Separation Anxiety in Dogs
What to Do If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety continued...
A Necessary Component of Separation Anxiety Treatment
During desensitization to any type of fear, it is essential to ensure that
your dog never experiences the full-blown version of whatever
provokes his anxiety or fear. He must experience only a low-intensity version
that doesn’t frighten him. Otherwise, he won’t learn to feel calm and
comfortable in situations that upset him. This means that during treatment for
separation anxiety, your dog cannot be left alone except during
your desensitization sessions. Fortunately there are plenty of alternative
- If possible, take your dog to work with you.
- Arrange for a family member, friend or dog sitter to come to your home and
stay with your dog when you’re not there. (Most dogs suffering from separation
anxiety are fine as long as someone is with them. That someone doesn’t
necessarily need to be you.)
- Take your dog to a sitter’s house or to a doggy daycare.
- Many dogs suffering from separation anxiety are okay when left in a car.
You can try leaving your dog in a car-but only if the weather is moderate. Be
warned: dogs can suffer from heatstroke and die if left in cars in warm weather
(70 degrees Fahrenheit and up)-even for just a few minutes. DO NOT leave your
dog in a car unless you’re sure that the interior of your car won’t heat
In addition to your graduated absences exercises, all greetings (hellos and
goodbyes) should be conducted in a very calm manner. When saying goodbye, just
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. The amount of time it takes for your dog to
relax once you’ve returned home will depend on his level of anxiety and
individual temperament. To decrease your dog’s excitement level when you come
home, it might help to distract him by asking him to perform some simple
behaviors that he’s already learned, such as sit, down or shake.
To Crate or Not to Crate?
Crate training can be helpful for some dogs if they learn that the crate is
their safe place to go when left alone. However, for other dogs, the crate can
cause added stress and anxiety. In order to determine whether or not you should
try using a crate, monitor your dog’s behavior during crate training and when
he’s left in the crate while you’re home. If he shows signs of distress (heavy
panting, excessive salivation, frantic escape attempts, persistent howling or
barking), crate confinement isn’t the best option for him. Instead of using a
crate, you can try confining your dog to one room behind a baby gate. (To learn
more about crate training, please see our article, Weekend Crate