fbpx

How to Help Your Dog with Separation Anxiety

Is your puppy or dog suffering from separation anxiety? Find out tips and techniques to help your dog overcome its anxiety and avoid destructive behaviours right here with Savvy.   

Written by 
Savvy Editorial Team
Savvy's content writing team are professionals with a wide and diverse range of industry experience and topic knowledge. We write across a broad spectrum of finance-related topics to provide our readers with informative resources to help them learn more about a certain area or enable them to decide on which product is best for their needs with careful comparison. Meet the team behind the operation here. Visit our authors page to meet Savvy's expert writing team, committed to delivering informative and engaging content to help you make informed financial decisions.
Our authors
, updated on September 4th, 2023       

Fact checked

At Savvy, we are committed to providing accurate information. Our content undergoes a rigorous process of fact-checking before it is published. Learn more about our editorial policy.

Dealing with a dog suffering from separation anxiety can be a challenging and emotional experience. Separation anxiety is a condition where dogs become distressed or anxious when separated from their owners. It often results in destructive behaviour, excessive barking, or even attempts to escape. Helping your dog overcome separation anxiety requires patience, understanding, and the right strategies. In this guide, we'll explore effective methods and techniques to alleviate your dog's anxiety, ensuring both you and your furry friend can enjoy a more relaxed time apart. 

How can I help my dog overcome separation anxiety?

There are many ways that you can reduce the distress your dog feels when left alone. Here are some of the ways that you can help your puppy or dog overcome the fear of being left alone: 

Establish a routine: Dogs thrive on predictability. Set up a daily schedule that includes feeding, exercise, and playtime at consistent times. When your dog knows what to expect, it can reduce its anxiety. 

Ensure calm departures and returns: Dogs pick up on your emotions, so avoid making a big fuss when you leave or return. Keep your arrivals and departures low-key. This helps prevent your dog from associating these events with heightened emotions. 

Desensitisation: Gradually expose your dog to departure cues they understand, such as picking up your keys or putting on your coat, without actually leaving the house. This helps your dog become accustomed to these triggers without feeling anxiety. 

Gradual departures: Start with short departures and gradually extend the time you're away. This helps your dog acclimate to your absence without feeling overwhelmed. For example, begin by leaving for just a few minutes and gradually increase the duration over days or weeks. 

Positive reinforcement: Reward your dog for remaining calm during departures and returns. Offer treats or quiet affection when you leave and when you return. This reinforces the idea that your comings and goings are positive experiences and nothing to get worked up about. 

Provide mental stimulation and interactive toys: Keep your dog mentally stimulated while you're away with interactive toys. These toys can provide mental challenges and keep your puppy or dog occupied, reducing anxiety and boredom. 

Counter-conditioning: Change your dog's emotional response to departure cues by pairing them with positive outcomes. For instance, you might pick up your keys and then immediately give your dog a treat or engage in play. This helps your dog associate these cues with good things, reducing their anxiety. 

Medication: In severe cases of separation anxiety, consult your vet about medication options. Some dogs may benefit from anti-anxiety medications or supplements to help manage their separation anxiety.  

What are the main signs of separation anxiety?

These are some of the signs of separation anxiety to look out for: 

  • Barking, crying, whining or howling: dogs with separation anxiety may bark, howl, or whine excessively when left alone. These vocalisations are often persistent and can disturb neighbours.
  • Destructive behaviour: dogs may engage in destructive behaviours when separated from their owners. This can include chewing furniture, doors, or personal belongings, digging, scratching at walls or doors or other unwanted or destructive behaviour.
  • House soiling: some dogs with separation anxiety may urinate or defecate indoors, even if they are house-trained. This is not due to a lack of training but rather anxiety-related stress.
  • Escape attempts: dogs may attempt to escape confinement in the home or garden, leading to potential injuries. They may scratch at doors or windows or try to dig or chew their way out.
  • Pacing: restlessness and pacing are common signs of separation anxiety. Dogs may move incessantly, unable to relax or settle down.
  • Excessive drooling or panting: anxious dogs may drool excessively or pant heavily when left alone.
  • Refusal to eat: some dogs with separation anxiety may lose their appetite when their owners are not present and refuse to eat.
  • Depression: separation anxiety can also manifest as a general sense of depression or sadness when left alone. Dogs may become listless and disinterested in their usual activities. 

Can a vet help me if my dog has severe separation anxiety?

A vet can be a valuable resource in addressing severe separation anxiety in your dog. They can provide several forms of assistance: 

Diagnosis 

A vet can confirm whether your dog's symptoms are indeed due to separation anxiety, or if there might be an underlying medical issue contributing to the behaviour. 

Behavioural advice 

Vets can recommend techniques and strategies for desensitisation and counter-conditioning. They can also suggest changes in your dog's daily routine, exercise regimen, or diet that can help reduce anxiety. 

Prescription medication 

In severe cases, medication might be prescribed to help alleviate the anxiety and make it more manageable for your dog. Medications can help reduce the physiological and psychological stress associated with separation anxiety. 

Remember, addressing severe separation anxiety may require a multifaceted approach, involving both medical and behavioural interventions.  

More of your questions about dog separation anxiety

Are some dog breeds more prone to separation anxiety?

Yes, certain dog breeds are more susceptible to separation anxiety. Breeds that tend to form strong attachments to their owners, like Labrador Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels, are often more prone to this condition. However, it can affect any breed, and individual temperament and puppy rearing plays a significant role in the anxiety experienced by older dogs. 

What’s the difference between a clingy dog and one with separation anxiety?

The key distinction between a clingy dog and one with separation anxiety lies in their behaviour when left alone. A clingy dog may constantly seek attention and want to be with their owner all the time, but may accept being left alone. However, a dog with separation anxiety exhibits extreme anxiety when left alone, often resulting in destructive behaviour or excessive barking. 

Do dogs grow out of separation anxiety as they grow older?

Not all dogs grow out of separation anxiety as they age. While some may naturally become less anxious, others require training and intervention. Addressing separation anxiety early with proper training and support can lead to significant improvements over time. 

Is it necessary to have pet insurance for my puppy or dog?

While pet insurance is not compulsory, it can be a good investment in your puppy or dog’s health and well-being. It can help cover unexpected veterinary costs if your dog becomes ill or has an accident, ensuring your puppy or dog receives the necessary medical care without putting additional financial strain on the household budget. 

Compare pet insurance

Looking into pet insurance for your beloved furry friend? Whether you have a playful pup or a curious cat, you can compare pet insurance options from a range of providers and find the perfect coverage that suits your pet's unique needs and your budget. 

site-logos Fetch Care Plan

Annual benefits limit

Excess

% Benefits reimbursement rate

Covers illness?

Covers accidental injuries?

$30,000 $100 80%, 90% or 100% pros-item-petins pros-item-petins

Pet insurance we think you’ll love. 24/7 vet support + dental, physio and behaviour cover added (see PDS) all in one app.

More details
site-logos Petsy Most Popular 80% Cover $150 Excess

Annual benefits limit

Excess

% Benefits reimbursement rate

Covers illness?

Covers accidental injuries?

$25,000 $150 80% pros-item-petins pros-item-petins

Protect your furry friend with Petsy's pet insurance policy. Get a free quote.

More details
site-logos Fetch Premium Plan

Annual benefits limit

Excess

% Benefits reimbursement rate

Covers illness?

Covers accidental injuries?

$30,000 $0 80% or 90% pros-item-petins pros-item-petins

Pet insurance we think you’ll love. 24/7 vet support + dental, physio and behaviour cover added (see PDS) all in one app.

More details
site-logos Knose Pet Insurance

Annual benefits limit

Excess

% Benefits reimbursement rate

Covers illness?

Covers accidental injuries?

$7,500, $12,500 or $25,000 $0 / $100 / $200 70%, 80% or 90% pros-item-petins pros-item-petins

Multi-award winning pet insurance designed with the help of vets.

More details
site-logos Petsy Value Cover 80% Cover $500 Excess

Annual benefits limit

Excess

% Benefits reimbursement rate

Covers illness?

Covers accidental injuries?

$10,000 $500 80% pros-item-petins pros-item-petins

Protect your furry friend with Petsy's pet insurance policy. Get a free quote.

More details
site-logos Petsy Top Cover

Annual benefits limit

Excess

% Benefits reimbursement rate

Covers illness?

Covers accidental injuries?

$25,000 $0 / $150 / $500 90% pros-item-petins pros-item-petins

Protect your furry friend with Petsy's pet insurance policy. Get a free quote.

More details

Disclaimer: Savvy is not advising or recommending any particular product to you. We provide general information on products for the purposes of comparison, but your personal situation or goals are not considered here. Although we try to make our comparisons as thorough as possible, we do not have information on all products on the market on our site.

Savvy earns a commission each time a customer buys a pet insurance policy through our website. We don’t arrange for products to be purchased from these brands directly, as all purchases are conducted via the individual pet insurance companies.

You should always consult a given offer's PDS or further documentation in the process of deciding on which loan to choose, as well as seeking independent, professional advice. If you decide to apply with one of the lenders listed above via our website, you will not be dealing with Savvy; any applications or enquiries will be conducted directly with the lender offering that product.

We'd love to chat, how can we help?

By clicking "Submit", you agree to be contacted by a Savvy broker and to receive communications from Savvy which you can unsubscribe from at any time. Read our Privacy Policy.