How to Solve Separation Anxiety in Dogs in 4 Steps

Has your dog got separation anxiety? In this guide, we explain how to recognise separation anxiety in dogs, why puppies and dogs can suffer from separation, and how to cure using her tried and tested method “Take The Sting Out Of Leaving”

Anxious dog

Important information before you begin

The key to curing a dog’s separation anxiety is patience. In their time as opposed to your expectations.

If you fast track and begin with leaving a room, even for seconds at the start, is a step too far and, you’ll set your dog up to fail.

Did you know, the more anxious you are about leaving your dog, the more worried they are when you leave! The more fuss you give your dog when you leave and return, the more likely your dog will show signs of separation anxiety.

Incorporate the method below into your daily lives. Ensuring your dog is calm between movements and exits is vital. Even if they are munching on a chew, they will clock you’ve left, so if this helps initially then that’s fine. Chewing is a great stress reliever.

Scared dog
  1. Avert eye contact - This allows your dog to rest and relax. A look towards your dog as you move/walk away is you asking them to follow. Avert your eye contact = no conversation. No conversation = no reaction from your dog, eventually

  2. Ensure your dog is calm -Your dog needs to be settled and relaxed before you start, they also need to be relaxed between moves. Some dogs need extra help from you to calm down and take a nap. [1]

  3. Shut the door - Make the room you are both in feel more safe and cosy.

  4. A happy, relaxed you creates a relaxed dog. - Your temperament during this process to cure separation anxiety in dogs is very important. When you are calm you will help your dog relax too. Imagine your dog calm and this will help the whole process.

4 steps to begin curing separation anxiety in dogs

The “Take The Sting Out Of Leaving” method

Step 1: Desensitise your dog to your movement

When you move from room to room your dog has got into the habit of following you, they have become a velcro dog. When your dog cannot see or be with you panic sets in.

........Paws for thought.......

Absolutely no attention or eye contact unless you are calling your dog for a massage. In order for your dog to rest you need to blank your dog. You look, then you involve your dog in any given activity with you. This whole process is to help your dog relax with and without you. To relax without you, they need to relax when you are with them.

Step 1 is all about desensitising your dog to your movement and stopping them from constantly following you when you are at home. Let’s break this step down into 2, shuffling and standing up:

  • Shuffling in your seat Before you get to the point of standing up and moving away from your dog, shuffle in your chair. Cross and uncross your legs, move your arms up and down. If your dog reacts to your movement, stop and wait for them to relax again. Repeat this until your dog does not react to your shuffling.

  • Desensitise to you walking Now it is time to get out of your seat. Stand, then immediately sit. Move towards a stand and step forward, then backward and sit down again

  • You’ll get to a stage when you can walk around your room freely while your dog remains rested. This can take a good few sessions, even more in extreme cases.

Sleepy dog

puppies and adult dogs need to learn to sleep within a busy home

Step 2: Desensitise your dog to exit triggers

Our dogs know us so well. They learn our routines and little habits. Anxiety builds with every trigger from what time you start your day, what you are wearing to how you feel and smell.

Which room to begin the process?

Base yourself in the kitchen or sitting room or office. Shut the door to the room you and your dog are in.

Between each movement, if your dog reacts sit and wait or help to calm

  • Start by shuffling in your seat again - so your dog is relaxed and ensure they settle between each movement

  • Begin moving around your room, Step by step. Return to sit in your chair and calm your dog when needed. Once your dog is happy for you to walk around the room move on to walking to the door

  • Walk to the door and back to your chair. When your dog can relax with you walking to the door and back, progress to

  • Touch the door knob and back away. Progress to open and shut the door and back to your seat.

  • When you can touch the door and your dog does not spring to attention, move to step 3

Paws For Thought We often look at one behavioural issue in isolation with our dogs. It’s a fact though for the vast majority of dogs, there will be more than one behaviour that shows your dog is struggling in our human world.

Step 3: Leaving the room

You can incorporate this as you progress to going out of the door, shutting it, and popping the kettle on, returning, settling your dog is required, then exiting again to make a cuppa and returning. Or incorporate to a routine where you have a pile of ironing and leave the room each time to collect individual items. This shows your dog that everything you do does not have to involve them.

  • Exit the room, close the door for 1 second. Return, shut the door & return to your chair / computer /book.

  • Repeat the 1 second out, then Increase your time out by seconds initially

  • Say nothing and zero eye contact as before, on your departure or return. Rest and ensure your dog is calm between each return

  • If your dog is over-exuberant on your return, you’ve been out too long or preparation hasn’t been slow enough. Do go back to step 1 and 2, help your dog settle – you may have to use a ‘Calm Hold’ or calm silent walk to make this happen

Step 4 Leaving the house

Separation anxiety varies for many dogs. It may be weekdays when you go to work, out shopping or out in the evening. You leaving the house is many dogs’ greatest fear.

Even if your dog is happy to be separated from you in another room, do go through the above steps to ensure they are prepared mentally when you begin your mini departures and returns.

  • Begin with step 1, then 2 as a revison and preparation exercise to ensure your dog is in the right frame of mind

  • Leave by one door and return by another if you can. Out the front door and return by the back door., then, leave by the back door and enter via the front

  • Desensitise to other triggers as you progress. If the car is also a trigger. Pick up the keys and pop them down again. Go out, engine on , then off and return.

  • How long will this take? This will take many days to a few weeks for a dog who is suffering from anxiety when you leave. It’s tedious for you, but you will reap the rewards.

Desensitising to other triggers indicating your departure.

Going to work? Pop on your work clothes at a weekend and then sit and read the paper or clean or have a cuppa. Pick up keys, work bag etc. pop down again … so on and so forth.

All these exercises are done with Zero engagement, zero eye contact, and zero speech. By doing this, your dog can see, smell and feel your emotions and surroundings. You’re giving them the brain space to work it out for themselves with no interruption.

Eye contact and speech are both forms of communication. This silent conversation gives no chance for your dog to rest. relax and drift off to a happy sleep