• Home
  • Training
  • How to Train Your Dog to Stop Separation Anxiety

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Separation Anxiety

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Separation Anxiety
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon4-8 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Having a dog who suffers from separation anxiety can be a scary and an incredibly frustrating thing. Many dog owners who have dogs with separation anxiety often talk about coming home to their homes in ruin because of their dogs. When a dog who suffers from separation anxiety is left to cope alone for hours at a time he tends to tear apart things like couches, doors, curtains, trash cans, and anything else he can find. Everything in your home is fair game, including your children's toys or their beloved stuffed animals when you have a dog with separation anxiety. This sort of anxiety is not the easiest thing to figure out or to diagnose, but if your dog is extremely upset every time you leave the house to the point where he is tearing things apart that he should not have access to,  he is probably dealing with separation anxiety.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Defining Tasks

Teaching your dog to deal with separation anxiety often becomes a matter of teaching your dog how to cope or how to entertain himself while you are away. Dogs want comfort and security, especially when they are left alone. Your dog lives to please you, and when you are not home, he's uncertain of his role in the world. When left with this uncertainty your dog could tear apart everything you own. One of the tricks to easing this anxiety is to give him comfort. You can do this with toys, food, small confined areas such as a crate, or even products and different behaviors before you leave to help ease your dog's anxiety.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Getting Started

Helping a dog with separation anxiety sometimes comes down to trial and error. To start, be sure you have high-value treats and any items you would like to offer your dog to help him cope through these difficult transitions. Your dog may need a crate to sleep in while you are away from the house. He may also need a new bed or additional toys. A Kong or puzzle toys with hidden treats can help keep your dog entertained while you are away. If you think your dog is dealing with separation anxiety, you may need to talk to your veterinarian about medications to help. There are also products you can purchase such as pheromone sprays, essential oils to help calm your dog, or a thunder vest to help ease anxieties. The method you choose will determine which products you need to stock up on or buy to move forward.

arrow-up-icon

Top

The Outside Help Method

Most Recommended

1 Vote

Ribbon icon

Most Recommended

1 Vote

Ribbon icon
1

Doggie daycare

Enroll your dog into doggie daycare. If you cannot do daycare each day of the workweek, maybe try to do a couple of days each week. Hype it up as a fun day and a big deal. On the days your dog does not go, do not mention it, but rather spend a bit of extra time with him before you leave to tire him out.

2

Medications

Talk to your veterinarian about prescribing anti-anxiety medications for your dog.

3

Dog trainer

Send your dog through puppy classes to boost his confidence and build him up while you are gone. You can do these classes with your dog to increase the bond you two have together.

4

Dog sitter

Have someone come into your home at random times throughout the day while you are gone to check on your dog. This person can be a neighbor or someone you hire. Make sure the visits are random and not at the same time each day. This will give your dog an understanding he may be caught misbehaving at any time, not just when you arrive home at the end of the day.

5

Products

Purchase essential oil diffusers and use oils such as lavender to help your dog relax. You can also buy a thunder vest to help your dog ease anxieties while you are away. Plug-ins with pheromones are also available in pet stores to ease anxious feelings.

The Comfort Crate Method

Effective

1 Vote

Ribbon icon

Effective

1 Vote

Ribbon icon
1

Introduce crate

If possible, while your dog is a puppy or at least new to your home, introduce him to a crate. This will be a safe haven for your dog when he’s dealing with fear or anxiety. Set up the crate with a bed or soft blanket and some toys or stuffed animals he can chew on and sleep with.

2

Treat

Offer a treat to encourage your dog to get into a crate.

3

'Inside' command

Begin to use the same command to get your dog into the crate each time you use it. Something like "puppy in" works to let him know it’s time to go into the crate.

4

Practice

While you are in the house with your dog, practice getting him into the crate by command and having him in the crate while he can see you. You can put him in his crate at night for sleeping and during the day when you do activities that may be scary, such as vacuuming. This will teach him the crate is a safe place to be.

5

Talk then ignore

Have conversations with your dog when he’s in the crate while you are home. But as he gets used to the crate, leave him alone and ignore him. Even if he whines, ignore him.

6

Leave

When he is used to the crate, begin to leave the house. Some owners may need to do this before the dog has had much time in the crate with his owner home. If possible, make these first few trips out of the house short.

7

Excitement

As soon as you get home, be excited to see your dog and let him out of the crate. Be sure to let him outside first thing to go potty. Give him lots of love and attention when you come home to him.

8

Future

Over time, you may be able to keep your dog out of the crate or leave the door open. He will begin to see his crate as a safe place to go when he’s feeling anxious.

The Entertainment Method

Least Recommended

1 Vote

Ribbon icon

Least Recommended

1 Vote

Ribbon icon
1

Wear out your dog

Before you leave your house, take your dog on a walk or a run to wear him out. The goal here will be to make him sleep while you are away instead of pacing your house and getting into trouble.

2

Feed

Make sure your dog has a full belly before you leave and has an opportunity to go outside to go potty before you leave him alone.

3

Toys

Fill a Kong, or even a few puzzle toys, with treats to keep your dog entertained while you are away.

4

Confine

Keep your dog in one room so the risk of him tearing up the entire house is limited.

5

Vary routine

Your dog knows your routine. Try to do as much as you can without him seeing you. If you are used to grabbing your keys or bag and walking out the door, put these things in the car or just outside the door and come back inside for a few minutes before leaving for real. Vary your routine so the build up of anxiety isn’t so great for your pup.

6

Treat routine

Give your dog a positive routine to get used to. Use the same words such as "Be right back" and give your dog a treat or a Kong filled with treats before leaving.

7

Return

Upon return, give your dog lots of enthusiastic love and excitement. He’s been waiting for you all day. Make him feel special each time you return, even if it’s from a short trip, by giving him love and attention when you return.

By Stephanie Plummer

Published: 11/08/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

Have a question?

Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

Koda

Dog breed icon

Pomsky

Dog age icon

5 Months

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

My fiance and I both work from home so Koda is out all day with us in the apt. Never has an accident, can go for several hours before going outside and does great. He has always not been a fan of his kennel but for the last 2 months he will go into his kennel just fine and lay down when we say bedtime and gets a treat. About 2 weeks ago he started peeing every time he goes into his kennel, even if its for under 30 min. Since he just started doing this we've tried all the methods of take out his bedding, give him treats, food ect. and still he is peeing but only in the kennel. Any suggestions?

Jan. 27, 2022

Koda's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Brittany, You can also try feeding pup their meals in the kennel, ensuring the kennel is only big enough for pup to stand up, turn around and lie down, and not so big pup can go potty in one end and stand in the opposite end to avoid the accident. I would thoroughly clean the kennel with a cleaner that contains enzymes - only enzymes will fully remove the smell to pup's dog nose level, so the smell won't encourage more accidents. Avoid anything containing ammonia on the kennel - since ammonia smells like urine to a dog. Check out the Surprise method from the article I have linked below. If the issue is anxiety, the Surprise method may help. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate If pup still isn't improving, pup probably has an association and habit of going potty in the kennel. If that's the case, you can try using a different type of kennel, like if you are using a wire kennel now, switch to a vari-kennel type. The issue persists, then you will need to avoid the use of the kennel altogether for a while probably. If it comes to that, I would set up an exercise pen in a room you can close off access to (pup will learn to use a potty in this room so you only want pup in there when you put pup in there. A large bathroom or laundry room (without appliances running) are a couple suggestions. In the exercise pen, give pup a non-absorbent bed, like a cot type bed, primopads.com, or k9ballistics crate mats, and a disposable real grass pad (don't use pee pads since you want pup going potty outside most of the time and the fabric of pee pads is more easily confused with the fabric of carpet and rugs). Have pup stay in the exercise pen only when you are gone and at night, or times when you would crate pup normally, and pup go potty outside the majority of the time. To encourage pup to go on the grass pan while in the exercise pen, instead of next to it, you can spray a potty encouraging spray on the pad and reward with a treat the first week whenever you see pup go potty on the grass pad. I would generally reward pottying outside more often though so pup prefers that, and have the grass pad as an option for pup just in case they need to go potty while you are away for longer periods of time. Real grass pad brands - also sold on amazon: www.freshpatch.com www.doggielawn.com www.porchpotty.com Personally, I would try using the surprise method with a clean, new type of kennel, while also feeding pup all their meals in that new kennel, before moving onto an exercise pen, and I would do all of those things (feeing, new kennel, surprise method) simultaneously right away. If you notice any frequent peeing at times other than when kenneled, or a generally lower ability to hold pup's bladder, I would also check with your vet to rule out an infection or issue. I am not a vet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 28, 2022

Dog nametag icon

Chila

Dog breed icon

Chihuahua min pin

Dog age icon

10 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Chila has always been a very anxious dog for the five years my husband has had her. And we have been through a lot of changes in those years (moving in with me and my cat, moving households, moving states, getting two new kittens, etc). She would sporadically leave the bedroom in the middle of the night and pee on the carpet so we started having her sleep in her crate at night. No problems. She started digging and making a lot of noise at night around the time my cat got sick and died. We moved the crate to another room so we could sleep. This has cause a high level of separation anxiety; more digging, sometimes panting, not sleeping and the cause for this post: peeing in her crate. She has been sleeping in another room, in her crate, for months now. But she pees in her crate often. We take her out often throughout the day, have gotten her kongs and treats, gotten her to love her crate (she willingly spends most of her time in it and isn’t afraid until the door closes) and don’t know what else to do. We are exasperated!! Please help

Nov. 18, 2021

Chila's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sara, I suspect there may be two different things going on here. Without evaluating pup in person I cannot say for sure. First, since the accidents have been increasing I would actually start by having pup evaluated by your vet. Because of pup's age, pup may actually not be able to hold it overnight anymore. Incontinence or a weak bladder are common as dog's age. If pup physically can't hold it overnight, then pup might be forced to have accidents in the crate and that actually could be contributing to more anxiety. I am not a vet though so speak your vet about any medical concerns. If pup is struggling to physicall hold it overnight, then I would switch from pup sleeping in a crate at night, to an exercise pen with a crate attached to the side and the crate door opening into the exercise pen. This setup will provide pup the confined space of the crate for snuggling up to sleep, but allow them to come out into the pen to go potty instead of being forced to go in the crate. The door of the crate being open might also relieve some anxiety, although the exercise pen will be enclosed and pup may still protest that. Inside the exercise pen I would provide disposable real grass pads. I would start by covering the entire floor of the exercise pen with the grass pads. Once pup is used to going potty on that type of surface, then I would slowly remove the extra ones, one by one, until you are down to just one grass pad within a month (or two if pup is slow to adapt to going potty on them). Disposable real grass pad brands: Also on Amazon: www.freshpatch.com www.doggielawn.com www.porchpotty.com Each grass pad is meant to last several days, not just one use. Picking up any poop if pup poops at night. The second things I suspect is going on is anxiety. It's possible that's the only thing causing the peeing, but since the accidents started before pup was crated also, are consistent, and pup is older, I am concerned that overlooking pup's possible potty needs at this age, will make addressing the anxiety ineffective, if both need to be addressed at the same time, so be sure to look into both. I would start by practicing the Surprise method from the article I have linked below with her in the crate or the exercise pen (depending on what night time set up you determine she needs). Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate The objective with this method is to practice alone time during the day when you are awake enough to work with her, without encouraging her to stay awake in anticipation of treats at night. For some dogs this type of training is all that's needed. With her history I suspect you will need to also do what I will go over below. If she won't get quiet long enough for you to reward during the daytime practice, or does fine during the day but still protests at night, then I would also correct. Check out this video for a general overview of this type of training being done with an anxious dog. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3j882MAYDU This protocol involves teaching the dog to cope with their own anxiety by making their current anxious go-to behaviors unpleasant, giving them an opportunity to stop those behaviors long enough to learn something new, then rewarding the correct, calmer behavior instead. You would combine the corrections for barking with rewards for quietness during daytime practice in pup's confined space. At night, you would only correct and ignore, not give food, but proactive daytime practice is important to help pup understand the nighttime routine ahead of time. This protocol can feel harsh because it involves careful correction, but it tends to work much quicker for many dogs. If you go this route, I suggest hiring a trainer who is very experienced using both positive reinforcement and fair correction. Who is extremely knowledgeable about e-collar training, and can follow the protocol listed below, to help you implement the training. Building her independence and structure in her life will still be an important part of this protocol too. You will need an interrupter, a remote electronic collar, e-collar, is often used for this due to isn't wide range of correction levels, remote capability, and additional features like vibration and tone on certain models. You would want a collar with a wide range of levels, NOT a three level shock collar, that's a very different tool I don't recommend using for this. It's important to only use a high quality brand such as E-Collar Technologies Mini Educator or Garmin Delta Sport or Dogtra for this. If you are not comfortable with an e-collar then you can use a vibration collar (the Mini Educator and Garmin should also have a vibration mode) or unscented air remote controlled air spray collar or pet convincer. The Pet convincer is not remote so requires you to return to pup to correct while she is barking though. DO NOT use a citronella collar, buy the additional unscented air canister if the collar comes with the citronella and make sure that you use the unscented air. (Citronella collars are actually very harsh and the smell - punisher lingers a long time so the dog continues to be corrected even after they stop the behavior). The vibration or spray collars are less likely to work than stimulation e-collars though, so you may end up spending more money by not purchasing an e-collar first. The Mini Educator has very low levels of stimulation, that can be tailored specifically to your dog. It also has vibration and beep tones that you can try using first, without having to buy additional tools. Next, set up a camera to spy on her. If you have two smart devices, like tablets or smartphones, you can Skype or Facetime them to one another with your pup’s end on mute, so that you can see and hear her but she will not hear you. Video baby monitors, video security monitors with portable ways to view the video, GoPros with the phone Live App, or any other camera that will record and transmit the video to something portable that you can watch outside live will work. Next, put the e-collar on her while she is outside of the crate, standing, and relaxed. Turn it to it's lowest level and push the stimulation button twice. See if she responds to the collar at all (if you use a collar like mini educator, most pup's can't even feel the first few levels out of the 100 levels - you are trying to find the level where she begins to feel it without going too high for her). Look for subtle signs such as turning her head, moving her ears, biting her fur, moving away from where she was, or changing her expression. If she does not respond at all, then go up one level on the collar and when she is standing and relaxed, push the stimulation button again twice. Look for a reaction again. Repeat going up one level at a time and then testing her reaction at that level until she indicates a little bit that she can feel the collar. Here is a video showing how to do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM A modern, high quality collar will have so many levels that each level should be really subtle and she will likely respond to a low level stimulation. It's uncomfortable but not the harsh shock many people associate with such collars if done right. Once you have found the right stimulation level for her and have it correctly fitted on her, have her wear the collar around with it turned off or not being stimulated for several hours or days if you can (take it off at night to sleep though). Next, set up your camera to spy on her while she is in the crate. Put her into the crate while she is wearing the collar and leave. Spy on her from outside. Leave however you normally would. As soon as you hear her barking or see her start to try to escape or destroy the crate from the camera, push the stimulation button once. Every time she barks or tries to get out of the crate, stimulate her collar again. If her fur is long, make sure the metal contact points are both touching her skin, and be sure to order longer contact points - many come with a short and long set). If she does not decrease her barking or escape attempts at least a little bit after being stimulated seven times in a row, then increase the stimulation level by one level. She may not feel the stimulation while excited so might need it just slightly higher. Do not go higher than three more levels on the mini-educator, or two more levels on another collar with less levels right now though because she has not learned what she is supposed to be doing yet. For example, if her level is 16 out of 100 levels on the Mini Educator, don't go past level 19 right now. The level you end up using on her on the mini educator collar will probably be low to medium, within the first fifty levels of the one-hundred to one-hundred-and-twenty-five levels, depending on the model you purchase. If it is not, then have a professional evaluate whether you have the correct "working level" for her before proceeding at a higher level. If she continues to ignore the collar, then go up one more stimulation level and if that does not work, make sure that the collar is turned on, fitted correctly, and working. After five minutes to ten minutes, as soon as your dog stays quiet and is not trying to escape for five seconds straight, go back inside to the dog, sprinkle several treats into the crate without saying anything, then leave again. Practice correcting her from outside when she barks or tries to escape, going back inside and sprinkling treats when she stays quiet, for up to 30 minutes at first. After 30 minutes -1 hour of practicing this, when she is quiet, go back inside and sprinkle more treats. This time stay inside. Do not speak to her or pay attention to her for ten minutes while you walk around and get stuff done inside. When she is being calm, then you can let her out of the crate. When you let her out, do it the way Jeff does is in this video below. Opening and closing the door until your dog is not rushing out. You want her to be calm when she comes out of the crate and to stay calm when you get home. That is why you need to ignore her when you get home right away. Also, keep your good byes extremely boring and calm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5GqzeLzysk Continue to put a food stuffed Kong into the crate with her during any daytime crating/penning. Once she is less anxious she will likely enjoy it even if she didn't pay any attention to it in the past, and that will help her to enjoy the space more. First, she may need her anxious state of mind interrupted so that she is open to learning other ways to behave. Once it's interrupted, give her a food stuffed Kong in the crate for her to relieve her boredom instead of barking, since she will need something other than barking to do at that point. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 18, 2021


Training assistant
Need training help?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.