Dog Separation Anxiety Part 3: Dos and Don'ts

During the summer months, we’re featuring a special series by Angel Wasserman, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of Paws in Training, about dog separation anxiety, including what causes this psychological disorder, what to look out for, and what you can do about it.

In the first two posts, Angel explained causes and symptoms. In this post, she discusses the dos and don’ts of treating dog separation anxiety.

Treating separation anxiety

Dogs suffering from separation anxiety almost always require anti-anxiety medication while they are being rehabilitated. If your dog is also having panic attacks, the panic must be treated medicinally, as well. Anti-anxiety medications do not manage panic attacks so be sure to tell your veterinarian if your dog is also experiencing panic attacks so that supplemental medication can be ordered.

Medication alone will not heal your dog; there are no magic pills. Treating separation anxiety requires behavioral training (not obedience training) in addition to medication. Medication can help the dog relax enough to participate in behavior modification so that effective change can take place.

What Won’t Help

  • Misdiagnosis. Many destructive or anxious behaviors are improperly attributed to “separation anxiety.” Just as you wouldn’t start chemo treatments for a suspected but non-diagnosed case of cancer, you can’t successfully treat your dog if you don’t know what’s creating the problem in the first place. Don’t guess – seek professional assistance.
  • Punishment. Punishment will increase the dog’s anxiety level and make the behaviors worse. Destruction and house soiling are not things that your dog purposely chooses to do, nor are they performed because the dog is mad at you. These behavioral expressions are the result of anxiety and panic and the dog cannot help himself.
  • Crating. Your dog will still engage in anxiety responses while inside a crate, and he may injure himself in an attempt to escape. If your dog is panicking inside his crate, place him in a safe room that has been dog proofed.
  • Taking an obedience class. Separation anxiety is a psychological disorder, and the dog’s resulting negative behaviors do not stem from a lack of obedience training.

Recovering from separation anxiety takes time, hard work and professional guidance. Remember that the dog is not trying to punish you. He is panicked about his own survival without you. If you make the commitment to modify his behavior and help him become confident on his own, the quality of his life, and yours will be significantly improved.

Angel Wasserman, CCBC, CPDT

Certified Behavior Consultant-Canine
Paws in Training, Inc.
(919) 896-2859 

This article was reposted from the Paws in Training website. Find Paws in Training on FacebookGoogle+, and Yelp. Check out Woof It Up! A Guide To Happy Dogs and Happy Owners, available in paperback or E-Book formats.

Let's Meet

Sign up for your free "Meet & Greet" service

Sign Up