How to Get Rid of Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Many Solutions to a Multi-Faceted Problem

Separation anxiety in dogs is a complicated problem with many potential causes and cures. Does your dog have it? My current dog has separation anxiety (3.5 years) and my former dog did also. How do you get rid of it? The first thing to do is to rule out other problems and confirm that your dog DOES have separation anxiety: that means, a trip to the vet.

Your Experience

Does your dog have separation anxiety?

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  • Maybe; I'm not sure.
  • No.
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Kennel size matters

My first suggestion would be to kennel her during the day. Her kennel should be a safe den for her to go in whenever she wants. My dog goes in her kennel because she wants to for some alone time, to get away from company if I have any, or if she's scared (of a noise outside or what's on TV or whatever). The door is always open to her kennel, which is a size too small for her, but she hates the larger size that is appropriate—it's not den-like enough, apparently.

Is your dog's kennel too big for her? If so, put a sturdy box in it to make it smaller. If that works, buy a smaller kennel for long-term and donate/sell the old one. Is it the enclosed kind or the open wire kind? If it's open wire, then cover three sides (all except a door) loosely with an old sheet or better yet use clean, used cardboard and just set it against the top and sides. Also, use a box (as described above) to make it into a small den if it's too big for her. Lock her in her kennel/"safe den" during the day. Also, apply Bitter Apple liberally to the items around the house that she chews most--it works for many dogs, but not all of them. Then hopefully she won't chew on things when you get home from work and let her out.

Dog exercise survey

How often do you go to the dog park with your dog, on average?

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Exercise your dog: go to a dog park frequently

Make sure your dog gets tons of exercise--"a tired dog is a good dog". Play with her, cuddle with her, but also take her to the dog park several times a week for exercise with canine companionship. Note that walks are not serious exercise for the dog, just the human. Dog parks are what dogs need so they can run and play with their own kind. Make the trips at least 1/2 hour; many dogs need 2 hours or more several days a week.

Obedience training

Another important thing that should help is obedience training. Even if you've already been to classes, sign up for more classes even if you’ve already taken them. This helps reinforce to the dog that self-discipline is necessary at all times and increases the bond between you and the dog. Make sure your instructor knows why you are taking these classes—because of the dog's separation anxiety—and the instructor will probably be able to help a lot more proactively and specifically.

Appropriate chew toys

Also, make sure your dog has appropriate chew toys. After careful supervision for a long time, I've found that I can safely leave a classic red Kong, sized for my dog, in my dog's kennel and leave her all day. It provides stress outlet in the form of chewing that is PROPER chewing. Make sure she's got plenty of proper chew toys to play with when she's not in her kennel, too, and whenever you catch her chewing on something inappropriate offer an appropriate toy instead (and spray the inappropriate item with Bitter Apple as quickly as possible).

A trip to the veterinarian

If you're still not getting results using several of these methods at the same time, and after at least 4 weeks, take your dog back to the vet and ask the vet about medicines and other remedies. Medicines are controversial, just like psychiatric medication for humans (especially for kids), but it helps many dogs miraculously. Some over-the-counter medicines are "Pet-Eeze", "Rescue Remedy", and "Ultra-Calm".

Note that I've tried a pale blue necklace-type thing that emits "calming pheromones" to the dog--it smelled really bad, so I had to throw it out before it was even on her. It might or might not work, in other words, but be aware that it stinks in any case.

I haven't tried the plug-in calming products, such as "Comfort Zone", but that might help to put one next to her kennel during the day.

Prescription Anti-Anxiety Medicine for Dogs

Source

Prescription medicine

Finally, talk with your vet about prescription anti-anxiety medicine, such as "Clomicalm" or one of several other options. It is expensive, but less expensive than your furniture and home being ruined and there is a generic form that is approximately 1/3 the cost. Each dog is an individual, just like humans, so some medicines and dosages will work for your dog and some won't. Maybe none.

Getting a companion animal

I think getting another dog as a companion, especially a rescue, might not be a wise idea until you've solved this problem with your dog. I'd try the above suggestions first. Perhaps a cat rather than a dog for a companion pet once your dog's symptoms are improved or controlled. But keep in mind the vet and toy and food bills add up quickly for each animal.

Source

Good luck!

Please let me know if this works for you or if you need more help troubleshooting the problems with your dog! Very good luck and warm wishes to you if you are in this situation. I went through the same thing until I found the right combination of solutions (dog parks, meds, and cuddling) for my dog. It does require TONS of patience on your part, though.

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Comments 5 comments

TarHeelGreen profile image

TarHeelGreen 4 years ago from Tennessee

Hi Laura, nice article. I agree with pretty much all of the steps you mentioned. I also wrote a hub on how to deal with separation anxiety and welcome you to read it and share your thoughts. I have two dogs and before I started working, none of them showed signs of separation anxiety - just Axle was a bit troublemaker chewing on our shoes and wires after he was adopted. But for him, before coming to our house, he was in a foster house and before that, who knows... He was a stray.

Unfortunately, separation anxiety decreases our puppies quality of life so I believe this issue should be tackled as soon as possible.


MissDoolittle profile image

MissDoolittle 4 years ago from Sussex, UK

I like this hub, but I could never leave my Oscar in a kennel all day - no matter how big it was. He would pine more. He goes to the park 3 times a day, and has at least 30 minutes a time to run about and play.

When I go out, he sits at the windowsill and watches me leave, then grabs some of my washing and sleeps next to it.

When I get in I make a big fuss of him, and take him for a walk - it's almost like a reward for staying at home on his own.


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 4 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA Author

TarHeelGreen--Thanks for the compliment, and I agree completely that this is a serious issue that must be addressed as soon as possible to increase the dog's quality of life.

MissDoolittle--It sounds like Oscar may have mild separation anxiety, but you should check with your vet to be sure. My vet gave me a brochure that said, basically, what I have written above (except checking the kennel size in case your dog has a particular preference that is different than usual), except it also said to not make a fuss over coming and going with your dog--just leave or arrive, paying minimal attention to the dog each time for several minutes. After about a week staying in her kennel while I was gone, I was able to let River have the run of the house again, confident that she wouldn't eat my house and home while I was away. From what I've read, I wouldn't recommend giving your dog a reward or fussing over him when you are coming or going; I would think that would increase the separation anxiety (if, indeed, that's what Oscar has). It sounds like you give Oscar an ideal dog life, with plenty of exercise and time to play with his fellow dogs, and sleeping on laundry that has your scent on it sounds reasonable and normal--many dogs do that, including mine--she brings a sweatshirt I have worn especially for this purpose into her kennel with her and sleeps on it most of the time I am gone. I wait for about 5 minutes after I get home to fully acknowledge her, at which point she gets lots of praise, grooming, and petting, and (depending on the time of day) food. She also has lots of toys that challenge her brain--toys in which you hide food and the dog must figure out how to get it out. Good luck!


Pkittock profile image

Pkittock 4 years ago from Minnesota

great hub, my dog used to have major separation anxiety as well as other issues (he was a rescue). Due to previous experiences, he wasn't ever comfortable in a kennel of any kind, so we were fortunate that he didn't chew anything.. after a year or so on clomicalm and leaving dirty laundry around (it carried our scent) he was finally doing better!

I agree with the above comment regarding attention given during departure/arrival. make these things routine instead of noteworthy


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 4 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA Author

I'm so glad your dog is better! He was rescued twice, then, because many families don't believe in caring for a dog's mental health and well-being. Mine still needs her medicine in order to avoid shredding or chewing on furniture, but she's getting better: she doesn't bark when cars go by, or when rain hits the roof, or follow me from room to room, and she's learned some self-coping skills, like going into her kennel voluntarily if she's scared. In any case, I love her and I'm not giving up on her.

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