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Home Alone: 6 Solutions for Separation Anxiety

Dog experiencing separation anxiety

You spend all the time you can with your pup. You visit the dog park, explore mountain trails, and patronize Tucson's many dog-friendly restaurants. You spend evenings cuddling on the couch and may even work from home some days. Still, there are times when you must leave your dog alone.

Symptoms of Separation Anxiety

According to a 2021 research article, dogs may experience stress, frustration, and fear when left alone. This can manifest in a number of ways, including:

  • Pacing or hyperactivity

  • Pooping or peeing in appropriate places

  • Chewing on the owner's possessions

  • Scratching doors and windows

  • Vocalizing (barking, howling, or whining)

  • Signs of depression and anxiety including trembling, excessive salivating, or waiting by the door all day

Causes of Separation Anxiety

Unfortunately, your dog has no way of knowing when or if you'll be back. From their perspective, a short errand run could mean you're abandoning them forever! Being alone is not natural for social animals like dogs, but it is a reality our fur babies must learn to accommodate. Separation anxiety may be caused or worsened by:

  • Changes in routine

  • Frightening things in their home environment, like loud noises

  • Traumatic experiences like living in a shelter, losing a loved one, or being separated from their people for long periods of time (for example, being boarded during a vacation)

  • Innate personality traits

Managing Separation Anxiety

Here are six evidence-based ways to reduce behavioral issues and keep your dog as content as possible:

  • Start small. Try leaving your dogs for a few minutes and work up to longer absences over time.

  • Establish a predictable routine. Dogs may become less anxious when they realize you leave and come back at the same time every day.

  • Be intentional about leaving. Before you leave, take your dog out. They need a chance to exercise, interact, and go to the bathroom. Hopefully they will then be tired and ready to relax. As you are leaving, try to keep both yourself and your dog in a calm mood. Don't turn it into a big event with hugging, kissing, baby talk, etc.

  • Make alone time rewarding. Leave your dog in a pleasant, enriching environment with food, chew toys, and other things they enjoy. Try music if you've noticed they respond positively to it. Ideally, they'll be distracted by these treats and may not notice when you leave.

  • Choose an appropriate space. Some people use crate-training to manage the destructive aspects of separation anxiety, but this may make your dog more anxious. Instead, restrict them to specific rooms or areas of the house where they can be comfortable while minimizing potential damage to your possessions.

  • Build general resilience. Gradually expose your dog to a wide variety of people, other dogs, and environments. (Note, however, that getting another dog may not solve the problem and could make it worse).

Another research-based recommendation is to seek customized treatment for separation anxiety from an animal behavior expert. If none of the interventions above are working, please reach out today. You and your dog both deserve to feel safe and happy when you have to be apart. It will make your reunions even more joyful.

A dog greets his returning owner affectionately


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