Canine Separation Anxiety

Most dogs can handle periods of time alone, but for others, isolation can be so upsetting that they suffer overwhelming anxiety and may engage in destructive behavior. Dogs with separation anxiety might chew or scratch through doors, defecate or urinate indoors, bark and/or whine repetitively, and even show such self-destructive habits as chewing or licking areas of their body until hairless and raw. Separation anxiety can develop at any age. It is common in rescue dogs as well as those that were not socialized properly, neglected or abused. Some can also develop these behaviors as a reaction to improper nutrition and/or allergies. Because dogs with this illness are distressed when in isolation for any period of time, it is up to their human companions to help them. Many dogs with separation anxiety can be trained and cured, but it takes diligence and patience on the part of the caregiver, according to Tiffany Gutman, owner of Pawsitivly Behaved K-9’s in Oak Creek. “These dogs need training as soon as possible. Start crating them and cover the crate with a sheet or set up a small, secure area in the house. The less they can see, the less stress they will feel when you leave,” Gutman said. A few items on Gutman’s list of things to do include leaving your house in short intervals of one to two minutes several times each day while the dog is confined. “When you come back in, don’t react in any way to their behavior, whether it was good or bad,” Gutman said. “Just act like it is expected behavior and be unemotional even if they made progress. Then, once progress is made with the length of intervals, allow the dog the original space. If there is a setback, start the process again. It is also helpful to leave the television or music playing when you leave, if that is what is on when you are home. Consistency is important.” Gutman also recommends obedience training in a group setting, because dogs need a job they are good at to build confidence and security while being socialized. In addition to training and conditioning techniques, nutritional and holistic treatments may also contribute to a successful recovery. Consider reducing grains and including more protein in your dog’s diet. Add a digestive enzyme to your dog’s dry food, or provide a raw diet in which the natural enzymes haven’t been destroyed in the cooking process. When dogs get the proper nutrition from their food, they will naturally have a stronger immune system, which allows them to assimilate stress more efficiently. Herbal remedies such as Tranquility Blend by Animals’ Apawthecary can be purchased at The Natural Pet, a natural pet food and supply store in Bay View, and from holistically trained veterinarians. Its common use is to safely calm dogs, cats, and other animals during acute episodes of anxiety without diminishing alertness. Another natural product on the market specifically for separation anxiety in dogs is Comfort Zone Canine Behavior Modification Plug-in by Farnam Pet Products in Phoenix, Arizona ( It contains a jar of Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) and an electric diffuser that plugs into the wall outlet in the room most used by the dog suffering from anxiety. Farnam claims the product reduces or completely stops stress-related behavior by releasing a pheromone that naturally mimics that of a lactating female dog. Anything you can do for your dog will go a long way, but the most important thing to remember is that scolding only makes the problems worse. It is not the dog’s fault that it is feeling anxiety; your pet needs a patient, loving and willing caregiver to take the necessary steps to help it achieve a full recovery. It may be a long process for some dogs, but it will be well worth your effort to help your dog become healthy and happy.