Written by: Laura Christiansen, National Dog Trainer of the Year
Dog Separation anxiety
Dog Separation anxiety is moderate to severe stress felt by sensitive dogs when
distanced from other pack members. It can also be a fear of being left alone. It stems from a lack
of self-confidence and is most common in shelter or rescue dogs, pet store dogs or dogs’ that have
had multiple owners, early traumatic handling or abuse. Some dogs may be born with a predisposition
to display anxiety when under stress.
Dogs with severe anxiety may exhibit chewing, scratching, destruction, excessive vocalization,
elimination, escape behaviors, extreme following or depression.
There are 3 types of Separation anxiety:
Transitional – Pups or adolescent dogs adjusting to a new home. As long as things are handled
properly dog will usually adjust in 4 – 8wks.
Conditional – Triggered by sudden changes in the environment such as a persons’ schedule change, a
family member leaving, a storm etc. that may have frightened
the dog., etc.
Permanent – Trauma experienced by dog during fear stages or predisposition to
display anxiety when under stress.
Overly indulgent owners that nurture the dogs following, excited greetings, attention seeking.,
etc. may inadvertently reinforce and encourage these behaviors. Instead make your arrivals and
departures very low key. Gather all your pre-departure belongings then sit quietly and calmly and
breathe deeply for a few minutes. Do not speak, look at or touch the dog.
Now use a phrase of action such as “I’ll be back soon”, get up and calmly leave. Upon your return wait for a few minutes or until the dog is calm and now give a short greeting. You want to show your dog that comings and goings happen all the time and are not a big deal at all!
Alter your departure routine and be deceptive
Your dog is a predator and observer. Anxious dogs are very watchful of your routine and once the dogs sees a certain trigger this will set off the anxiety cycle. Change things up a bit. Put your laptop and briefcase in the car the night before or put your shoes on outside where your dog can’t see you. Creativity can really throw your dog off and help the situation.
Sometimes natural remedies can help such as a DAP pet diffuser.
If your dogs’ symptoms seem severe talk to your vet about possible
Anti-anxiety meds and contact a skilled behaviorist at once.
Laura Christiansen, CPDT
Canine Learning Centers/ Caring Paws Therapy dogs