My dog has separation anxiety. Halp?

Guest post by TA
Is there a way to solve doggy anxiety without medication? By: Mike McCuneCC BY 2.0
One day we were asked to puppy sit for a week. The agreement was we’d get to play with a puppy for a week and make $50 in the end. A year later we’re just as broke as we were before and the puppy is now an awkward 60-pound dog they never came back for.

Training has just recently started working so there’s hope on the horizon, but my fiance and I are still stuck at home with him all the time. He has the worst separation anxiety and barks (and barks and barks and barks) and scratches up doors when we’re gone. Assuming he would ever calm down and stop is a mistake. He’s done it for hours on end before.

I need help. I have absolutely no idea how to calm him down. Our cat and other dog are his best friends and they stay home with him, so it’s not like he’s totally alone. Can any offbeat homies help me with my dog’s separation anxiety? Someone tell me there’s hope beyond medicating him. -TA

Ah, separation anxiety…

Surprisingly, since I work at home full time, my dogs don’t have it. But my neighbors’ dogs do. (Imagine the sound of several apartments surrounding a courtyard full of non-stop barking.) Sadly, the only solution for one of my neighbors was to use a bark collar. Hey, it definitely worked to keep the barking down, but I doubt it took care of the actual anxiety problem.

Anyone have advice for treating separation anxiety without using meds, or just treating the symptoms?

Comments on My dog has separation anxiety. Halp?

  1. Supposedly a lot of their anxiety has to do with the way you treat your arrivals/departures. Saying “goodbye” and feeling bad about leaving your dog makes them feel more anxious, even though it makes you feel better. Recommended (and used for our rescue dog) training ideas are
    a: Do not treat your leaving as a big deal. Do you say goodbye to your dog when you go to take out the trash? Of coarse not. You’ll be right back. Same deal.
    b: Leave for small increments of time, then return (5 min, then 10 min, 30 min, etc) as their behavior pattern normalizes.
    c: When you come back, do not let the OMG YOU’RE HOME!!!!! make you excited too. Tell your dog to sit, give them some attention for listening to your command, put your things away and settle down, THEN feel free to play and be excited with the pup.

    Last but most important: a lot of dog’s separation anxiety stems from not knowing who the Alpha dog is. When you leave, (s)he is feeling stress over whether they are expected to take the Alpha role, and they’re acting out accordingly. As your above mentioned training increases, you should see HUGE improvements in their anxiety levels when you leave.

    • “a: Do not treat your leaving as a big deal. Do you say goodbye to your dog when you go to take out the trash? Of coarse not. You’ll be right back. Same deal.”
      This is good advice.
      Also if you are not walking your dog in the morning before you leave for work then your dog has a lot of pent up energy for the whole day. They need to be walked for an appropriate amount of time for their size, it will help settle them down. It may mean you have to get up earlier in the morning but if it helps keep the dog calm it is a win win, you both get exercise and the dog will be more mellow. Don’t underestimate how important it is to walk him, dogs are pack animals and they would walk together every day.

    • “c: When you come back, do not let the OMG YOU’RE HOME!!!!! make you excited too. Tell your dog to sit, give them some attention for listening to your command”

      I’d say don’t pay any attention period if the dog is riled up. The dog might listen to the command but still be in that really excited anxious state and even the reward for listening to the command also reinforces that state.

      Wait until the dog is laying down and semi ignoring you and then call them over and you can be all excited and happy to see them if you want, or just give a nice happy belly rub.

    • This is all great advice.

      You can also try desensitizing him to the leaving process. So do things that you would usually do before you’re about to leave, grab your keys, put on your coat, check your pockets for your wallet… then walk around the house like that for a couple of minutes, and then put them all away.

      If he gets used to you doing that, then, when you start to get ready to go out for real, it won’t trigger him to start panicing straight away, and it will be easier for you to resist “reassuring” (rewarding) him.

      I work as a groomer, and often find it’s more of a case of training the owners than the dogs 🙂

  2. I’m a big fan of kikopup on youtube. She uses positive reinforcement methods which are scientifically proven to work better than things like intimidation training. Here’s a link to her separation anxiety video:

    While the video is aimed towards puppies, the basic principles will be the same for older dogs as well. Basically, you have to make it so when you leave, it’s frankly really, really boring.

    You also may want to consider crate training if your dog is destroying things.

    Finally, just try to not give up! It’s going to be a very long road and I wish you all the luck and patience in the world.

  3. We had this problem really badly with our pup, things are getting better mostly… but we still get the odd resurgence here or there. (She chewed up the couch when I went into labour)

    We ended up crate training her to end the separation anxiety, the crate became her home and after a while the separation anxiety mostly subsided. We no longer use the crate (she prefers to chill behind our clawfoot tub), but when we get a resurgence we just are extra diligent, closing bedroom/bathroom doors, cleaning off the counters and tables, etc. We needed some training too, lol.

    I find that we get a larger resurgence when our pup is bored or hasn’t run enough. Not sure what breed you have, but high energy breeds need to kill their energy reserves. Walks or runs in the morning and evening might help immensely. Do you have chew toys for her? or a space that is her own? We even borrow my sister’s dog on occasion, the two run and play in the backyard for hours. Then our pup is usually too worn out to even think about destroying things.

    • He’s a golden retriever so yeah… HIGH energy. Leash training has been a pain but like I said up there, it’s recently started to work (kinda). Since we recently moved to an area with cleaner air, I am able to pick up the pace and have noticed that faster paced and longer walks helps. We have a couple of ropes he and our other dog play with, and he teases the cat with them too. He’s actually pretty active with me when I’m around and I do what I can to help him burn off energy.

      We might have to try crate training. He’s a big dog with lots of energy so I really don’t want to coop him up, but if it’s got a history of working with other dogs it might be worth a shot.

      • Even if you leave your dog out of a crate during the day, it’s unlikely that they are spending the day walking around the house and getting exercise. If they are relaxed and exercised, they’re probably passed out sleeping somewhere. That somewhere can be a crate until the anxiety is under control. It might actually make your dog feel safer, leading to more relaxation. Crating has to go hand-in-hand with more exercise, but it’s not necessarily “cooping them up” it’s “giving them a safe place to sleep until you get home”.

      • I totally understand feeling like crate training dogs is “cooping them up,” but honestly dogs love it. Puppies (but adults too) are a lot like babies. When wild pups are small, they are kept in a den, which comforts them, similar to how being in a small, semi-confined space comforts human babies. Being left in the open can trigger anxiety and apprehension (as well as tempt them to act up).

        Be sure to get a properly sized crate. The rule of thumb is you want them to be able to stand, turn around, and lie down without discomfort. If the crate is too big it ruins the comforting aspect. Put a comfy bed in, a toy or two, and if the dog is still unsure, a blanket over all sides except for the door. I have seen a combination of increased exercise and proper crate training lead to many happy dogs and owners. Good luck!

        • Absolutely agreed. We crate trained our youngest and it has become his safe place. He also heads off putting himself to bed at night and panics if the door is shut.

      • Lol, thankfully it was a cheapy taking up space until we had monies for something nicer.

        The big thing with Crate training is to size the crate to the dog. My sister has a german sheperd cross (we think, she was a rescue dog), she’s big and gangly and awkward. They still have a crate for her, but its big and roomy enough for her to chill out. Dogs actually spend a large portion of their day sleeping (something like 16 hours a day), as long as they are comfortable and not stressed out. The crate is like their bed, just make it comfy and cozy for them. Water, soft bedding, toys, etc.

  4. My American Pit Bull Terrier had some fierce separation anxiety when she about 7-9 months old. We worked with a private trainer and learned all the obvious basics you can find through a Google search. The less obvious tactic we tried (and the thing that really made a difference for us) was to work on exercises that increase the dog’s self-confidence. We started doing scent training/nosework with our dog and over a few weeks of steady training it made a huge difference in her confidence and relieving her separation anxiety. If you’re interested in trying scent training I recommend starting here:
    To start basic training the only supplies you’ll need will be dog treats and cardboard boxes, so it’s a great exercise for broke dog owners.

  5. Crate training may be the way to go. I know it seems mean to put them in a crate while you are gone, but if they are trained properly for the crate, this will be something that will help to soothe your dogs instead. They aren’t cheap, but they do come in very large sizes that your dog would have enough room in to move around a little. We crate trained our dog from a pup, and when we are home we leave the door open. He spends a large amount of time lounging in “his bed” by choice because it is his own little personal home. A great way to start crate training is to begin feeding them in the crate. Do not shut the door, just place their food in there so they have to go in to eat. Leave the door open all the time so they can explore the crate, and put a toy or two in there, along with blankets (preferably something that smells like them already). Have him start entering the crate on command, and getting a treat. Once he knows this, then start closing the door for increasing periods of time while you do chores, watch TV etc. This should become a safe space for your dog! I know there is also an article on Offbeat Home that shows ways you can incorporate a crate into your home to make it more efficient space. I also agree with the advice about the “right” way to leave the house. Your dogs will take their cues from you!

  6. We always give our dog a really long (or as long as possible) walk or run before we leave. We’d read that dogs can get anxious when the “pack” is apart and they are energetic and ready to go. If they’re tired they’re less likely to feel as though they “need” to come. Not sure if this makes sense, I’m rambling 🙂 It’s helped a ton with our dog.

    The other option is a doggie daycare if you have one nearby and can afford it. Our dog has a freerange one with reasonable rates, it helps relieve the pressure of having to stay at home with the beastie all the time.

    • I HIGHLY recommend doggie daycare. Even once a week will give your dog an outlet, exercise, and socialization with other dogs. We were bringing my dog regularly until he had knee surgery this summer, and I am hoping to get him back there at some point in the near future.

  7. Our dog had really bad separation anxiety when we first adopted her. That was almost 7 years ago. It was so bad I couldn’t even leave the room to go to the bathroom and shut the door without a full on freak out. What worked with her, and would hopefully help your dog, was small steps.

    Every time I left her, I would say in a firm, calm voice “I’ll be right back, be a good girl.” That was our routine. So, I started out by saying that before I went to the bathroom. No fussing over her, not getting tense knowing she would have an awful time of it, just calmly state my piece and leave the room. Then when I got back and she would happy freak out, I would ignore it and carry on my business like it was no biggie.

    Next step was working up to leaving the house for just 1-2 minutes at a time. Same routine. Then once she wasn’t shaking like a leaf and pooping herself at the thought of that, it was leaving the house for 5 minutes, then 10, then 30, etc.
    I’m not going to pretend it was a perfect solution, but it worked with her. We still have to close up all our bedrooms when we leave the house because she likes to destroy bedding while we’re out, but other than that she does just fine.

    Oh, and once she was pretty good with being left home, we started rewarding her with a long time in the backyard right before we leave. If you have a fenced in yard it’s great because you can take that time while your dog is outside to put your shoes on, get your purse, close any rooms up she’s not allowed in, all while she is oblivious to it. I think that helps to avoid extra anxiety, too.

  8. My husband and I ran into this problem a few times with our dogs (both female, approx 4 years old, boston terrier/chihuahua mix and a dachshund/chihuahua mix, Miss Waffles and Miss Shortstack, respectively). When my husband lost his job last year we went from having a daily routine where we both left at the same time each day, and he came home a few hours before me. This went to him not leaving at all, or leaving at random times. We had always gotten up to go to the gym at 5am, but after a few months of him being home all the time, Miss Shortstack started having some fierce separation anxiety when we would go to the gym. She would do what I called the “death squelch” in which it sounded like some one was torturing her. This in turn led Miss Waffles to become stressed, and she would be doing this howl/cry as well.

    We tried some clicker training, but the thing that helped us the most was getting those rubber Kongs and stuffing them with cut up carrots, and topping them off with peanut butter. I would freeze it sometimes too so it took them longer to get at the treats. This worked for a good amount of time, although once in a while they would get bored and we’d have to switch up the treats inside.

    This seemed to help alot! They started to associate us leaving with getting treats, and were more excited about those then paying attention to us leaving. We kept them in our kitchen, but separated with a baby gate (to prevent any potential play fighting accidents that may happen) and they could see us leaving. I think this played into the anxiety.

    We recently moved to a new place and had to revisit this tactic. We now keep them in an upstairs bedroom though, so they can’t see us leaving the house. My husband only just got a job last month, so our schedules are similar now. He leaves before I do, but when I go to leave I bring their breakfast upstairs with me, and Miss Shortstack sits patiently in her pen (a big gated off area of the bed room with her bed and toys and such) and waits for breakfast.

    Our dogs are very food motivated, so this worked well for us. The disruption to our normal routine really messed them up initially, so it took some work on our part to figure out the best way to get them interested in something else besides the fact that we were leaving and nevercomingback. We also followed the advice to not make a big deal of coming or going. We would stay calm and wait until they calmed down some before petting them and paying them attention. This way we weren’t rewarding them for being super excited when we walked through the door.

    It’s not a fun situation, and each dog will be different, but the training should also help. I think routine also helps a ton, but this may make some dogs more anxious due to the fact that they will know that you’re going to leave. You’ve got some good tips here though, and I wish you the best of luck with this!

    Oh! Also maybe try a Thundershirt? I’ve heard really good things about them, as I have a friend that volunteers at a large shelter. I tried it on Miss Shortstack, but it didn’t work with her. It’s always worth a try, and if it doesn’t work, you can return it. It’s better than medication if you’re trying to steer clear of that route.

    Good luck, and I hope it all works out for you. Feeling like you’re trapped in your house because your furry friend freaks out every time you leave is unnerving at best, and heartbreaking and destructive and hard for all involved.

    • Yup. Fortunately for him, we’re patient people and had the space for him to grow into. My guess is that they didn’t realize how insane golden retriever puppies are and since we already had a golden… well… I think that’s how their thought process worked.

      • My friend ended up with a pyrenese this way. She already had one, and they asked her to watch theirs while they moved and then they were going to come get her. Three years later…..

      • Can I just say this is what can drive me nuts about people. Oh its a golden retriever they are the end all be all perfect breed…..uhhhh 1. no breed is the over all perfect breed. They all have their positives and negatives hence why different breeds exist. 2. They ARE a hunting breed if you haven’t realized the RETRIEVER part. They need exercise too!!!

        I am sorry you inherited a dog but that is just my personal rant. For some reason I encounter so many people who think goldens are in essence already trained in womb and don’t realize they are still a dog.

        Thank you for being a good person TA.

        • Thanks. I was pissed about it for a long time, too. But at least he ended up with us instead of the only shelter the area we were in had (kill shelter with low adoption rates).

          People really need to do their research. Puppies are a pain in the ass, and energetic breeds even more so. They will run circles around you. They will destroy valuables. They will keep you up all night after garbage eating gave them a belly ache. There’s really no getting around this. Accept their terms or settle for a goldfish.

      • I’d like to second the pheromone diffuser. It’s the only thing that worked with my lab mix.

        He hates a crate. He gets so upset that he drools until he’s sopping wet and dehydrated. Once we put a webcam on him and it turned out he also spends the whole time throwing himself around the crate.

        The ThunderShirt helped a little, if we left him out of the crate, but the first time we tried it plus the crate, he tore it off and ripped it up.

        The diffuser, though, helped radically and immediately. We weaned off of it after about a year, but it was what made the difference. (This was after we lost two sofas and numerous pillows.) A lot of people say it doesn’t work for them, but if it doesn’t, then all you’ve done is waste $20. There was never a smell as far as I could tell. Just be sure to plug it in the right way, otherwise the oil will seep out all over the diffuser and burn and be gross. Whoops!

        Good luck! I know how hard separation anxiety can be.

      • No smell on the kitty one.
        I also wanted to add that we used it when we first got him, then slowly stopped using it, but would bring it back for when we did new things, ie when we had overnight houseguests/when we went away for the weekend and the cat sitter came.

  9. My dog Clara used to have horrible separation anxiety. She would scream and cry and bark, pee and poop all over the place… and it only got worse if we crated her. Then she’d do all the same things, but roll in her own filth– meaning nasty, nasty mess for me to clean up when I’d get home.

    Getting another dog was a HUGE step in the right direction. She finally had a playmate! While that fixed her problems, then my other dog would cry and cry. We found the solution– KONG toys and peanut butter. We’d fill each of them a KONG with peanut butter, and leave it when we left. This was the ONLY time they got KONGs. They’re both so food obsessed, they didn’t give a crap when we left. And when we’d get home? Peace and quiet. It really, really helped.

    • I second the Kong – they are great for giving a dog something to do during the day. Peanut butter works really well, you can also put canned dog food inside and freeze it (takes longer to get it out that way). Don’t bother with the “kong stuffing paste” they sell at the store.

  10. I second crate training. It broke my heart to have to crate my dogs, but after speaking with several vets and positive reinforcement trainers, I realized I had to change the way I thought about it. Some dogs can’t handle the pressure not only of being away from you, but of being the protector of the house in your absence. It makes THEM feel better to have their own private space to chill out. We borrowed my husband’s parents’ nannycam once to watch our dogs while we were gone. They barked for a moment as we left, then curled up and went to sleep. For the few hours we were gone they just slept and chewed their Nylabones and looked completely content.

    Also, for our one nervous dog, we use Composure
    It’s not a medication, more like a feel-good vitamin. It really really helps take the edge off for him. Since he’s been on it, he seems more comfortable in his skin and his nervous habits (scratching, trembling, pacing) have mostly disappeared. It’s not sedating at all. It may not help all dogs, but for mine it did! Good luck!

  11. If it helps, I always give my dog a treat before we left. That way, she was happily munching on a treat and didn’t really care /notice that we were leaving.

    Some people also say to leave a radio or tv on. The sound of the people talking on the radio/tv can be calming for the pup. =) We usually do this around 4th of July or if there’s a thunderstorm going on (My Molly is scared to death of loud noises).

    Also, I’ve heard of people using calming sprays. Basically, it’s an all natural mist that is sprayed on (or near) the dog just before you leave. The scent helps the pup calm down a bit and relax.

    Hope that helps! Also, major kudos to you for keeping the dog in that situation. it’s really sad that the former owners just left it like that. =(

  12. Getting another dog solved our problem. Two is way easier than one, especially one with anxiety problems. The vet also gave her some antidepressants, but after a year on them and the other dog arriving she doesn’t need them anymore.

  13. Our dog was SUPER destructive and we used: crate training (key word TRAINING–not just sticking him in a crate), a shit TON of exercise (we rode bikes because we couldn’t run as much as he needed–16 miles at a time), and trick training. He needed positive ways to communicate with us, earn attention, and use his brain energy, and tricks were IT. It was a ton of work, but now we have a really awesome dog who can count, jump hurdles on command, etc. He has a vocabulary of more than 30 commands and phrases. Now he is almost 6 and just needs a yard, mild walks, a little trick/play attention, and if we’re gonna be gone a while, a bone with peanut butter inside.If you can’t exercise as much as your pup needs (and you can’t ride a bike without him pulling you over), you can try to find an area where pup can be off leash and run between you and your partner. Like, you are out in front and partner is way behind, the dog runs up to you, and as soon as he does, you both turn around to walk the other way. The dog now runs to be with your partner. Keep going back and forth, and you guys don’t walk that much but he runs himself silly. Good luck!

  14. My dog was always so anxious when we left, and it got worse when we were moving. She assumed we were abandoning her like the last owners did. This came to a head last year when a roommate she loved moved out, a new one moved in and then moved out again, and then the whole household moved. Very stressful time for puppy, and her way of dealing with stress is to pee everywhere. Once we moved, she’d regressed so far that she pooped in the house (which hadn’t happened since the week we’d adopted her). I was going crazy.

    Crate training was going to be a big hurdle since she was horrified of being inside of small areas, so we tried just baby-gating off a section of the house. We also got a Thundershirt. That thing is a MIRACLE. I didn’t want to buy it since it was pricey, but it’s helped SO MUCH. When leaving for the day, we baby-gate off her/our room and put the shirt on, and let her out and take the shirt off when we get home. It’s worked wonders.

    If the shirt doesn’t work, they’ll give you your money back, so bonus! The only downside is that she’s afraid of the velcro sounds, so taking it off is a bit unpleasant. She loves having it on, though.

  15. As one of those crazy dog people here is my 2 cents.

    The previous suggestions of thunder shirts and crates can be a good idea. I have zero experience with thunder shirts so I can’t comment on that. A crate can go either way. Some dogs will go ape shit in the crate to break out and injure themselves from the original anxiety issues. A lot of dogs however view their crates as their safety space. My bully mix adores having a crate. We don’t use crates so much any more, but if she isn’t on my bed or the futon, she is in a crate generally. She has a lot of fear issues, but her crate is such a space of security.

    Also the whole ignore them when you are leaving and that’s for both dogs and ignoring both dogs when you come home is a good idea. Also breaking your routine can be a good idea too if you notice the anxiety kicking in just before you leave. You can put on your shoes and then just sit on the couch for 20 mins.

    My best recommendation is to check out this behaviorist who I really like what she says. She gets into dog psychology in a better way than certain people with TV shows do. Her name is Jan Fennell and she deemed the dog listener…..yea its all ironic in names but she is from the UK and developed her style off of a horse trainer. Her style isn’t bullying dogs like again certain people with TV shows do. Really check out her books as she has dealt with a lot of separation issues using her training techniques. I won’t get into too much detail with some things with separation anxiety as a lot of people have given you good advice.

  16. this may seem a little out there, but you could try using certified theraputic grade essential oils with your dog…they work on animals the same way they work on humans, and some have very calming/sedative effects. check out which is an awesome brand. young living is good too. find someone in your area with experience with essential oils that can recommend ones for anxiety, and talk to your vet as well (although most vets, like many doctors, aren’t so into the “new-age” healing stuff like aromatherapy, so they might be skeptical).

  17. My dog is a 10 yr old english springer spaniel with sep anxiety and springer rage. His anxiety was so bad that he went through a plate glass window and totally destroyed a bedroom.

    We tried crate training but he ended up barking the whole time and bending the the bars of the crate.

    What finally worked was getting a GOOD trainer to see what the deal was. For our dog it was fear issues. Once we identified that, he gave us a program to get the dog used to us being away. My husband had a week between jobs so was able to gradually leave the dog longer and longer until he was fine with 8 hrs. He still gives us sad puppy eyes when we leave but he hasn’t destroyed the house and he hasn’t gone through a window again.

  18. Pro-trainer who specializes in Sep Anx: don’t dismiss meds. I spent 3 years doing nothing but B Mod with my SA dog, and the thing that finally got us over the hump was meds. True SA is rare: refusing to eat, vocalizing non-stop for over 1 hour, excessive salivation, escape attempts at exit points, and escape attempts that cause harm to the dog are all hallmarks of true SA. Anything less than this is Separation Distress or Isolation Distress (SD is when they don’t want to be apart from their specific person/animal, ID is when they simply cannot be left alone. Make sure you identify which before you get a second dog; if it’s SA or SD another dog won’t help). Behavior Modification alone will work on SD or ID, it will not work on SA without meds.
    I second many of the ideas here: Thundershirts (do not leave on all day); Through A Dog’s Ear CD’s (make sure you play it while you are at home as well so it doesn’t become another Departure Cue); not making a fuss when you come or go (I used to set a timer when I got home, 10 minutes and then I’ll say hello to you so the buzzer became a cue, not me entering the door); crate training; Kongs; confidence building training using Nosework or Agility. Also check out Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. It’s what I used to teach my dog to relax in his crate while I left. It looks like a way to teach stay, but the main focus is to teach the dog to relax on cue.
    Your best bet is to find a professional in your area (a real professional, there is no certification required to become a trainer and it’s a hot business these days. Check out Pet Professional Guild to find someone in your area).
    SA can be a horrible thing because your dog is having a full blown panic attack every time you are gone. I wouldn’t wish a panic attack on my worst enemy and for 3 years it’s what my baby lived through. I still feel so much guilt…

    • I second the idea of not completely dismissing the use of medications. Our pup would literally bark all day at the door (I set up a webcam to see what he was doing) while we were gone and would salivate uncontrollably and refuse to eat if we tried to crate him. Using meds calmed him down enough that the training methods mentioned here could sink in (treats before we left, desensitizing him to our leaving cues, etc.). I learned to look at the medications as a training tool rather than a permanent solution. By extension, him becoming slightly calmer left me with less anxiety so I was able to focus on the best ways to help him be comfortable in the apartment on his own.

  19. Please excuse me for not reading through all the comments on this post. They may be good, they might say what I’m about to, but they might not, as well. At least you know this comment is ‘untarnished’ by reading the other ones.

    Separation anxiety is a complex issue and is often manifested in the dog’s genetic nature. That is, the dog is hard wired to be anxious. That’s why I always go to the vet as the first step to make sure the dog is physically healthy, and to pursue any behaviour modifying medications, or if they’re an option, or if there is any recommended behaviourists in your area to start work with.

    About this time last year I went to seminars with Dr Ian Dunbar, and I quite liked his methods for helping dogs with separation anxiety. They involve getting a crate, and training the dog to first be happy in the crate with you next to him. (Just Google crate training videos and you’ll find plenty.)

    Once the dog is happy with being in a crate with you being right there with him, then you move the crate. Instead of being next to you, it could be 5 feet away. The dog should continue being happy in a crate that’s only 5 feet away from you, and so you can continue to reward the dog for being awesome in its crate.

    Once this step’s down, then you can move the crate next to the door in the room. You’re still in the room, so your dog shouldn’t find this a biggy. Continue to reward the dog for being quiet, calm, happy in his crate. Then, the next big step, putting the crate on the otherside of the door (but leave the door open). Continue to reward good behaviour.

    If at any point the dog starts to bark or carry on, then you need to back up a step (or two!) and do further training at that level. We do not want the dog to learn that barking in the crate is even possible, so don’t set the dog up to practice barking in the crate.

    Once you have the dog happy and relaxed in a crate outside the room you are in, then you can work on slowly closing the door. (Each inch of the door close is another step for you to work on.) Then having the dog happy and relaxed as you ‘prepare to leave the house’ (shoes on, keys jingly). Then having the dog happy and relaxed as you go through the door. Go through the door and start the car. Go through the door, start the car, open the roller door.

    What you are doing is teaching the dog that it is possible to be quiet, calm, relaxed, happy as you are going and as you are gone. You are gradually building up his level of anxiety, but at such a subtle level, he doesn’t react.

    This is not a process that can be rushed. It is not something with a quick and easy fix. But, if you’re committed to slowly working through the issue with the dog, giving him plenty of time to adjust at each level, then you should be able to get him to a level of comfort with you being gone.

  20. I highly suggest you look up a dog trainer or behaviourist in your area and enlist them. As much as all this online advice is great, you really need a trained dog person to sit there with you and watch your dog. They can pick up on the dog signals and body language quickly and help you learn how to read your dog. They can also write you a program for slowly building up things that cause your dog to be anxious.

    I recommend speaking to big shelters in the areas and asking them for recommendations for professionals!

    Good luck! You sooo can do it!

  21. a few things that worked for us:
    1. leave a tshirt that smells like you (thats been warn and not washed) in their dog bed (or wherever the dog tends to sleep). this helps them feel like youre around even when youre not
    2. whenever you leave, always say the same word or phrase to them. we always say goodbye in german. for some reason, this helps them learn that you are always going to back

  22. Agreed that meds are not always bad- nor are they always intended to be used long term. Many dogs are so anxious that training methods, behavioral modification, food rewards, etc are unable to work. Medications work by lowering the anxiety threshold, so that your pet has enough awareness to use his brain and allow the training and self-calming methods like Kongs to work. My dog would leave a meat-filled Kong untouched while she shivered and drooled for 8 hours… not effective for behavioral modification!

    I really like this guide:

    And, I second the opinion that getting a trainer or veterinary behaviorist involved can be super helpful. Good luck to you and your pup!

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