How to prevent separation anxiety in dogs



We have a tendency to treat our animals like our babies. Humans (especially women) have a deep desire to nurture anything small, cute or helpless.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on raising a child, but when a newborn human baby cries, the right thing to do is go to her and offer comfort, food, warmth or whatever it is she wants, right?

It makes sense that we also want to carry our pets around, keep them near us at all times and go to them when they cry. We shower them with affection whenever they display signs of neediness or helplessness. This is a way for us to express love.

But loving a puppy or dog in this way can actually do more harm than good. It’s a great way to create an anxious, overly dependent, needy and annoying dog.

Puppies and dogs are not babies. They are animals, and they have a right to be treated as animals.

How to prevent separation anxiety in dogs

how to end separation anxiety in dogsNote: This post has been expanded into an ebook filled with tips on how to stop a dog’s separation anxiety. Order it on Amazon here for $2.99.

What is dog separation anxiety?

Dogs with separation anxiety have never been properly conditioned to being left alone and therefore go into a frantic state of mind when separated from their owners (even when their owners are simply out of sight).

Preventing separation anxiety in dogs has become a personal battle of mine.

I have seen way too many rescue dogs with separation issues. If dogs can learn how to be relaxed and quiet when left alone, they are a lot less likely to end up in a pound or shelter.

What is NOT dog separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety in dogs is overly diagnosed. All dogs need a reasonable amount of time to adjust to a new home. Most dogs will cry in their kennels for a bit for the first couple of nights or weeks, but then they settle in just fine once they adjust to the new routine.

It bothers me how often dogs are said to have “separation anxiety” when really they just need exercise, training, a routine and a little time.

A dog that is given little or no exercise, no mental stimulation and no time with a “pack” is going to be bored out of his mind. Of course he’s going to bark, destroy property or rip apart his kennel when left alone. He has nothing else to do!

Veterinarians are quick to prescribe Prozac to dogs without addressing the real (behavioral) problem. Unfortunately vets are fully aware that the average dog owner is not going to follow through with the adequate training, socialization and exercise a dog needs. Dog owners want a quick fix and drugs are often the answer. This is terrible.

How do I know if my dog has separation anxiety?

In a past post, I outlined the symptoms of dog separation anxiety and the steps on how to help a dog with separation anxiety. Please check it out.

In this post, I want to focus on preventing separation anxiety.

A day with separation anxiety

Elli the tan fluffy Pomeranian mix I fostered had separation anxietyI fostered a Pomeranian mix named Elli who came to us with severe separation issues. She would go into a panic even if I walked into another room, leaving her with Josh (who she liked!). She had a high-pitched, screaming bark and would pant frantically while straining at the leash. Elli would also panic when left alone in the car.

How did I help Elli?

I took her biking every day to get rid of her pent-up energy. She was about 9 pounds, and she would run 2 miles next to my bike with no problem! She loved it!

I spent a lot of time ignoring her. I didn’t hold her at all. I didn’t look at her. I didn’t allow her to hover under my feet. She was not allowed on the furniture. She slept in a kennel in another room (where she would bark her head off), and she was also kenneled whenever I left.

She got attention only during those (rare) moments when she was relaxed.

We practiced 100s of repetitions of me getting out of the car without her.

Separation anxiety is very time consuming to correct. It is stressful on the owner, the dog and all other family members and pets – and neighbors! For your own sanity, do all you can to prevent separation anxiety.

How do I prevent dog separation anxiety?

1. Do not carry your puppy everywhere.

A lot of small dogs develop separation anxiety because they are carried around all the time. They are literally treated like babies. They are cradled or coddled at all times. They never have to think for themselves. They are not encouraged to explore or be independent. They never learn proper socialization skills because their owners pick them up when the dogs are faced with anything new.

Some of these dogs become insecure, fearful and anxious without their owners in sight. Others become overly possessive of their owners and bite anyone who comes close. This can be prevented by treating the dog like a dog.

2. Do not pick your puppy up if she cries or jumps on you.

This is the kind of behavior you do not want to reward. Completely ignore your dog when she cries or jumps on you for attention. Do not look at her. Do not scold her. Get up and leave the room if you have to. Your attention is a reward, and she only gets it when she is being calm and quiet and respectful.

3. Reward your dog with attention when she is calm and quiet.

A reward can be something as simple as eye contact, a pat on the head or a treat. But this is also a good time to pick your dog up.

4. Teach your puppy to “stay” for long periods of time.

All dogs should be able to lie down and stay for at least a half-hour, especially when there are no distractions such as when you are watching TV or checking email. Teach your dog to stay on her “place” or “bed” while you leave the room. Ace prefers to follow me from room to room, but he will stay on his bed downstairs without a fuss if I tell him to stay.

If your dog doesn’t have the most reliable down-stay quite yet, keep working on it. It’s a very important concept for dogs to understand.

In the meantime, work on other ways to create temporary separation:

5. Purposely separate yourself from your puppy.

Ace my black lab mix mutt dog and Elli the Pomeranian mix who I fostered

You and your dog will naturally want to be together, but you can’t be together all the time. It’s important to help puppies learn to feel comfortable being separated from you. Make sure you are creating these scenarios, even when you are home.

Tether your dog to a chair or table and walk away. Return only when she is quiet. This could take a few minutes. Heck, it could take an hour! If your puppy won’t stop crying, just wait her out and return when she has been quiet for even five seconds. If she starts celebrating and barking as you approach, turn around and ignore her again until she is quiet. Having your attention is the greatest reward for your dog.

Kennel your dog when you are home. This could be for 10 minutes or an hour or two. It’s the same concept as above. Only return when your dog is quiet. Kenneling your dog when you are home will also help her feel more comfortable in her kennel because she won’t associate it with you leaving the house. Make sure to stock the kennel full of goodies like Kongs filled with frozen peanut butter and treats.

Shut doors behind you. If you have a pup who follow you into the bathroom, then close the door in her face and make her wait for you. This is an easy way to create temporary separation. If she scratches at the door or cries, do not open the door. Opening the door is too much of a reward.

Create boundaries. Don’t let your puppy crawl into your lap unless she sits quietly first. Don’t let her sleep in your bed until she is a confident and well-trained dog. Puppies do not belong on the bed.

6. Leave your puppy with a friend.

Most dogs are happy to stay with someone else. That’s what you want. You do not want your dog sitting at the door pining over you the whole time you are gone. If your dog has trouble “forgetting” you, then bring his absolute favorite treats and toys along for your friend to entice him with until you get back. Walks usually help, too.

7. Leave your puppy at a dog daycare.

I’m not saying you have to take your dog to dog daycare every day or every week, but it’s good for dogs to get out and stretch their boundaries every now and then without their owners hovering. It’s good for the owners, too! It’s so hard for me to leave Ace somewhere overnight, but I know it’s good for me! I’m probably the one with separation anxiety.

8. Stick to the same routine before you leave your dog home alone.

Sticking to a routine when you leave will really help your dog feel secure. Before you head to work, maybe you go for a 30-minute walk with your dog, then shower, then eat breakfast, then put her in her kennel and then do your makeup. Dogs really depend on a routine to help them feel secure.

9. Ignore your dog 20 minutes before you leave and 10 minutes after you return.

Making an event out of coming or going confirms that being apart was bad. Being apart is not bad, it’s normal. So, completely ignore your dog before you leave the house. Don’t talk to her. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t even look at her. Drawn-out goodbyes will only make her feel anxious. She will pick up on your feelings of guilt.

When you return, do the same. Do not look at her or acknowledge her at all. If she is barking in her kennel, that gives you even more reason to ignore her. If you don’t kennel your dog and she greets you by jumping and crying, walk into another room like she doesn’t exist. Return when she is relaxed. This is the perfect time to take her for a walk.

10. Make sure all of your dog’s needs are being met.

Dogs that are not given any physical, mental or emotional challenges on a daily basis will likely be very anxious, hyperactive and “crazy” dogs. Be fair to your dog and provide her with the daily exercise and training she needs. Spend time with her. Stretch her boundaries. And never assume that small dogs or “lazy” breeds do not need exercise. They do.

What additional tips do you have for preventing separation anxiety in dogs?

Get my ebook filled with 10 tips to stop a dog from barking when left alone! Available on Amazon here.

Sign up to receive additional content in my bi-weekly newsletter:

Pin It

132 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. Margaret Evans on February 18, 2012

    I wonder if you could help me. Everytime I drop anything on the floor, my chihuahua feels the need to take it and it is now his. If I go to pick it up, he tries to bite me. I’m also unable to leave the house. He sits by the door and does not let anybody out. He continously barks at me and tries to run out the door if I open it. I feel like a prisoner in my own home! Even when I am just watching the tele or doing the washing up, he will sit on the floor in front of me and just bark at me. I have tried turning my back on him and ignoring him but it doesn’t work. It has gone on for at least 20 minutes before, and yet he still continues to bark at me. I don’t know what to do.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 25, 2012

      You need to be the leader. I suggest hiring a trainer to come to your house and show you some techniques. In the meantime, you can check out these posts for some ideas:

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2009/01/14/how-to-lead-a-dominant-dog/

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2010/03/26/how-to-break-a-dogs-possessiveness/

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2011/12/07/dog-owners-need-to-be-open-to-change/

    • Michelle Immel on July 31, 2014

      I know this is two yrs old so I hope you have figured out that your dog needs to be played with and taken for walks. Dogs can sense your feelings, and by that I truly mean they are definitely mind readers. My dog has taught me more in the 2 and half years I’ve had him then all the info I’ve ever learned in my 42 yrs of life about dogs. Even small dogs need walks and playtime. Some little dogs have more energy to let loose everyday than some big dogs, I am no expert but I am just trying to help you with your little boss, I mean that’s what our dogs think they are if we allow them. Dogs want to be told what to do. All Dogs!! Dogs respect their owners far more and love them lots when they get the attention training and exercise they need. When I first got Ziggy, I heard people say ” a tired dog is a good dog!” – Sounded like abuse to me. By 5 mos old I was begging for advice. Took my dog to daycare and he also started his training class at 5 mos. I truly learned alot, and the biggest thing I learned is: Training your dog is a forever job, and that what makes your dog’s life happy, satisfied, and complete! I’m sure by now you got some answers and hopw you and your dog are BFF’s!

  2. Erin Newman on February 19, 2012

    We rescued a poodle, shih tzu mix named Willow last week and she has terrible separation anxiety issues. She was supposedly crate trained, but when we leave her, she barks and cries, and then poops in her crate and spreads it around. She totally ignores all her toys and chewy things we put with her. Her crate is not too large, it fits her 11 pound body just fine – thus she has to curl up in a little ball to stay out of her mess. She is supposedly 1 or 2 years old, but she acts more like a puppy – i.e. still tries to chew everything in sight. We decided to rescue another dog to help Willow and we got a 7 years old terrier mix who is very calm and obedient and doesn’t mind being left in her crate. She just lays down, chews on her bone and then goes to sleep. Their two crates are close so they can see each other, but that hasn’t help Willow at all. We leave the TV on and have exercised both dogs before we leave, and made sure they have been outside to pee and poop. Willow doesn’t mind being in the crate as long as we are here. She will go in it by herself and take a nap. Of course, the door is open, so that is one thing that is different when we leave. I got a lot of information from reading the comments above, and we can work on the barking and crying issue. But we need advice what we can do about her pooping.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on February 25, 2012

      Do you have her on a strict feeding schedule? That would be my first recommendation. Get her on a schedule of one or two meals per day and then walk her afterwards and she will most likely poop at that time. If you are free feeding her (leaving food out all the time) she won’t be on an schedule and you won’t know when she needs to go. I suggest feeding her once a day in the evening when you get home from work. Then go for a long walk. Don’t feed her in the morning before work unless it is treats in a food-dispensing toy. That way she will be hungry and more willing to chew on these types of toys and she will be less likely to poop in her kennel.

  3. summer on March 1, 2012

    My english bulldog is 1 year old- crated during the day and does not get anxious when I leave the house if she’s in her crate. She’s not overly excited when I come home. Sometimes when I leave and she’s out in the apartment she stands by the door and screams and barks- say when I just go out to take the trash out. She’ll follow me to door if she knows I’m leaving. Lately *every time* I tie her up outside a store she screams and barks as soon as I step inside (I live in NYC and frequently take her on walks and sometimes tie her up for 5-10 minutes while I grab a coffee). First people think it’s cute but it quickly becomes annoying. She also pees / poops in the house if I leave her for long periods of time (5 hours). Biggest issue is tying her outside stores– any advice?

  4. Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 4, 2012

    Keep leaving her in the crate when you are at home. If she’s comfortable in there, you’re better of sticking with that.

    You can stretch her limits a bit by tethering her at home and then walking away. Return to her the second she is quiet. Also work on teaching her a reliable down/stay and then work on creating more and more distance. Reward her when she is staying.

    Can you avoid tying her outside of stores? I think you should work on leaving her tied for 30 seconds at a time rather than 10 minutes to get a coffee. Bring a friend along or leave the dog at home if you have to tie her outside for longer than that for now. Slowly work up from 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, a minute and so on when you tie her outside.

  5. Hugh on March 13, 2012

    Hi, I have a bit of a different separation anxiety problem: So much of the counter-conditioning that I see suggested focuses on dogs that are anxious the minute an owner leaves the house, my problem is that my 14mth-old Viszla urinates/defacates in her crate in the middle of a 4-hour stay or overnight.

    1- We have eliminated all potential medical issues, including ectopic ureters, botched-spays, and UTI’s.
    2- She is perfectly CALM when we leave the house. When we return (or when we wake her up) there is usually evidence that she has tossed the crate and peed. Usually in the same spot.
    3- She does not pee anywhere else in the house, and there is no evidence that she is not house-trained.
    4- We have tried “focus toys”, including Kongs, stuffed with food to distract her. Unfortunately, once she finishes them it’s back to the start.

    The obvious conclusion is that she does not like to be left alone. She is very active, and we give her a lot of exercise, but (and I intend to film her soon) she must just get frustrated towards the end of the morning / afternoon / night, and then freak out. When she does defacate, there is evidence that it is diarrhea (however, she usually eats it).

    I wish I knew how to calm her – not when we leave her, but in the middle of the day! If you have any advice, it would be much appreciated!

    HRS

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 25, 2012

      I would hire a dog walker to come take her out for a half-hour in the middle of the day if you can’t get home for lunch. I would also get up once in the middle of the night to take her out.

      I’m not convinced it’s an anxiety thing. She may be unable to hold it for 8 hours since she is getting older.

  6. Laura on March 24, 2012

    Hi Lindsay,

    I adopted a year-old pit mix from animal services about a week ago. I’ve received a lot of advice from vets and experts on helping him with his separation anxiety, including this article, and I’m sure in time he will settle into my routine. He gets plenty of exercise, plenty of frozen peanut butter-filled Kongs, sees new places daily, and has very quickly learned basic commands (is staying for longer and longer periods of time in a separate room), housebreaking and leash manners. However, he’s injuring himself while I’m away. I work at night and come home to a raw, bleeding muzzle. I originally bought him a plastic crate but he chewed on it and cut himself on the jagged edges. I tried a metal crate, but he forces his nose between the bars, bruising it and rubbing off the skin.

    Although I am not totally comfortable with the idea, I’ve tried anti-anxiety medication with no results. I’m willing to put in the time and work to correct his behavior, but in the meantime, I myself worry for his safety the entire time I’m away. I fear if I do not crate him, he may find worse ways to harm himself, such as jumping through a glass window. Is there any way I can prevent injury while he is adjusting? It absolutely breaks my heart to see his muzzle bloody and scabbed. Other owners at the dog park avoid personal or pet interactions with him because he looks abused or diseased.

    Because I work at night, I’m not crazy about the idea of leaving him in a kennel, given his recent experience in a shelter and how few hours we will be left with to work on his issues at home. I haven’t found anyone willing to watch and distract him while I’m at work, given my hours. I do have a coworker with a rottweiler mix who I may let me borrow his dog to keep mine company at night, but he warns she has accidents and needs to be crated when left for long periods of time.

    I’m at a loss in the short term as far as just preventing my dog from injuring himself on a daily basis. Would it be better not to crate him? Would having a calm, crated dog in the room help? Is there any kind of tool designed purely to prevent facial injury?

  7. Laura on March 24, 2012

    p.s. I am considering this – http://www.dognoseprotectors.com/resources.html . Thoughts?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 25, 2012

      Hey Laura,

      It sounds like you are doing all the right things. You sound very patient!

      If you can find a professional pet sitter to come let him out once while you are at work that might help. I’m a pet sitter, and sometimes pet sitters are more flexible with hours than typical dog walkers. You might be able to find one who will even just sit with your dog for an hour or two.

      With most dogs, if they are anxious and destructive in the crate, they will also be destructive out of the crate. You could try leaving him for just a half-hour or so loose in a room while you step out to run errands or just sit in your car to test what he does. I would not leave him loose for the entire time you are at work right off the bat. If I were you, I would probably stick to using the crate. The only time a dog does better out of a crate is if the anxiety is actually caused by the crate vs. being alone. Some dogs haven’t been crate trained and then they freak out when they are confined to one.

      I think your dog will pull that nose protector right off if you get it, and it will probably just make him more anxious. I wouldn’t worry too much about his nose. I’m sure it looks a lot worse than it really is.

      I would keep using the anxiety meds for now. Maybe talk to the vet about switching the kind of meds he is on or changing the dosage.

      Some people have had success with dog appeasing pheromones, although I’m skeptical. You can get a kind that you plug right into an outlet. None of these products have ever worked for any of my foster dogs with anxiety. Worth a shot, though.

      You could try having your friend’s rottie stay with your dog, but I really don’t think that would help. It will probably just add more stress for you. The rottie sounds like she might have accidents, and then you’ll just have to deal with that in addition to your own dog’s issues.

      I think the main thing is to stay calm, shoot for small successes, stick to a routine and keep slowly increasing your dog’s confidence. You will get through this eventually. It just takes some time, often a few months. I wish I had a better answer!

  8. ROSA on April 12, 2012

    My husband and I just got a 2month old shitzu. we had her now for two weeks. I am very nervous in leaving her at home alone since my husband and I have to work. Would she be ok if left alone for 7 hours till we returned? She has food and water, wee wee pads and lots of toys. and a bed to sleep in. she does not cry when we are leaving but im not sure if she cries when she realize we wont be back for a while.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on April 16, 2012

      I wouldn’t worry about separation anxiety, but most 8-week old pups will not be able to hold it for 7 hours. Is there any way you can come home during lunch for a quick bathroom break for her? Any way you could hire a dog walker or pet sitter to visit during the middle of the day? After a month or so she should be OK once she gets the hang of the potty training concept and gets a little older.

      Don’t feel bad about her spending so much time alone, though. Plenty of people work 8-hour shifts and still have dogs. It’s just that she may have an accident or two while you are gone since she is so little yet.

  9. SimZell on April 14, 2012

    Okay. Me and my bf just got a Puppy about a month ago. She is lab and chow mix and is about 13 weeks to 14 weeks old. This girl is craaaaaaazzzzyyyy! The FIRST mistake my bf did was let her sleep in the bed on the first night ugh! Secondly, over the couple of weeks we’ve had her (before we got a kennel) we would leave her in the bathroom when he or I went somewhere (EPIC FAIL) she tore up the entire bathroom !! Used the bathroom everywhere (pee and poop) chewed uP a leash I bought her managed to open the toilet seat and spill water everywhere pulled the carpet from the OTHER SIDE of the door up, I mean insane and she barks continouslyyyyy when we are out of the room or when she is kenneled and we are about to leave I mean I can hear her outside the apartment walls! Idk what to do I’m on the risk of taking her to a shelter bc I just can not handle it nor do I have the patience! I’m a full time student and I work part time I mean I have lots of time to spend with her but maybe it’s bc we babied her entirely tOo much! I’m hopeless. Oh and we’ve also noticed that when she sees us move the kennel in the bedroom or bathroom she holds her pee/poop (I guess she knows she is about to go in there) for about an hour and then when we put her in there she pees/poops PURPOSELY all over the kennel while we are gone! Helppppp meeeeeee!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on April 16, 2012

      Follow the suggestions I listed in this post: http://www.thatmutt.com/2010/05/08/dog-separation-anxiety-2/

      Take them very seriously. Stick to a routine. Use a kennel. Give her lots of exercise. Give her Kong toys with peanut butter and other goodies when you leave. I’m not trying to make it sound easy. I know it’s very hard and frustrating and takes a lot of time and patience.

      Also, know that she is peeing and pooping in the kennel because she is nervous. She is not doing it to get back at you for leaving. Dogs are not capable of thinking that way. Instead, feed her in the morning before you have to leave but then make sure you have time to take her for a good 45-minute walk. That will give her enough time to relieve herself. Praise her with treats when she goes outside.

  10. Cally on April 14, 2012

    Hi Lindsay,

    Thanks for the great article, we will start implementing your advice straight away. I just wanted to comment to see if you have any further advice for us. We have just moved from a warm climate to a very cold one… Our dog (he is two years old) stayed outdoors most of the day and then was allowed inside when we were home. Now we have to keep him inside most of the time while we are out and he has started to paw at the door and flooring. He has already made his way through the lino and is now starting to chew the wood! We have only been in our new place for a month so he might need a bit more time but if there is any additional advice you can give us we would appreciate it!

    Thanks!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on April 16, 2012

      Get a crate for him. It may take him a while to get used to it, but at least if he is in a crate he will not be able to destroy property or injure himself. Then perhaps in a few months or a few years he will be able to be left loose again.

  11. Alexia K. on April 27, 2012

    Hi Lindsay,
    I am in the process of purchasing a Maltipoo now and im so paranoid that she might get separation anxiety. I go to school in the morning to the afternoon and i just don’t want her to start having the anxiety while im gone and i just want to avoid problems starting. But the bad part is she is just so cute its really hard to resist to pick her up sometimes. Any advice ?

    • Amanda on March 29, 2013

      Advice to you is to not get a dog! You’re obvioulsy not mentally capable of proper training! Like she just said, dogs are not babies! They are not an accessory! Oh, and no one should “purchase” pets. Go adopt one that needs a home and stop being selfish!

      • Eleanor on May 30, 2013

        My advice to you, Amanda, is that you think before you post things which are unnecessary and don’t help the original poster with the problem she had. Who are you to say that she should not get a dog or that she is mentally incapable of training one, or that she is selfish for that matter. I personally don’t agree for a second that treating a dog like a child is detrimental, I have a 7 year old cairn terrier who has been my ‘baby’ since day one. She’s one of the most well mannered dogs I know, and listens to every word I say. She has no issues with me leaving her on her own for 8 hours a day whilst I work, and she never has. Funnily enough, I also ‘purchased’ her. I agree that there are a lot of rescue dogs who do need homes, but some times you have to make the decision to opt for a puppy from a litter. I made this decision as my schedule meant that I couldn’t offer a rescue dog the time that many of them take to be rehabilitated. You have to think that there are many rescue dogs who have been abused in the past, or have been neglected in some manner, let alone the stress and overriding tensions of being separated from an owner they assumed they would be with for the rest of their lives. Adopting a rescue dog is a big decision to make, and I know from experience that it can be A LOT of hard work, that for some just isn’t a feasible option. I’m not saying all rescue dogs are the same, and I do believe that people should adopt where they are able to, but at the end of the day it is a personal choice. Nothing can beat having that strong bond that you get with a puppy, something which with older rescues you may struggle to obtain. I have had both rescues and puppy’s that I have bought, and both have their pros and cons. Let’s also not forget that if nobody ever bought a puppy from a litter then rescues would be inundated with litters that people are unable to find homes for. It won’t stop people purposefully breeding, as there would still be demand, and accidental litters are bound to happen. Before judging others perhaps you should consider what you are saying.

        • Lindsay Stordahl Author on May 30, 2013

          I agree. How someone decides to obtain a dog is a personal choice. What’s right for me will not be right for everyone.

          • Eleanor on May 30, 2013

            Definitely, I think you have to take your personal lifestyle into account, it’s similar to looking at the best breed for you.

  12. MaltipooAnxiety on September 8, 2012

    Hi all,

    My boyfriend and I moved in together with his maltipoo. I thought nothing of it, since his maltipoo was so darn cute and I love animals– I didn’t foresee any issues with such a small dog.

    What I didn’t know was his dog has extreme separation anxiety (or even knew what that was, despite having had several dogs growing up), which became very apparent when we moved into together. I’m sure this came from a lack of any training as a puppy (I did not come into the dog’s life until he was already 3 years old, a couple years ago), spending 24/7 with him as a puppy because he was unemployed at the time, moving around a lot/having no routine, and encouraging bad behavior by letting him sleep in his bed, giving treats when he cried or for no reason at all. He’s also an escape artist and would find a way to run away at his parents’ house almost every day– there’s no opportunity for him to do that at our place, since we don’t have a yard to put him in. He scratches and bites himself constantly, despite that we know he doesn’t have flees and appropriately bathe him with sensitive skin shampoo. I feel his constant grooming is OCD behavior.

    We are trying to correct his behavior because he is destructive at night and when we’re away from our place. We have a big upstairs loft which he gets all to himself at night and when we’re gone. We tried kenneling and it was a nightmare: he banged, screamed, panted and bit up the whole kennel, completely destroying it. We actually had to get two, because he figured out how to escape from the first one (which was super cheap and just didn’t hold together– he actually figured out how to jimmy the lock open). He has much more space now which is open (on top) and it’s caged off by all metal, so he can’t hurt himself chewing up plastic. We exercise him a lot every day, feed him on schedule, even play a sleep mix for him at night. He has his favorite bed, blanket and stuffed animal with him. We ignore him all the time, only giving him attention when he’s calm, and I’ve trained him to sit, stay, give paw and roll over (he IS a smart dog who has caught on to tricks quickly). We’ve tried all kinds of things, changing our behavior toward him and setting strict rules (he’s not allowed on furniture, in the bedroom, or in the kitchen when we’re eating). He’s not allowed to jump on us when we come through the door and we sternly tell him no when he tries, or just try to ignore him. My boyfriend picks up his keys and puts on his shoes and then ignores the dog’s excitable behavior until he calms down, before taking him for a walk. It’s been months and months, and although we’ve seen a little progress, it’s not enough.

    I woke up at 5am today to screaming, crying, banging, panting and howling. It lasted for hours. I work a lot and need sleep– a good night for me is when the dog is quiet. I’m stressed out all the time. This dog’s behavior seems insane. Once, he jumped 6 feet off the stairs up to the loft because my boyfriend was in the other room. We were surprised he didn’t seriously hurt himself jumping that far on to hardwood floors. We’ve had to make several changes to how he’s contained in the loft so he doesn’t try to escape and injure himself.

    After all of our work, we decided to try medication (which the author advises against) in combination with our efforts. The medication has had no effect whatsoever! He isn’t, in any way, at all different! It’s incredible. I was expecting to see some kind of change, negative or positive… but nothing. He’s still high energy, excitable, has panic attacks, watches my boyfriend every move constantly, tries to follow him into every room… the same as it has always been.

    I’m at my wits end, but this dog is my boyfriend’s baby. I’m miserable. It’s so hard trying to train separation anxiety out of an older, 5 year old dog. Can anyone advise me on how long it might take? How much longer should I keep trying before accepting that this is the way things are? Please help. I’d just like to know if things will get better, or if some dogs just never get over their psychological issues.

    Thanks.

  13. MaltipooAnxiety on September 8, 2012

    Also, we do give him kongs filled with treats and all kinds of things to try and keep his mind busy. He’ll only play with them when we’re close by him. He won’t touch these things when we’re gone.

  14. Anna on September 19, 2012

    Hi MaltipooAnxiety!

    I’m sorry to hear about your problems.
    What kind of drugs does your dog get? Did you talk to the vet about his anxiety?

    Anna

  15. Gemma Bridgman on February 24, 2013

    Hi guys

    My puppy is very anxious when I even leave the room, I’ve been trying to reward her with food when u leave but she’s worked this out and just leaves it until I get back. I have no problem with her going to the gate but she wees on the floor and now pooing when I’m not there . How do I solve this ? I’m paranoid about leaving her in the kitchen too long but now this forum says the more time apart the better ? Feel like I could’ve majoring her more anxious? She’s not had any jabs yet so we take her for a walk in our arms and play in the kitchen to wear her out for the night x

  16. jennifer on May 20, 2013

    I came to this site because I have no idea how to address the new dog issues I have with my new Pomeranian. Excellent advice that I have instantly began to implement. Thank you!

    Oh, also, I am totally amazed that people are actually asking questions that are answered by the above next, offered by the writer of the blog! Read the blog. It a wonderful blog that’s chock-ful of information on dog behavior.

    Read directions, then execute.

  17. Amanda on May 20, 2013

    I have a year and a half year old pitbull that has struggled with separation anxiety since day one. I mean she has ripped carpets up, ate doors, broke welds on metal crates, chewed through plastic crates and drools enough to completely dehydrate herself. Since I am a veterinary tech assistant and work at a ahaa accredited animal hospital I get to know about all of the new drugs etc. since she is only a little over a year, we did not want to give her acepromazine or Xanax because it could cause long term damage since it would have to be used every day. First off, I bought an preselect empire crate with 1/4 inch thick steel bars. (She cannot destroy this one) then I decided to try those silly pheromone diffusers…turns out they’re not so silly. I plug this diffuser in everyday when I leave and now the only howl I get is once when she hears my car door. :) I could not be happier. No more drooling, barking, howling, or chewing. She will even eat and drink in her crate now. Before she would just shake and drool. Anyways, it’s called adaptil if anyone else is interested. Also there are no side effects and your dog never becomes resistant! Your veterinarian will probably have it or be able to order it or point you to someone that does have it.

    • Amanda on May 20, 2013

      Proselect*

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on May 20, 2013

      So glad you’ve found something that works for your dog. Thanks for the tips. It will be helpful to others.

  18. Simone on June 2, 2013

    Hi,
    Im having problems with my dog. She’s round about 8 or 9, Border Collie X German Shepherd. My mom recently passed away from cancer, and they were best friends. My dog wont eat her dog food. She sometimes eats the treats we give her but otherwise she just leaves them. She does drink a lot.
    Im not sure what to do.
    Please help
    Thanks, Simone

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on June 2, 2013

      So sorry to hear about your mom. I think your dog will eat eventually once she is hungry enough. I’m not sure how long this has been going on, but I’ve seen dogs go four or five days without eating. Then they eat. Dogs will not starve themselves unless they are physically sick and unable to eat. If you are worried, though, you could take your dog to the vet just to be sure nothing is wrong.

  19. Violet on July 12, 2013

    Hi there,

    I just came across your website and I was hoping you could help me. I adopted a husky mix about a month and a half ago. He’s developed a pretty severe case of separation anxiety, where he is actually jumping out of windows, clawing and ripping at doors and eliminating in the house. My coworkers have come to work on the farm where I live with 6 other people to my dog hanging out of the second story window in a bedroom bc he wanted to get out of the house so badly. I know that huskys need a lot of mental stimulation, and I’ve been trying to give it to him, but his destruction is getting worse and worse. I work 9 to 5 everyday, so I can’t ease him into being alone all that well. And the one time I did leave him in his crate, he broke out of it twice and chipped his canine. There was blood everywhere. I’m doing all that I can (ie ignoring him for 20 before/after I leave, crate training, etc.) but it’s not enough. Do you have any tips as to what else I can do?
    If he keeps this up I’ll have to return him to the shelter bc it’s not my house and my bosses were very specific about the rules if I brought him to the farm where I worked (any destruction I’d have to pay for, and if it got bad enough he’d have to go..) I really don’t want to do that because I love him a lot.

    Help please.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 12, 2013

      I hate to suggest anti anxiety medication but this seems like a case where it’s an option. The goal would be to use other behavior modification tools in addition to the medication and eventually wean him off of it.

    • Michelle Immel on July 31, 2014

      I’m not a professional but if I could also give any advice, I’d like to add that if you work everyday 5 days a week, putting him in doggy daycare a couple days a week will probably help him quite a bit also. He’s a good size dog and needs a lot of daily exercise. Doggy daycare tires my dog enough that if I take him 2 or 3 days a week he is tired out the days in between enough for him to appreciate the rest, and I give him a good long walk after I get home from work on the nights I do not take him to daycare. I also agree with the medication to start with. It does sound pretty severe. However , thinking long term you being gone 40 hours a week, a dog his size really does need the exercise. Sometimes having a dog seems stressful and hard to keep up with; however, dogs truly can be the best thing to happen to you. Just might take some time! Good luck I hope everything works out for you and your dog.

  20. Hope on July 30, 2014

    I hope this site is still going… Here goes.
    I house/dog sit for my parents when they go on vacation. they typically go once or twice a year for about two weeks. They have a labradoodle that is currently 6 years old. He still acts like a puppy. My Dad has always coddled him and always treats him like he is a golden child (I am 25, my sister 28, we both live outside of the house, so it is just my parents and the dog at the house usually). Things are usually fine when my parents go away on these vacations (I’d say I’ve done this 4-5 times now) other than the dog being a bit depressed. This time around after about day 2 of them being gone he started whining/whimpering constantly. I mean non-stop. He does it while he goes on walks, while he plays, while he eats, before he sleeps, it has been 4 days and 3 nights straight he has been doing this. The ONLY difference is this time I brought my cat over and he is not allowed in the room I sleep in with her (we put up a child-proof gate) but that’s not the room he sleeps in anyway. I have asked him to “show me” what he wants and just picks up one of his squeeky toys and I play with him but he whimpers the whole time. I think he is missing my parents, mostly my Dad. Any suggestions?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 31, 2014

      My dog does a lot of whining. In his case, it’s usually because his routine is off and he just needs more exercise to settle down. I’m not saying that is necessarily the case with your parents’ dog, but maybe if you took him on some long, long walks it would help him settle in.

      Does he seem good with the cat? Maybe if he gets a chance to safely interact with the cat, it would help him settle down too. Of course, that could backfire, too. If the cat hisses at him or runs from it, it could just get him even more excited.

      Just brainstorming here …

    • Michelle Immel on July 31, 2014

      Very well is likely he is scared of the cat. Remember that is his house; his territory, and he’s already worked up that Dad (& Mom) left. Has he ever been around a cat before? In the same house anyway I mean? Dogs are so sensitive. And jealous I might add! If your going to be there 2 weeks I would certainly suggest taking your cat home. Unless you really can’t. Good Luck! I hope everything works out!

HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY?