Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Many dogs realize that when you pick up your car keys or put on your coat that they are about to become lonely for a while. Yes, many dogs suffer from the same separation anxiety that affects your toddler. How do you help your dog so that you’re not constantly coming home to the above scene (and without locking him away in a crate all day)?

You need to link the cues of your departure to a good outcome for your dog. Try this exercise: Pick up your keys and praise (or treat) him. Pick up your keys, go to the door and praise him. Pick up your keys, go through the door, come right back inside and praise him. Pick up keys, go outside, wait a few seconds, come back inside and praise him. Pick up keys, go outside, wait a few minutes, come back in and praise dog. If at any time your dog shows sign of anxiety, stop and make sure not to reward him and go back a step. Your dog will learn to associate your leaving with something pleasant (the praise or treats) instead of with loneliness. The result should be no more anxiety when you leave.

Dogs rely heavily on scents. You can also try leaving a scented article of clothing (scented with your natural scent, not perfume) in the room with you while you’re gone.

If, at any time, your dog ruins anything (or has an indoor accident) while you’re away, never punish him. It will only make his anxiety worse. Dogs aren’t able to remember their bad behavior and connect it to your anger. He will only internalize that sometimes when you come home you’re happy to see him and other times you aren’t. Dogs thrive on consistency. They need to know you’re always happy to see them when you come home, the same way he is. If he turns destructive, go back and repeat the conditioning process again.

After a few weeks of trying these methods, if your dog doesn’t become less anxious, you may need to consult a behaviorist.


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