How to Correct Separation Anxiety in Dogs

One of the most common problems a canine behaviorist handles is separation anxiety. It is easy to become frustrated when your dog has separation anxiety, and that frustration can be sensed by your dog, making the situation that much more difficult.


Separation anxiety in dogs is a very common condition and can be extremely distressing for both the dog and its owner. It is estimated that 10% of all dogs suffer from separation anxiety, although it could be as high as 20%.

Separation anxiety in dogs is not a new problem; however, it has only recently been recognized by vets and scientists.


Separation anxiety has a variety of symptoms, but most commonly involves:

  • Excessive salivation
  • Excessive vocalization (whining, barking, howling)
  • Chewing items in the house
  • Urinating/defecating in the house
  • Scratching the walls and floor in an attempt to escape
  • Depression-like behavior

Separation Anxiety in Older Dogs

Separation anxiety, often associated with puppies or newly adopted dogs, can surprisingly manifest in older dogs as well. As dogs age, they undergo various physiological and cognitive changes that might make them more prone to anxiety.

Factors including declining vision, hearing loss, or the onset of canine cognitive dysfunction (akin to dementia in humans) can make an older dog feel more vulnerable and less adaptable to change. These factors can translate into an increased dependency on their human companions for comfort and security.

When separated, they might exhibit symptoms of distress, including:

  • Excessive barking
  • Howling
  • Destructive behavior
  • Pacing
  • Inappropriate elimination

Any significant change in routine, like a family member leaving for college or a change in the dog’s environment, can trigger anxiety in senior dogs. Understanding and recognizing the signs of separation anxiety in older dogs is crucial. With the right interventions, behavioral strategies, and, in some cases, medical treatments, their golden years can be made more comfortable and stress-free.

Prevent Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Preventing separation anxiety in dogs requires a blend of training, patience, and understanding their needs. From a young age, it’s vital to acclimate dogs to short periods of alone time, gradually increasing the duration. This helps them learn that being alone is temporary and not a cause for distress.

Establishing a consistent routine can also be beneficial; predictability can be comforting for dogs. Before leaving, engage your dog in a bout of physical activity, like a brisk walk, which can help burn off excess energy and promote relaxation. Using toys or puzzle feeders that dispense treats can serve as a distraction and make alone time feel rewarding. Avoid making departures and arrivals overly emotional; a calm goodbye and hello can make a significant difference. Additionally, consider crate training, ensuring the crate is a positive and safe space, which can give dogs a secure place to relax when alone. While these methods can be effective, every dog is unique. Regularly assessing and adjusting strategies based on a dog’s behavior is essential to fostering a sense of security and independence.

Natural Remedies For Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Before resorting to medication, try out the following natural remedies for separation anxiety:

  1. Pheromone Therapy: Products like Adaptil mimic the natural dog-appeasing pheromone, helping to comfort and reassure dogs.
  2. Calming Herbs: Herbs such as chamomile, valerian root, and passionflower can have soothing effects on anxious dogs.
  3. CBD Oil: Derived from the hemp plant, CBD oil has shown promise in calming anxiety without the psychoactive effects associated with THC.
  4. Lavender Oil: Diffusing lavender oil or placing a drop on a dog’s bedding can provide calming effects. Ensure it’s diluted and placed where the dog can’t ingest it.
  5. Interactive Toys: Toys like puzzle feeders or KONG toys filled with treats can distract a dog from its anxiety and provide mental stimulation.
  6. Thundershirt: This is a snug-fitting garment that applies gentle, even pressure around a dog’s torso, providing a calming effect similar to swaddling a baby.
  7. Calming Music: There are specific playlists and tracks available designed to soothe dogs. Soft classical music or white noise can also be beneficial.
  8. Deep Pressure: Weighted blankets or mats can provide a similar effect to the Thundershirt, offering comfort through gentle pressure.
  9. Massage: Gentle massage, especially in tension-holding areas like the neck and shoulders, can soothe an anxious dog.
  10. Holistic Supplements: There are over-the-counter natural supplements specifically formulated for dog anxiety, often containing a blend of herbs, amino acids, and vitamins.
  11. Routine and Structure: Keeping a consistent daily routine can offer predictability and comfort for anxious dogs.
  12. Safe Spaces: Providing a designated “safe space,” like a quiet corner with a comfortable bed or a crate, can give dogs a refuge where they can relax.

Always consult with a veterinarian or canine behaviorist when introducing new remedies, especially if combining them with other treatments or medications. Not every remedy will work for every dog, so it’s essential to find the right combination tailored to your dog’s needs.

Helping Your Dog With Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety can be frustrating, but by taking the right steps, you can help your dog learn to handle being away from you for a bit of time. In severe cases of separation anxiety, consult your vet or behaviorist. They’re professionals and will likely have a plan for you to put in place and medication if absolutely necessary.

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