend when left alone. Make sure your dog receives at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Training activities, food puzzle toys and other games can provide valuable mental stimulation for your dog. Doggy daycare is also an option.

Start Small

How small you need to start depends on the severity of your dog’s separation anxiety. If your dog has mild separation anxiety, try leaving the house for 15-20 minutes at first. Gradually increase the time your dog is left alone. Always provide the special high value treat prior to your departure. 

In more severe cases, you will need to take much smaller steps to gradually increase your dog’s comfort. Your dog may become anxious if you are simply out of sight. Start by having your dog stay in another room for just a few minutes. Leave the room, but do not leave the house. As your dog learns that you will always return, you can increase the duration and distance.

Some dogs, particularly those with more severe anxiety, become distressed at the first sign of your departure. They may show signs of anxiety when you put on your shoes, pick up your keys or walk toward the door. If this pattern describes your dog, you will need to start by desensitizing your dog to these cues. Teach your dog that these cues do not always mean you are leaving. Put your shoes on or pick up your keys, but do not leave. Continue doing these types of activities until your dog no longer shows anxiety in response to your departure cues.


For severe cases of separation anxiety don’t hesitate to contact a professional. Visit your veterinarian and contact a professional dog trainer to determine the best course of action for your pet. We recommend https://www.doggonegoodtrainers.com/

Provide Comfort Items

Leave behind a shirt or blanket that smells like you. Many dogs are comforted simply by the scent of their owner. This tip should be used along with other strategies for reducing your dog’s anxiety.

Have Backup Plans

Your dog’s separation anxiety will not go away overnight. It is inevitable that you will need to leave the house during the training phase. Take your dog with you when possible or enroll her in a doggy daycare program. You can also ask a friend or hire a pet sitter to spend time with your dog during the day.



Abby Drexler is a contributing writer and media specialist for Pop Your Pup. She regularly produces content for pet blogs dealing with how to care for and love your pet.