Separation Anxiety in Dogs and How to Deal with It
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Most dogs enjoy company - whether that’s from other dogs, their owners or even
Although most dogs are content when they’re left alone, any pet can go on to
develop separation anxiety due to an event or traumatic experience. This could be
anything from losing a companion, to being re-homed or a bad experience whilst
you were out - such as fireworks.
Separation anxiety can lead to unwanted behaviour such as barking (which often
also upsets your neighbours as you may be unaware that your dog is doing it until
they complain) or they will be frightened that you will leave at any moment and
become nervous, shadowing and clinging to a member of the family whenever they
do something that indicates leaving the house; putting shoes on or picking up your
Other symptoms include destructive behaviour such as chewing furniture,
shredding your possessions, scratching doors and floors, over-grooming
themselves, forgetting their usual toilet training and choosing to go in the house (it
has been known for this to be on a pillow or bed where you lie!) or intense
excitement when you return home.
An obvious one to suggest from Harris Hounds is daycare with us - or for us to pay
your dog a visit and take them for a walk on the days that you are not there.
However, we do understand that that isn’t possible in every situation.
If you’re concerned about how your pet behaves when they are on their own, then
you could set up a video camera to record their behaviour. Also, sometimes you
may identify a certain problem with your pet that could potentially be a medical
issue - so if that’s the case, make sure you get them checked by the vet.
In the short term, there are things that you can do to help your dog deal with being
left on their own that will hopefully help ease the distress.
Short Term Treatment
It is very important not to punish your dog when they display any undesirable
behaviour. Your dog does not understand being punished and it will only make the
Consider the services of Harris Hounds or a pet sitter. We can offer walking as well
Distract your dog with a treat whenever you need to leave the house. Kong toys
can be filled with treats or with a part of their meal and frozen in advance. This
means that the dog spends time licking the kong as the food melts. It’s a great
distraction for them.
You can obtain pheromones, such as DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) that can
help calm your dog. They are usually available in a collar, plug-in diffuser or spray.
If you need further advice then speak to a local vet.
Long Term Treatment
Start by desensitising your pet. Build up to leaving them on their own. You will need
to be patient as this can take a long time to achieve.
If your dog gets anxious while you are getting ready to leave the house, then
desensitisation training may stop this behaviour. This could also be helped by
packing the car in advance before you need to leave and leaving the house calmly
to reduce their level of excitement.
More exercise. Ensure they are well exercised before you leave. This will leave
them calmer and potentially able to rest while you are gone.
If they tend to follow one particular person around the house then try not giving
them attention when they seek it but instead wait for them to be calm and settled
Get your dog used to a safe place in the house where they will be kept when they
are left. Many owners consider crates to be cruel - but studies have shown that if a
dog is happy and used to the environment - and ensuring it is big enough for them
to move freely - they become used to having a safe place to be. Encourage them to
use it when you are in the house too - put in a blanket that has your scent on it and
they will feel that you are close to them.
If you have re-homed a rescue dog then it may be a hard thing to start with - but all
of the above tips should help long-term.