How to Ease Your Dog's Separation Anxiety

Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 11:30am
Sad Yorkie looks out window

If your dog uses his time alone in the house to bark endlessly, pee on the carpet, or tear up the sofa—and those behaviors are accompanied by depression or stress—your pooch may be suffering from separation anxiety, a very common behavior problem.

Overcoming disorders like separation anxiety takes time, patience and consistency, but it can be done! Just take the following steps, and you’re already on your way.

Make sure the problem is separation anxiety. The first step in tackling behavior issues is to rule out any underlying medical problems that might be causing your pet’s misbehavior. Next, rule out other behavior problems. For example, consider whether your dog’s inappropriate elimination is due to incomplete housetraining.

Take action. So you’re sure the problem is separation anxiety? Try these strategies to address the issue:

  1. Keep all greetings relaxed. When leaving, give your dog a pat on the head, say goodbye and leave. Similarly, when arriving home, say hello to your dog and then don’t pay any more attention to him until he’s calm and relaxed.
  2. Give your dog a workout. Giving your dog lots of mental and physical stimulation goes a long way toward quelling behavior problems—especially those involving anxiety. Exercise can enrich your dog’s life, decrease stress and provide appropriate outlets for normal behavior. And once she’s all tuckered out, your pal won’t have much energy left to get into trouble.
  3. Reward your pooch! Teach your dog to associate your departure with a reward, like a delicious stuffed Kong or other food-dispensing toy. This positive association can help resolve the problem, as well as distract your dog for the first few minutes you’re gone!

Let our experts help! Need a little more info? Visit the ASPCA’s top eight tips for addressing separation anxiety to learn more.

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Exercise, discipline and love in that order. Learned that from the Dog Whisper's book and it is the best advice ever.


Exercise and discipline = love! I think Ceasar teaches "exercise, exercise, exercise, discipline, and affection!"


Think that'd work for kids?


How about cats? My cat has a screeming hissy every time I go out. She is an indoor cat and has a sister so she is not all alone!!


But it's the same -- exercise, exercise, exercise. (And love!) Cats need to run (think of cheetahs, sprinting in the wild) and when they live indoors they get restless, naturally. They need lots of things to climb, and lots of stimulation and jumping games and little balls of newspaper to chase, and window sills, and stairs, etc., if they aren't allowed to go outside. They really need to run and jump! :)


Wow. Awesome information. Going to use it for my family dog, since she always from my family to my mothers. And seem sad with the leaving one another.... Cool ! Thank you aspca.

Edna B

What sort of treat can one give to a little dog with no teeth or jaw bone? I would love to find something. I tried, but my little dog does not like being along so I have a sitter stay with him, or him with the sitter.


Our first rescue suffered horribly and so did our house. We did find that a Kong stuffed with peanut butter, put down as we cheerfully left, pretty much did the trick. Maybe you can try that since you don't need any teeth. We gave Kong's to both dogs when I went to work and slowly weaned them off. Now I just throw a small biscuit to each of them, smile and walk out the door. But it took time!


Great idea.


Try low sodium chicken or beef broth. My little dog has a loose tooth. The vet says it will come out naturally, but I am concerned about her being in pain. She loves the broth heated a little. And there is no chewing involved. And it is not bad for her. You have to learn to let go just a little and trust that he will be ok. Puppy proof your home, so there is nothing he can hurt himself on and go on and live your life. It will be hard for both of you at first, but he will get used to it. I like to leave the TV on at a lower volume, as if I were there. And I make sure my girl has plenty of her favorite toys to keep her company. She likes to look out the windows, so I raise the blinds for her to look out. Keeps her from chewing on them if she can't reach them. And, we now have a daily ritual. When I leave for work, she looks down at me and I wave bye bye to her. And coming home, she must know. Because she is there in the window again waiting for me. It's a great feeling to see her there and to get the greeting when I come through the door. Be patient and firm. Know that he loves you so much. He wants very much to please you but you have to let him know what it is you want. And stick to a daily routine. He will get comfort from consistency. Same thing every day and he will get used to it. Good luck and God Bless!