How To Train A Dog With Separation Anxiety

  • 08/01/2020

Training a dog with separation anxiety can be a frustrating topic. I have personally had experience with this problem. It was with the first rescue dog that we took on a few years ago. It was with the first rescue dog that we took on a few years ago. Now we will never really know, but I think the root of the problem was due to Keegan (our dog) being passed around from house to house after she was taken into the dog shelter. From what we know she was taken into a shelter with her father and her siblings. I have no idea why they ended up in a shelter or what happened to her mother.

Her father was virtually immediately adopted and sent off to Finland and all of Keegans siblings died in the shelter. Keegan was also very ill with several ailments, the worst one being kennel cough. Due to the kennel cough the staff wanted to keep Keegan out of the shelter as much as possible. So she was passed around to different families that either worked at the shelter or even volunteered at the shelter. I have read that this type of thing can be very unsettling for dogs and can contribute to behavioural problems such as separation anxiety.

Let me explain a little about separation anxiety in dogs, I don't want to try and teach anyone to suck eggs, I just want everyone to be on the same page. Let's look at separation anxiety from your own dogs perspective. A dog is a pack animal, so being alone is very unnatural for a dog. So now, as your dog sees it, you are your dogs pack, therefore you are the most important thing in your dogs life. Because of their pack mentality dogs are very sociable animals and thrive on being surrounded by others for many reasons. If your dog had a choice they would spend every minute of every day in your company. So can you imagine how they feel when you go out and leave them on their own? A dog can experience varying degrees of distress and anxiety which can result in the dog becoming extremely destructive within your home. Your dog will be very confused because they don't know where you are going, why they can't be with you and they don't know if you will be coming back to them. When dogs are separated from their pack they can become very distressed and all they want is to be back with their pack, which in the case of it being your dog is you.

I have read reports of dogs destroying their owners beds or clothing. This can obviously be very frustrating for you as the owner. But remember though, your dog is not destroying your bed clothes or your wardrobe to get back at you for leaving them alone, dogs can not think like that. They love you, their pack, and they can smell you on the bedding or your clothes, they are just trying to be near you in any way they can. Punishment is never the answer for any problem with your dog, it is not your dogs fault.

Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety?

They may well do if........

1. Your dog gets really worked up and anxious when you are preparing to leave the house. Your dog will know you are going to leave the house well before you start getting ready to leave. Actions like picking up the car keys or putting a coat on can trigger worse behaviour with even more distress noise from your dog.

2. Your dog engages in inappropriate behaviour when you are separated, behaviour such as urinating or defecating inside, excessive barking and even howling. Destructive behaviour such as damaging clothing, bedding and property are common symptoms of Separation Anxiety in dogs.

3. Your dog follows you everywhere you go within your home (including the little boys/girls room) and becomes distressed if they can't be near you.

4. When you arrive home your dog is way over the top with their greeting jumping all over you and takes ages to calm down.

Let me reiterate, punishment is never the answer to treating dog separation anxiety, it is not your dogs fault.

What causes separation anxiety in dogs?

Well there can be many different causes of separation anxiety in dogs. I told you earlier about our own dogs early life experiences and how that left her (I believe) with separation anxiety. In some cases the cause can be pinpointed to a particular event in a dogs life, as in our dog Keegan. What we do know though is that separation anxiety in dogs regularly occurs when,

A. Your routine suddenly changes, such as work hours changing or a family member leaves home permanently. Dogs are truly a creature of habit and changes to their routine can be very unsettling for them.

B. If you have been unemployed for quite some time and have been spending a lot of time with your dog. Then you get a job, return to work and have to spend less time with your dog. This can cause your dog to become anxious and distressed due to the change in routine.

C. Dog's rescued from animal shelters, as ours was, contribute a highly disproportionate number of separation anxiety cases. This I think is due to the lack of ANY stable routine at all for the dog.

D. Sometimes when your dog has to experiences a traumatic event while on their own like if a thunderstorm erupts but you aren't home and your dog is alone, this can trigger Separation Anxiety in the future. This happened to my sons dog in the UK after a fireworks display in their street.

E. If there is a significant change in family circumstances, such as divorce and one partner leaves the marital home.

There are probably many more reasons why this type of behaviour can occur and I bet people could write comments telling me of their experiences regarding this topic especially regarding any claming aids they have used. I know from experience that it can also be very upsetting and frustrating for you the owner. In my next post I will explain exactly how we overcome this problem, not only with our first rescue dog Keegan, but also with our newest pack member Joey.

To read more articles about dogs please visit out dog blog

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Comments (4)

Said this on 12/01/2020 At 10:12 am

My Bernedoodle puppy seemed to develop separation anxiety earlier so I had to talk to a behaviorist. Fortunately, the behaviorist was able to address the issue and now my puppy can spend most of time without me. 

Said this on 11/12/2011 At 08:45 am

kool information ........that helped me alot.thanx.....)

Said this on 05/11/2011 At 05:47 pm

Seems I missed the part about actually training the dog to help with separation anxiety. What is the best approach? The only big problem I have had is when I left a puppy (shelter)  in his crate when I left. He would just slopper profusely to the extent that I thought he was peeing all over everything, including the floor just outside the crate. But it was just anxiety, mostly from being in the crate. So I started leaving him out and shortly thereafter we had "the incident" with the livign room window blinds. Since then (this was about 3 years ago), he has been next to perfect.

However, my sister in law, who is stone cold deaf. She has a shelter dog that she cannot (or will not) leave home alone, and we need some suggestions to give her. Any thoughts?

Said this on 17/10/2011 At 05:04 am

2 days ago my wife and I adopted a puggle.  She was found getting beaten with a unbrella by some teenagers.  The dog (Dexter) is a little overwieht, and on the 1st day I took him on a run.  I have watched some ceasar episodes, (but need a refresher) and I made sure Dexter did not walk/run in front of me.  We went about 2 miles and Dexter was exahsted. We went out to dinner, didnt hear him barking or whining when we were leaving or returning.  However the next moring we went out for brunch and got called back by our condo assoication because Dexter was howling... I got him fired up before we left this morning and gave him a big embrace when we got home.... I spent the rest of the day reading about his disorder and what I need to do as his pact leader.... I just pray that I can help Dex and that he will be ok.

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