Separation anxiety is when a dog becomes extremely distressed when left home alone. For many dogs, separation anxiety causes what is essentially a panic attack. When left alone, a dog might vocalize for long periods of time, chew door frames, destroy furniture, or go to the bathroom in the house. This behavior goes beyond an adolescent dog being bored and chewing up a shoe that was left out—dogs who are anxious about being left alone typically exhibit lots of stress-related behaviors. It's critical to understand that these behaviors are not a dog being naughty or "bad," but instead their response to extreme levels of stress and fear.
Separation anxiety is unfortunately not an easy behavior concern to overcome. It often
takes a team effort of a qualified trainer and a behavior-savvy veterinarian working together with a guardian to improve the situation and help the dog feel more comfortable when left alone. It is a slow process because you must go at the dog's pace and you cannot force progress. Tools like bark collars and escape-proof crates can often make the panic much worse. Instead, we recommend consulting with one of these resources:
Certified Separation Anxiety Trainers – CSATs are one of the best resources because they are truly experts in this behavior issue
Veterinary Behaviorists – If you think you have a dog with severe separation anxiety (destruction when left alone, house soiling, excessive vocalizing, etc.), meeting with a vet behaviorist can be critical
‘Mission: Possible’ – An online course for dog owners
'Separation Anxiety Treatment' – Free webinar about separation anxiety
“I’ll Be Home Soon” by Patricia McConnell – A quick and owner-friendly book
Separation anxiety is one of the most challenging behavior issues to address, so working with an experienced certified trainer is important. We can help! We have a separation anxiety expert on our team who coaches clients through separation anxiety treatment. Learn more on our separation anxiety page.