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What should I do about stray cats in my neighborhood?

Should I feed stray cats? What can I do to help ferals?

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Does my dog have separation anxiety?

My dog tears up my house while I'm away. Does he have separation anxiety?

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My puppy keeps pooping and peeing in my house. How can I housetrain my dog?

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Ask the Experts

Send an email to ask@indyhumane.org to submit your question about animal behavior or welfare to our Experts. We’ll post answers to some of the best questions here. For urgent or personal questions, check out our Contact page, and for answers to common questions about IndyHumane, check out our FAQ.

Does my dog have separation anxiety?

 How do I know if my dog has separation anxiety, and how can I treat it? 

Dogs with separation anxiety typically exhibit dramatic anxiety responses within a short period of time (20-45 minutes) after their owners leave. Common separation anxiety behaviors include: 

  • Digging, chewing and scratching at doors or windows.
  • Howling, barking and crying.
  • Eliminating (even in housetrained dogs) as a result of distress.

It’s not fully understood why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and others don't. It’s important to realize that the destruction and housesoiling that occurs with separation anxiety are not the dog's attempt seek revenge on his owner for leaving him. Rather, they are part of a panic response.  

There are many reasons for the behavior associated with separation anxiety, so it's essential to correctly diagnose before proceeding with treatment. If most, or all, of the following statements are true about your dog, he may have a separation anxiety problem: 

  • The behavior occurs when he's left alone.
  • Follows you around while you are home.
  • Reacts with excitement, depression or anxiety to your preparations to leave.
  • Displays frantic greeting behaviors.
  • Dislikes spending time alone outdoors.

What should I do if my dog has separation anxiety? 

The following techniques may be helpful for minor separation anxiety issues: 

  • Keep arrivals and departures low key.
  • Leave your dog with an article of clothing that has your scent.
  • Establish a "safety cue". This is a word or action that you use when leaving that assures your dog you'll return. (Some examples of safety cues are playing a radio leaving the TV on, or giving him a special treat or toy.)

These treatments may take a while, and a dog with separation anxiety can do serious damage to himself or your home. Some of the following may be helpful in dealing with the problems in the short term: 

  • Provide plenty of daily exercise! What may seem like separation anxiety may be 'cured' by providing your pooch with plenty to do.
  • Talk to your vet about possible drug treatments.
  • Take your dog to a doggy daycare facility.
  • Leave your dog with a neighbor, friend or family member.
  • Bring your dog to work, if possible.

What won’t help a separation anxiety problem? 

  • Punishment. If you punish your dog when you return home it may actually increase his separation anxiety.
  • Getting another pet. His reaction isn't to being alone, it is from being separated from you.
  • Crating your dog. Your dog will still engage in anxiety responses in the crate. This may lead to injury.
  • Obedience school. While obedience school is a good idea, it won't directly help the problem. Separation anxiety isn't a lack of training.

RELATED CATEGORIES: Animal Welfare, Dogs, Education, Health, Training

Leave a Comment


I have had 2 dogs with separation anxiety - both of which came from rescue places.  The utmost important thing an owner can do is to have a lot of patience !!  I did have to use a drug on both dogs for about 2 weeks, but while doing that, I began taking them for short rides in my vehicle - showing them that even though my car leaves - it always returns home.  I also talked to them extensively when I leave - things such as I will be right back - you be good while I’m gone so we can play later - an extra hug or so.  May sound silly, but it seems to have worked !  Never ever punish or cage - the animals are just missing the one they love !!

By Granny on 2011 05 20

Thats cool I never new punishing your dog could increase separation anxiety! Thats interesting.
I have a taco bell dog that yaps alot and does not like other dogs and i am getting ready to bring in a dog 10x his size. He is not going to be happy. He will probaly bite his ankles.

By Amya Baker on 2011 07 21

Hi, i lik ur site a ton! i got a dog form u guys named Reese hes a yorkie mix we luv him a ton but he has a BIG prob with seperation anixiety but our pooch improve a little thks to u!

By Annie L. on 2011 07 31


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