Separation Anxiety in Dogs: How to Help

Separation Anxiety in Dogs: How to Help

What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

Separation anxiety in dogs is a distressing condition characterized by anxiety or excessive stress exhibited by a dog when separated from its owner or primary attachment figure. It's one of the most common behavioral issues in dogs and can manifest in various ways.

Key Takeaways

Addressing separation anxiety in dogs is a multifaceted approach that requires attentiveness and care. Exercise plays a vital role in alleviating anxiety, as a tired dog is often a calmer dog. Creating a safe and comforting environment with familiar toys or soothing music can ease stress. 

Behavioral training, such as gradual desensitization to being alone, can help modify the dog's anxiety response, and professional guidance may be beneficial. In more severe cases, consulting a veterinarian for medications and specific remedies can provide additional support. With a combination of these strategies, it's possible to help your furry friend feel more relaxed and secure when you're away.

Symptoms of Dog Separation Anxiety

Symptoms of separation anxiety can vary widely but may include:

  • Excessive barking, howling, or whining when left alone.
  • Destructive behaviors like chewing furniture, doors, or personal items.
  • Inappropriate urination or defecation in the house.
  • Pacing, trembling, or other signs of agitation.
  • Excessive salivation or drooling.
  • Attempts to escape confinement, leading to potential injury.


The exact cause of separation anxiety is not entirely understood, but several factors may contribute to its development:

  • A traumatic experience such as a change in the household or a significant life event (e.g., moving, death of a family member).
  • Lack of proper training or socialization.
  • Inherited disposition to anxiety.
  • Sudden changes in the routine or environment.
  • Attachment issues or over-dependence on the owner.

Types of Separation Anxiety In Dogs 

A 2016 American Kennel Club article cites the Merck Veterinary Manual in naming three main types of anxiety in dogs — fear, aging and separation.

Fear-related worry can be caused by an array of circumstances such as loud noises, unfamiliar speech or visits to the veterinarian, while age factors include a decline in learning, perception and memory, similar to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Separation anxiety is said to affect around 14 percent of dogs, which become agitated when left alone or apart from family.

Often, unwelcome behaviors follow, including barking, destruction of furniture and urination and defecation indoors despite toilet training. Dogs with heightened anxiety are also at risk of injury to themselves, which may result in costly treatments and potentially chronic medical conditions.

The Importance of Reducing Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Research on canine domestication varies wildly, with timelines extending anywhere from 9,000 to 35,000 years and geography covering the globe. Such a colossal scale may beg the idea that canines have domesticated humans as well — the man-dog bond is marked by everything from multiple burials to billion-dollar marketplaces devoted to each party’s comfort and longer life.

The partnership has yielded an array of literature on the signs of animal anxiety, specific techniques on identifying and how to reduce separation anxiety in dogs.

Diagnosing & Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Diagnosing separation anxiety requires a careful evaluation by a veterinarian or a professional dog behaviorist, as the symptoms can be similar to other medical or behavioral issues.

There are several keys in how to treat and help calm anxious dogs, most of which involve exercises in psychology. 

Background music and the presence of clothing can serve as reminders of the owner’s impending return; a dog bed fuels the animal’s independence from the owner (and, by extension, when the owner’s away); treats just prior to leaving and vigorous morning exercise can diffuse the worry; and unceremonious daily departures can help calm the dog for the duration of the absence. 

Vets can also prescribe medications for separation anxiety — but one derivative is gaining attention for its relief properties in pets. 

Cannabidiol, best known through the acronym CBD, is one of at least 113 constituents identified in hemp plants (including marijuana) and accounts for 40 percent of hemp’s extractable byproducts. 

Moreover, it’s non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t produce the loopy disorientation linked with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main constituent in marijuana. Hemp products on their own contain less than 0.3 percent THC.


Separation anxiety in dogs is a complex issue requiring understanding, patience, and often a multifaceted approach to treatment. With appropriate intervention and consistent effort, many dogs can overcome or significantly reduce the symptoms of separation anxiety, leading to a happier and more relaxed life for both the dog and the owner.