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Dogs are social animals and it can be difficult for them to spend time alone. While many dogs can learn to accept being alone for moderate amounts of time, some dogs become anxious when you leave. A change in routine can be especially stressful, like when their family member returns to work or school after having been home for a long period of time. There are many potential causes for anxiety and stress in dogs and identifying your dog’s trigger is key to helping them.

What is dog separation anxiety?

Being left alone at home and watching their human leave can be very upsetting for dogs. A dog that has separation anxiety will feel emotional distress when separated from a person they are attached to. They are often destructive as a part of their panic response.

Signs of Dog Separation Anxiety

Some common behaviors of dogs with separation anxiety include:

Causes of Dog Separation Anxiety

While all of the causes are not fully understood, some situations that might be associated with the development of separation anxiety include:

What to do if your dog has separation anxiety

First, visit your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems. Sometimes the signs of separation anxiety can also be signs of a medical disease. Visit your vet for a wellness exam and basic blood work. By letting your vet know about your dog’s separation anxiety, they can also help provide general advice about how to treat it.

Short-term solutions for dog separation anxiety

Sometimes you need a more immediate solution while working with your dog. Some of these suggestions could help:

If your dog has mild separation anxiety, try some of these techniques:

For more serious cases of separation anxiety:

You’ll need to help your dog get used to your absence through systematic dog separation anxiety training, also called desensitization or counter-conditioning. Please note, this training is complex and an experienced professional can help. Look for a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) to help you with the training.

These steps briefly describe desensitization and counter-conditioning steps:

You must proceed very gradually until your dog shows no signs of distress. At any point, if your actions produce an anxiety response in your dog, you’ve proceeded too fast.