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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 sleepy place.


Puppy separation anxiety


Your puppy has just left all they ever knew. They will have anxieties about being apart from mum and siblings and suddenly alone. Take time to wean your puppy off the constant company. There is no fast-track solution.


  • Always have a radio on low even when you’re in

  • Shut doors behind you as you move from room to room

  • A 10-second separation will not alarm a pup, but simply show them all is well alone.

  • Do this when they are sleeping also.

  • Increase time you are out of the room gradually over a few weeks

  • Open the door and they are then able to join you Remember to be super chilled when they join you and make no massive occasion of this rejoining. They have simply arrived in the room.

  • Recall for a cuddle (great recall practice too) when they have rested or pottering about.

  • When you prepare to leave pop in and out regularly to the room they are left and take no notice. It’s just a case of you forgetting items and going back in to retrieve them. So faff about

  • Change your leave routine regularly so there is no definite trigger they can latch on to that causes anxiety

  • Give yourself time and be calm and organized. Your stress and rushing about will cause them to stress

How long does it take?


It’s all dependant on how committed you are to take it slow, how traumatised your dog is and where you incorporate the Five To Thrive.

Always have a camera up so you can gauge progress. However, you’ll know by the behaviour of your dog whether you’re trying to fast track. Hyper behavior on return is an indication you’ve may have been out too long.

Relaxed dog

Signs your dog suffers from separation anxiety


  • A dog who gets agitated with signs that you are about to depart

  • Continuous/intermittent but regular barking and howling when no other triggers are recorded

  • Urinating and defecating when left alone or separated from their human

  • Pacing

  • Escaping from their confinement when you’re not about

  • Destructive of household items, scratching / chewing walls, and doors when you’re out

  • Panting and salivating. On your return, you may notice your dog is wet from excessively salivating and panting profusely.

  • Less obvious is laying quietly panting and yawning

  • Ask your neighbours if they hear anything

  • Pop a camera up so you can watch and listen on your return as to how your dog coped alone. Have you noticed any of the above?

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Separation anxiety in dogs FAQs


How do your emotions impact your dog?

As with any behavioural modification to help your dogs find ultimate happiness the key is to change you first. Be mindful of how your emotions, thoughts, and movements are being deciphered by your dogs.

How you are has a massive impact on your dog’s health and happiness. Being mindful of how you are even when not engaging with your dog is super important to their health and happiness.

Why does my dog have separation anxiety?

  1. Dogs love the company as much as we do. To be with you all day is awesome. It is how we are when with them that counts

  2. Separation anxiety arises when we let them follow our every move from room to room

  3. Huge anxiety issues arise when we expect an 8 to 12-week old puppy to suddenly cope alone after leaving its mum and any other pups

  4. We look at our dogs constantly, so feel they need to be involved in our every move.

  5. Some dogs just do need company.

  6. If there is constant interaction and noise, followed by an empty home or room, a dog has no idea how to switch off.

Is my dog lonely?

Dogs are social animals and many will prefer companions. However, this is not a cure for separation anxiety from you. These dogs are not in need of the company of another dog or human. They need you.

If you think your dog would be better with a companion, borrow their best four-legged friend and see how they respond. Then you know another dog is the solution to make your hound happy whilst you are away.


How do you know if your dog is happy alone?

Pop a filming device up in the room you leave your dog alone at home. It will give you the answer.


Helping your dog relax at home

Place your dog in a room at the back of the house. It’s quiet and there are no worries about a knock at the door or letters being delivered. For many dogs, these activities are a great concern.

No opportunity to sit and bark out of the window at passers-by means there is no guard job to do for dogs. Out of sight is out of mind.


Why does averting eye contact help?

When you move around the house doing what you need, it helps your dog to be completely relaxed. Avoid your eye contact and concentrate on your own activity. If you look at your dog while walking, it will make your dog feel like you need them and want them with you all the time. If you do this, your dog is never given the opportunity to relax when you are in, unless you are sat down.


Can crate training help with separation anxiety in dogs?

Generally, a confined dog will be more anxious. A crate with an open door in a smaller back room is ideal. Dogs can get caught in crate wire, making it dangerous for their well-being. You should not leave your dog until you know they can cope alone. Slowly but surely, you can gradually increase the time spent doing this.


Is distraction and entertainment solve separation anxiety in dogs?

Engaging with your dog all day is NOT healthy for them, however being with your dog all day IS healthy for both you and them. It’s how you’re with them that counts.

As with children, dogs need their sleep. They also need to be given space to be themselves and do their own thing. If you provide entertainment all the time, they will struggle to relax or be alone. To get balance and happiness in your dog’s life and help them relax they need ample rest.


Does exercise help separation anxiety in dogs?

No. Your dog may be exhausted for a while, that’s all. When a dog is fuelled with adrenaline, rest does not come easily and by exercising your dog too much, it can have the opposite effect… an adrenaline-driven body that has more energy when it returns from a walk than it did before the walk.

A long, active walk may be a quick fix, but ultimately, if they are anxious when you leave, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been for a walk or not, they will still be anxious.


Does leaving toys and food down help when I leave?

This may alleviate some dogs’ anxieties for a short while and keep them otherwise occupied as you exit. However, in general, for dogs that are truly anxious, food will not be touched until you get home. Your dog needs to be able to rest, not be entertained.

I advise against leaving toys or food down unattended as these can be a potential choking hazard.

I recommend you get a copy of this book, “Why Does My Dog Do That?” covers the Five To Thrive, which encompasses your dog’s whole world with you. Connect with your dog naturally, understand how they tick and how they communicate and how to help them adjust in our fast-paced world.


When will my dog experience separation anxiety?

Many and varied situations. Some dogs will suffer in all situations some will suffer in just one or two. Know your dog and work using the same process as above in all scenarios. Many dogs suffer in silence so again pop a camera up as those dogs just verbalizing the smallest noise or pacing are in deep distress too.

  • When you leave the house

  • When your dog is separated in another room but you’re in

  • During a walk when the family is spread out. Your dog may prefer you all walk together

  • One of you may enter a shop and the other left with your dog outside. Your dog can go into meltdown

  • Left in a car

  • Left at a kennel or someone else’s home


Happy dog

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