Separation anxiety in dogs is a common behavioral disorder where dogs become excessively anxious or stressed when separated from their owners or primary caregivers until they return home.
The American Kennel Club clearly distinguishes separation anxiety from normal behavior. While the latter can be due to lack of training, it include some naughty surprises or your dog being unhappy that you leave, the former is a legit condition, and as such it needs to be addressed accordingly. There can be many potential triggers, and because of that, pinpointing the exact cause can be daunting or impossible. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to help ease your pup's anxiety and make them feel more comfortable when you're not around.
Dog separation anxiety symptoms
The symptoms of separation anxiety can vary from case to case, but some of the most common ones include excessive barking, whining and howling; destructive behavior such as tearing up furniture or digging through carpets; urinating or defecating inside the home; pacing; panting; salivating; trying to escape from the house or yard.
Gradually increase alone time.
If your dog is not properly trained yet, one effective way to help your dog overcome separation anxiety is to gradually increase the amount of time he spends alone. You can start with just a few minutes at a time, and gradually increase the gap over several weeks. You can do that by taking your time to make a cup of coffee, by taking the trash out, or other small chores. This will help your dog get used to being separate from you and build the confidence that you will be back...kind of like you do with babies to get them used to sleep alone in a crib. Just as you would do with kids, you can also provide them with their favorite fluffy, or bribe them with high-value treats to keep them occupied while you're away. Remember to always reward your dog for good behavior and never punish them for being anxious: positive reinforcement is king (see below)! With patience and consistency, you can help your furry friend feel more comfortable and secure when you're not around.
Create a safe and comfortable space for your dog.
Creating a safe and comfortable space for your dog can help ease their separation anxiety. This can be a designated area in your home, such as a crate or a specific room, where your dog feels secure and comfortable. Contrarily to what some people think, appropriate crate training can help your dog feel protected, safe and entertained, especially if he has nice chew toys or high-values treats when he gets in. You can also leave a piece of clothing with your scent on it to provide comfort and reassurance. Gradually your dog will associate it with positive experiences, such as treats and praise. This will help your dog feel more at ease when you're not around.
Use positive reinforcement training.
Positive reinforcement training is a great way to help your dog overcome separation anxiety. This involves rewarding your dog for good behavior, such as staying calm and relaxed when you leave the house. You can use treats, praise, and toys to reward your dog for good behavior. It's important to start small, build trust with your pup and don't get frustrated, this is a training for you as much as it is for him. Gradually, you will be able to increase the amount of time your dog is left alone without any episodes of anxiety. This is the consequence of the time you spent with him, thanks to which you dog built confidence and trust in you. Remember to always be patient and consistent with your training, and seek professional help if needed.
CBD for separation anxiety in dogs
A recent study published in Front Vet Sci. 2023 Feb 22 tested the effect of TCH-free CDB as treatment for separation anxiety in dogs. Dogs were either left alone in a familiar room (n = 21) or underwent a short car journey (n = 19) and researchers evaluated signs of stress before, during and after the experiment. Interestingly, dogs that received CBD had lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) than dogs that did not. Citing the manuscript:
Dogs who received CBD were rated as being significantly less “stressed,” “sad,” “tense,” and “uncomfortable” and more “explorative” during the separation event than dogs who received the placebo. Consistent with this, dogs who received the CBD also exhibited less whining and sitting behavior and traveled further when they were left alone. Collectively these characteristics are suggestive of a more relaxed emotional state in CBD treated dogs.
At GiandWin, we offer USDA-certified organic THC-free CBD treats that are perfect to sooth your dog's stress and can be extremely useful, and tasty, to address separation anxiety in dogs.
Consider medication or professional help if needed.
While positive reinforcement training and CBD treats can be effective for many dogs with separation anxiety, some may require additional support. In some cases, medication prescribed by a veterinarian may be necessary to help manage your dog's anxiety. Additionally, seeking the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can provide you with personalized guidance and support to help your dog overcome their separation anxiety. Don't hesitate to reach out for help if you feel like your dog's anxiety is too much to handle on your own.
Seb has been a research scientist for the past two decades and is the founder and owner of My Blissful Pet. Seb grew up with cats and dogs and married his passion for science and animals with My Blissful Pet by wanting to help dogs and cats live healthier lives.