Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Did you know that according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 20-40% of dogs referred to animal behavior practices in North America are diagnosed with separation anxiety? This type of anxiety is triggered when a dog’s owner leaves and the dog becomes upset/distressed by the separation. Many symptoms of separation anxiety can be confused with lack of training or poor manners. However, if your dog displays more than one sign of distress when you leave, it is most likely experiencing separation anxiety.

Common symptoms of separation anxiety

Your dog is most likely experiencing separation anxiety if upon your departure it:

  • Urinates or defecates
  • Barks or howls continuously
  • Chews and/or destroys household items
  • Escapes confinement
  • Paces, especially in a specific pattern

Common reasons why dogs develop separation anxiety

Your dog may have developed separation anxiety because it has:

  • Recently experienced a schedule change
  • Recently experienced a residence change
  • Had a new human added to the household
  • Had a new pet added to the household
  • Loss of a family members (pet or human)
  • Recently been adopted/rescued from a shelter or owner surrender

Easing your dog’s separation anxiety

While easing your dog’s separation anxiety does not come with a quick fix, it is possible to eliminate or greatly reduce the issue in time. Effective tactics for treating and reducing separation anxiety include:

  • Reducing excitement upon arrival and departure – don’t make a big deal out of coming and going. If you don’t make leaving and returning a big deal, your dog will eventually realize that there is nothing to worry about.
  • Training your dog to recognize a specific word that lets them know you’ll be back soon.
  • Giving your dog a safe space to relax while you’re gone. This space can contain distracting toys and treats, clothes or blankets that smell like you, and a comfortable place to curl up.
  • Feeding your dog an over-the-counter calming product such as melatonin treats before leaving
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