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How to Train a Dog with Separation Anxiety

Let’s face it. All of our worlds pretty much got turned upside down in 2020. Most of us started doing our jobs remotely from home.

This was great for our dogs at the time. After all, their humans were now staying home with them pretty much 24/7.

Recently though, many of us have started going back into the office as restrictions are lifted.

Though we may not realize it, this has left many dogs wondering why they are suddenly being left alone all the time. This is especially true for COVID puppies, who do not know anything else.

These sudden societal shifts have led to more and more dogs suffering from separation anxiety. A problem that used to be reserved for a few dog owners is now a common issue.

Don’t worry because here I will be explaining everything you need to know about separation anxiety in dogs and what you can do to fix it.


What is separation anxiety, and why do some dogs have it?

Separation anxiety involves a dog becoming extremely anxious when they are left alone. This can include being separated from one person in particular or when they are left entirely by themselves.

Today, most dogs experience separation anxiety simply because they have never really been left alone before. This is not the only cause of separation anxiety in dogs, though.

Underlying anxiety issues, experiencing the trauma of being abandoned in the past, and an unstable living situation could all potentially cause separation anxiety in dogs.

The anxiety of being left alone can manifest a whole slew of symptoms in dogs. Some dogs will destroy objects and barriers out of frustration and in an attempt to escape.

Other dogs will bark or howl excessively until their owner comes home, and some will even have accidents in the house as a result of their sudden stress.


How can you help a dog get through their separation anxiety?

Luckily, there are some ways that you can help your dog work through their separation anxiety, especially when it is not very severe. Here I will provide you with the necessary steps on how you can help your dog work through their separation anxiety.

Step 1: Get a nice and quiet space ready

The first step in this process is to have a nice safe, and comfortable space ready for your dog. This can be a dog-proofed room or a crate.

However, you should only use a crate if your dog is comfortably resting in it already. Only include items in their space that are safe for them to be left alone with.

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Toys and objects that can be eaten or choked on without your knowledge should be excluded from your dog’s safe space.

Step 2: Give your dog a safe distraction

Safe Distraction for Dogs

Providing your dog with a safe food stuffed toy is a good idea. This will help distract them when left alone in a safe way. The above photo shows some examples of safe food-stuffable toys.

Step 3: Leave your dog alone for 10 Seconds

When you are starting out, you will want to leave your dog alone for just 10 seconds. Here is a helpful video showing what I mean.

In this video, I placed my dog in a comfortable and safe room and closed the door. Then, I waited for ten seconds.

Here I used a timer, but you can also count in your head if you don’t have a timer available. After ten seconds, I opened the door and let my dog out of the room.

Your training should look exactly like this in the beginning, and it will continue to look pretty similar throughout the whole process.

You are essentially going to be doing the same thing over and over again. The only difference is you are going to be increasing the amount of time your dog is left in the room each time.

If your dog shows signs of anxiety after this amount of time, practice at step one for a bit before moving on.

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Step 4: Slowly increase the amount of time your dog is left alone by a few seconds until they can be left alone for 1 Minute

Once your dog is ok with being left alone for 10 seconds, increase it to 15. Continue doing this by adding 5 seconds until your dog can be left alone for 1 minute.

You will need to work more slowly at the beginning because most dogs experience the worst anxiety within the first minute of being alone. (It takes around 10 intervals if there are no issues)

Step 5: Slowly increase the amount of time your dog is left alone by 30 Seconds until your dog can be left alone for 5 Minutes

Continue doing the same thing until you can leave your dog alone for 5 minutes.

Now you can increase the amount of time by 30 seconds if your dog is comfortable with it. (It takes around 10 intervals if there are no issues)

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Step 6: Slowly increase the amount of time your dog is left alone by 1 Minute until your dog can be left alone for 15 Minutes

Once your dog can be left alone for 5 minutes, most dogs handle being left alone for an extra minute each time well.

Continue doing this until your dog can be left alone for 15 minutes. (It takes around 10 intervals if there are no issues)

Step 7:  Slowly increase the amount of time your dog is left alone by 5 Minutes until your dog can be left alone for 30 Minutes

Once your dog can be left alone for 15 minutes at a time, try increasing the amount of time they are left alone by 5 minutes.

If it works out well, you can continue adding 5 minutes to this time until they can be left alone for 30 minutes. (It takes 3 intervals if there are no issues)

Step 8: Slowly increase the amount of time your dog is left alone by 10 Minutes until your dog can be left alone for 1 Hour 

If your dog can be left alone at the 30-minute mark, you can try increasing the length of time they are left alone by ten minutes at a time until they can be left for 1 hour without issue. (It takes 3 intervals if there are no issues)

Step 9: Continue increasing this time at comfortable intervals until your dog can be left alone for the desired amount of time

Continue increasing the amount of time your dog is left alone until they reach the desired amount of time. Remember to work at your dog’s pace!

Do you have any more tips for dealing with separation anxiety in dogs?

The most important thing to consider throughout this training is to work at your dog’s pace.

If they need a bit more time to complete the training successfully or need smaller time jumps throughout the process it’s ok! It’s important to allow this. You and your dog will be thankful for it in the long run.

 It is also not uncommon for dogs with separation anxiety to need practice at a specific time increment.

For instance, a dog may need to work on being left alone for 15 minutes for a while before it can be left alone for more time.

Do this several times a day with breaks in between to prevent your dog from becoming overwhelmed.