Dog Training for Separation Anxiety

Does your dog get anxious every time you leave the house? In this article we’ll cover the causes and the best dog training for separation anxiety.

How to Train Your Dog to Handle Separation Anxiety

This video comes from one of our favorite YouTube Stars on Dog Training, Zak George. Be sure to check out our article covering Zak’s book on dog training.

Step by Step Dog Training for Separation Anxiety

  1. Start by training then in a small room.
  2. Look for positive behaviors and reward them with a small treat or praise immediately.
  3. For example, wait 3 seconds for them not to scratch the door and not to whine. Give them a treat.
  4. The goal is to reward them for calm behavior before they start freaking out and showing separation anxiety behaviors.
  5. Focus on tiny bits of progress.
  6. Dogs get bored when you are away. Give them something to do (e.g. a toy with a treat inside that they have to work to get at).
  7. Repeat the above for longer periods of time.
  8. Make sure to exercise them before you leave for the day. A good mile long walk will go a long way to help keep them calm later.

Editor’s Note: We love Zak George but his videos are a bit ad heavy. He pushes ads on the front end and back end of this video. You do not need to buy a dog toy to help with separation anxiety. My dog, Ella, chewed things for a few weeks when we first got her. Even toys didn’t help. Patience and training was what got her through.

Skip to minute 4 below to get to the good stuff in the video.

Top Tips for Reduce Separation Anxiety in Dogs

  1. Teach your dog independence – Have your dog stay with others – If you’re dog is with you alone all the time they will get anxiety when you are away. Have your dog spend time with your spouse, roommate, or friends.
    1. For our rescue chihuahua Ella, she made huge jumps in socialization when we went away for a weekend and had her stay with friends.
  2. Train your dog on a new trick every week. Why? Challenging your dog’s brain goes a long way to making them happier, smarter, and more independent. A lot of dog anxiety is due to boredom. Learning new tricks helps them fight the boredom.
  3. Take your dog for a walk or exercise before leaving. Take your dog on a walk, play fetch, or do a brain tease activity (see examples in video below). Again, anxiety is often from boredom. Get your dog happy before you leave.
  4. Practice Distance – Put your dog in a room. Close the door. Leave for 30 seconds and come back. Repeat this for different intervals. When you come back, make them do a simple trick, then give them a reward (treat or praise).
  5. Choose a room for distance practice that makes them comfortable – Make sure that room is a place where you both spend time together. You want them to associate that room with comfort. If it’s just a laundry room or some other unused room it’ll feel more like a cage and less like a place for family.
  6. Randomize practice distance times – Change your time intervals when you come back to see the dog. Do this training at different random times of the day. You want to avoid teaching them that going to the room means you’re leaving. Just taking them to the room will teach anxiety then. Randomizing things gets rid of that.
  7. Have Patience – Keep practicing the things above and have patience. They will learn and become more independent over time. Mostly it’s boredom or we over trained them to be reliant on us.

FAQ

What are signs of anxiety in dogs?

  • Scratching at the door
  • Howling or barking
  • Whining
  • Dilated pupils
  • Looking at the door
  • Cowering or hiding
  • Chewing on shoes
  • Chewing on furniture or plants
  • Destroying things while you are away
  • Excessive licking
  • Jumping the fence and trying to escape
  • Peeing or pooping inside – Breaking house training

Can training help with separation anxiety in dogs?

Absolutely. Training of all types stimulate’s your dog’s mind. This helps them overcome the boredom and lack of independence that usually goes with separation anxiety.

Short training sessions where you get your dog used to being in a room alone can really help. See full instructions and top tips above.

What can I give my dog for separation anxiety?

While toys help the biggest thing you can do for your dog for separation anxiety is to give them training and patience. It will take a few days to a few weeks to teach your dog to be more independent.

You’ll need to exercise them and challenge their brain so they don’t get so bored while you are away. You need to teach them to be confident when alone or with others.

Have them stay with friends or go on walks with other people. Find the switch that gets them comfortable with others.

For us with our rescue Chihuahua it was staying at other people’s houses. Ella wouldn’t let anyone talk her on a walk without us if started at our place. Once she was at someone else’s house and we left she immediately bonded to our friends. Then when she returned she was so much more confident around others.

Should you crate a dog with separation anxiety?

Yes. Proper crate training can protect your house and your dog. You must train though! Crates are not a magic answer to separation anxiety. Without training they are just a cage.

Choosing a proper crate for your dog is key as well. See our full guide to finding a great crate and training your dog to love it.