Hospital 215.750.5252 · Hours · General 215.750.3100

Overcoming Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety is very different from misbehavior.  Dogs with separation anxiety are distressed and may exhibit behavior problems when they're left alone – even for a short period of time. 

Separation anxiety generally includes one or more of the following behaviors:

·         Destructive behaviors, such as chewing or scratching.

·         Insistent barking, whining, or howling.

·         Persistent pacing.

·         Physiological responses, like excessive panting.

·         Urinating or defecating in the home.

The first step in resolving behavior concerns in your dog is to rule out any possible medical problems that might be causing your pet’s behavior.  If your pet is urinating or defecating in the house, especially if he is otherwise house trained, he may be suffering from a urinary tract infection, diabetes or kidney disease which causes incontinence. 

Dogs know when you’re about to leave the house and will get anxious or attempt to prevent your departure.  Try and teach your dog that when you put on your coat it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re leaving.  For example, put on your coat, pick up your keys and stay put!

If your dog’s anxiety is severe, allow him to get used to being alone by starting with small steps to gradually ease him into being alone.   Introduce several short periods of separation and then gradually increase time spent apart over the course of a few weeks.

Providing mental stimulation is a vital part of treating separation anxiety.   Enrichment can decrease stress and provides an appropriate outlet.   Try a treat stuffed KONG, rubbery Nylabone or canine puzzles.   

Separation anxiety is not deliberate – it’s a panic reaction to being alone.  Scolding or punishing him may cause the problem to worsen.

If your pet is struggling with separation anxiety call our animal hospital at 215-750-5252 and make an appointment to see one of our veterinarians.