Home » dog » Separation anxiety in a dog: what to do and how to overcome it?

Separation anxiety in a dog: what to do and how to overcome it?

Separation anxiety in a dog

After leaving the house, does your dog howl, does not eat, scratches furniture, walls, waits for you all day at the door without moving?

Such behavior of the pooch may indicate that he suffers from the so-called separation anxiety.

What is this condition?

How to help an affected dog and how to treat it separation anxiety in a dog?

I will try to answer these and other questions in this article.

  • What is separation anxiety in a dog?
  • Separation anxiety in the dog causes
    • Race
    • Hereditary factors
    • No socialization
    • Traumatic experiences - separation anxiety in a dog from a shelter
    • Violence
    • Survived diseases
    • Human-animal disorders
  • Separation anxiety symptoms in a dog
    • Abnormal behavior and stereotypes
    • Somatic symptoms
    • Changes in social behavior
  • Dog separation anxiety treatment
    • Behavior modification
    • Separation anxiety in a dog what to do?
    • Separation anxiety and the other dog
    • Separation anxiety in a dog - medication
    • Psychotropic drugs for the dog
    • Dog pheromones
    • Alternative Methods for Separation Anxiety
  • How to prevent separation anxiety?

What is separation anxiety in a dog?

Separation anxiety is defined as too much attachment of the dog to the handler or something.

The quadruped is somewhat dependent on his presence and is afraid of being left alone.

It has been noticed that this disease mainly affects the communities of highly developed countries - the United States every 5th dog is obsessively afraid of loneliness.

This disorder can therefore be considered as dog lifestyle disease.

The anxiety caused by the absence of the caregiver causes intensification of anxiety reactions, such as:

  • bark,
  • howl,
  • destructive behavior,
  • even self-mutilation.

Other symptoms include.in. psychomotor agitation (compulsive movement, circulation, other repetitive activities).

You can see and hear what it looks like sometimes in the video below:

Tucker the German Shepherd Howls
Watch this video on YouTube

Separation anxiety in the dog causes

Separation anxiety - which dogs are most at risk?

Currently, it is believed that factors such as:

  • race,
  • hereditary factors,
  • the lack of socialization of dogs at the right moment in their mental development,
  • experienced traumatic experiences,
  • violence,
  • lived diseases,
  • human-animal disturbances.


Separation anxiety can touch you dog of any breed.

More often, however, it concerns mixed breed dogs - about 50% quadrupeds suffering from separation anxiety it mongrels.

This may be related to the experiences to which they were exposed.

They are often abandoned by their owners, taken in from shelters, beaten in the past, experienced by bad people.

Unfortunately, for these reasons, also theirs treatment is more difficult.

The second group of dogs that are more prone to this disorder are small breeds of dogs.

They are usually more attached to their owners, often a bit spoiled.

Treated more like a domestic mascot, be another child than man's best friend.

Hereditary factors

They also have a great influence on the occurrence of separation anxiety your pooch's genes.

Dogs that are more "sensitive" from birth will suffer from pathological loneliness more often.

Their characteristic feature is too intense reaction to certain stimuli.

Therefore, before buying a puppy, it is worth getting to know your pooch's parents - check their characters.

Separation anxiety is conditioned by genetic factors very difficult to remove.

No socialization

More or less from 5 to 12 weeks of age there is a psychological development of the puppy.

It is very important in this period to provide him with new stimuli.

The little dog is curious about new things, but at first he is very fearful towards them.

Hence, if you want your puppy, as an adult dog, not to be afraid of e.g. the sound of a vacuum cleaner, TV or your absence, it is worth getting him used to these stimuli, and a well-spent time should be rewarded with treats during your absence.

Traumatic experiences - separation anxiety in a dog from a shelter

Separation anxiety in a dog from a shelter

Separation anxiety often affects dogs from shelter.

Dogs given to shelters are afraid that the owner who leaves the house will not come back to them - just like their first guardian.

Often such pets are returned to the shelter - the new owners argue that the dog does not feel well at home.

If you want to adopt a pooch, you have to be aware that the first days after adoption can be difficult.

Shelter animals may also take a little longer to adapt to the new situation.

This often requires the intervention of a behaviorist.

Separation anxiety can also be caused by:

  • a sudden change in the life of the animal, such as being isolated from a family group where it has been kept,
  • moving to a new home,
  • change of rituals to which the animal was used to,
  • death of the owner.


Dogs that have been subjected to violence and punishment in the past are more stressed and sensitive to stimuli.

For this reason, they are a group of animals where separation anxiety is more common.

They are afraid that after their defender - the owner leaves, something bad will happen to them again.

Survived diseases

Diseases experienced by the dog in the past

Dogs that have been ill in the past are also more likely to show symptoms of fear of their Lord or Lady being absent.

It is probably related to the greater care and attention shown to them during their illness.

In some cases, excessive care can lead to appearance learned helplessness and excessive attachment.

Human-animal disorders

Excessive attachment of the dog

Nowadays, dogs play an increasingly important role in our society.

People who are often busy, busy, transfer all their need for social contacts to animals.

It is connected with the formation of a very strong bond between man and dog.

Also animals raised by their owners, too early separated from the mother, show greater predisposition to too intense attachment to humans.

It is also worth realizing that you are too emotional about your pet can cause a phobia.

Dogs that are too attached to their owner want to be in his neighborhood all the time, they are looking for physical contact with him, e.g. they are leaning against him, lying on his feet.

Such dogs show anxiety, even when the owner asks them out of the room in which he is staying, even though there is no actual separation.

Excessive closeness to the owner (e.g. sleeping in one bedroom, continuous pampering, permanent contact) may contribute to the emergence of problems with separation anxiety.

Many dogs show anxiety, cling to the owner or freeze when the handler starts the ritual of getting ready to go out (putting on shoes, sound of the keys, turning off the computer, TV).

It happens that such dogs are aggressive towards the outgoing owner, grab him by his clothes or bite his hand touching the door handle, thus trying to prevent him from leaving.

You must be aware that animals, like humans, should learn to be independent and alone.

Approaching dogs too emotionally when leaving their homes can cause separation disorders and anxiety in the dog.

Separation anxiety symptoms in a dog

Separation anxiety symptoms in a dog

Usually, the source of information about the symptoms of strong separation anxiety are our neighbors, or the damage in our home.

If you want to see how the dog behaves in your absence, it may be useful to record his behavior or turn on the webcam.

As for the symptoms of this disorder, we can divide them into three groups:

  1. Behavioral disorders and stereotypes.
  2. Physical (somatic) symptoms.
  3. Social disorders.

Abnormal behavior and stereotypes

This group includes symptoms such as:

  • sleep disturbance, disturbance of cognitive functions,
  • lack of focus and attention, lack of learning progress, excessive motor activity,
  • hypersensitivity to pain, constantly increasing aggression,
  • sucking skin folds, wrists, nipples (mainly bitches), licking the sides of the body,
  • obsessive behavior - excessive excitability, barking, digging aimlessly,
  • inappropriate exercise - excessive exercise in a manner contrary to the command (e.g. the dog instead of sitting down sharply, equal to the leg),
  • ambiguous behavior - the dog is uncertain, the behaviors indicate that the dog is on the verge of running or attacking, rapid urination "under himself " as a result of stress or immediately after the occurrence of a stress factor,
  • warning barking, coprophagia - eating feces.

Somatic symptoms

The physical symptoms associated with stress include:

  • ulcers in the stomach and intestines,
  • decrease in immunity,
  • increased amount of urination, increased thirst,
  • muscle and skin atrophy,
  • hair loss, hair loss from biting,
  • lack of appetite or increased appetite,
  • fast, shallow yawning, muscle tension,
  • stiffness, vomiting and diarrhea (diarrhea is the predominant symptom in working dogs),
  • sweating on the pads of the limbs,
  • increased yawning, drooling, trembling all over the body and licking lips,
  • long-term stress can cause cardiovascular diseases, digestive system diseases, anorexia and many other diseases.

Changes in social behavior

If your dog has social problems, you may observe:

  • depression, avoiding contact with other dogs,
  • posture with lowered torso (bent elbows, low torso, tail curl, lowered head and auricles),
  • aggression towards the outgoing owner,
  • obsessive "harassment" of the owner.

Pets suffering from separation anxiety show several attitudes in the absence of their beloved owner. These attitudes are:

  • resignation and patiently waiting for the owner to return,
  • depression (animals in this state may not eat until the owner returns home, and may whine and whine),
  • excessive agitation manifested by motor hyperactivity, scratching at the door, barking.
Many animals destroy household members' belongings, they are often looking for personal belongings that carry the smell of an absent caregiver.

It may even donate physiological needs to furniture, bedding or other places.

Dog separation anxiety treatment

Dog separation anxiety treatment

Treatment of separation anxiety in a dog should be based on three pillars:

  1. Environmental control - it consists in checking whether during our absence there is no stimulus which the animal may be afraid of - e.g. a neighbor who listens to loud radio broadcasts, renovation, turning on sprinklers, washing machines, etc.
  2. Behavior modification.
  3. Supported by pharmacotherapy.

Behavior modification

It relies on behavioral therapy and usually requires consultation with a specialist.

The dog first learns to obey (simple commands such as sit, down, lie down).

Then, gradually, he learns to be independent (leaving him alone for a short time, commands to stay in place).

During behavior modification therapy an animal can count on the owner's attention only when its guardian wants it.

It is the guardian who should control the pooch's behavior, not the other way around.

Use is also important when treating separation anxiety positive training methods - rewarding, praise for a job well done.

Dogs suffering from separation anxiety can't punish.

It is also worth distracting the pooch from our absence, turning on the radio, TV, provide him with toys, preferably interactive, turning on from time to time.

The dog should also be taken for a long walk every day before we go out - the tired animal will fall asleep faster.

It is very important here owner consistency and setting boundaries for a quadruped.

Separation anxiety in a dog what to do?

It's worth it to desensitize the dog to signals associated with leaving the house, i.e. you can, for example:

  • when walking around the house, you can hold the keys in your hand and rattle them,
  • go to the bathroom with the purse,
  • walk in shoes.

You can also reduce your dog's reactions to the actual exit:

in the middle of an activity, you may walk away for a few seconds, for example walk out the door for a few seconds.

You also shouldn't say goodbye to the pooch.

Going to work is the same as going to the shop next door or to the toilet.

As the owner of a dog suffering from this phobia, you can also change the ritual of going out, change the sequence of activities performed before leaving the house.

Separation anxiety and the other dog

Separation anxiety and the other dog

Firstly I am not a supporter of ill-considered dog adoptions.

It cannot be conditioned by the fact that the other dog wants it.

Each pooch carries a very large responsibility for his fate.

You also need to be aware that a new quad can learn disturbed behavior from his friend.

A doggy suffering from separation anxiety does not miss the company as such, misses the person.

So introducing a new dog is unlikely to change his behavior.

Separation anxiety in a dog - medication

In the first line of treatment I use separation anxiety mild dog sedatives.

Usually these are preparations based on herbal remedies such as:

  • St. John's wort,
  • valerian,
  • lemon balm,
  • gingo biloba,
  • kava kava,
  • milk protein extracts.

An example of such preparations can be:

  • Zylkene,
  • Kalmvet,
  • Stress out,
  • For Calm.

Their price varies within limits 20 - 150 PLN, depending on the weight of the pooch and the length of treatment.

Psychotropic drugs for the dog

There are also stronger measures. Drug treatment of the dog's separation anxiety may include psychotropic drugs.

The most commonly used and effective drug in the treatment of separation anxiety is clomipramine.

It is a psychotropic drug also used in human medicine.

Also helpful in the treatment of separation anxiety are:

  • benzodiazepines,
  • neuroleptics,
  • progestogens,
  • tricyclic antidepressants.

Such a drug is e.g. fluoxetine.

Another recommended measure is amitriptyline.

The drug used in severe cases is acepromazine.

These canine separation anxiety pills are mostly prescription pharmaceuticals - available from human pharmacies.

However, you must know that the use of psychotropic drugs for a long time is associated with undesirable side effects - dogs are dull, absent, often the dose of drugs must be increased.

Not every drug will be equally effective in all patients, so in the absence of satisfactory results, a different treatment regimen is implemented after a month.

Dog pheromones

Another treatment method is also pheromone therapy.

Sedative pheromones for the dog are a synthetic version of canine pheromones secreted by the sebaceous glands of the feeding bitch.

They are in the form of:

  • contact inserts (they work on an area of ​​about 30 m2, and their cost is approx 100 - 150 PLN),
  • sprays,
  • collar,
  • wet wipes (price approx PLN 50-100).

It is also worth buying pheromones for the dog when introducing a new pet to the house - he will feel more relaxed in the new situation.

Alternative Methods for Separation Anxiety

Alternative methods used in reducing behaviors related to separation anxiety include:

  • massage, the so-called. Ttouch,
  • anti-anxiety vests,
  • kennel cages - after prior training.

However, these are supportive methods.

They do not remove the main problem - fear of loneliness, they are only helpers during treatment.

How to prevent separation anxiety?

How to prevent separation anxiety?

You need to teach your dog right from the start that you need to go out from time to time and that you shouldn't worry too much about it.

A two-month-old puppy needs more social contacts than an adult dog, however, it should not have a problem with the situation when the owner stays for a long time in a corner of the room far away from him.

It is worth preparing toys for your toddler that they can play on their own, without the participation of a guardian.

Gradually, you should get your pet out of sight, leaving the dog alone in the room when you go to the bathroom for a while.

When you become invisible to the mentee, leave him a treat, which after returning to an inaccessible place.

The snack will distract him from leaving the master and make the whole experience have a positive effect on him. The dog will understand that when you go out, he has pleasure.

Over time, leave your pet alone at home and extend the time of your absence in small steps.

Do not say goodbye and do not say hello to your pet - just leave, having made sure in advance that the pet is calm.

Make your pooch understand that such exits and returns are a perfectly natural thing, and it's not unusual to be left alone sometimes.

It is also extremely important to entertain your dog before going out.

A long walk, running a bike will be perfect here.

However, it should be remembered that too intense exercise may cause physiological stress - physical activity should be dosed gradually and adapted to the capabilities of a given dog.

It is important not to leave your pet awake - wait at least fifteen minutes for it to calm down before you leave it.

You need to know that most cases of separation anxiety are related to the owner's parenting mistakes.

Hence, your attitude is so important in teaching your dog the appropriate behavior.

In cases of behavioral disorders, it is worth consulting your pooch's behavior with a behaviorist who will be able to give you some tips on how to help a frightened pet.

After reading this article, you already know how to deal with your pet's separation anxiety and what to look for if you want to adopt a dog from a shelter.

I hope that I have also managed to explain how this phobia is treated and how you can overcome it together.

Sources used >>

Leave Your Comment