A Guide to Managing Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Helping Your Pup Cope

CockerSpaniel.org Volunteer Staff

2/21/20243 min read

black and white puppy sitting on the ground
black and white puppy sitting on the ground


Separation anxiety can be a distressing and challenging behavior problem for both dogs and their owners. Dogs experiencing separation anxiety may exhibit destructive behaviors, vocalization, and distress when left alone, leading to stress and frustration for everyone involved. Fortunately, with understanding, patience, and proactive management strategies, separation anxiety can be effectively managed, and your dog can learn to feel more secure and relaxed when home alone. Here's a comprehensive guide on how to handle separation anxiety in dogs:

Understanding Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a behavior disorder characterized by excessive distress or agitation when a dog is separated from their owner or left alone. It can manifest in various ways, including destructive chewing, excessive barking or howling, pacing, house soiling, and attempts to escape. It's essential to differentiate separation anxiety from other behavioral issues or medical conditions, so consult with your veterinarian or a qualified behavior professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Establish a Routine

Creating a predictable and consistent routine can help alleviate anxiety and provide your dog with a sense of security. Establish regular mealtimes, exercise sessions, and rest periods to structure your dog's day. Consistency in your comings and goings can also help reduce anxiety, so try to maintain a consistent schedule whenever possible.

Gradually Desensitize Your Dog

Desensitization involves gradually exposing your dog to periods of separation in a controlled and systematic manner. Start by leaving your dog alone for short intervals—just a few minutes at a time—and gradually increase the duration as your dog becomes more comfortable. Use treats, toys, or puzzle feeders to keep your dog occupied and distracted during your absence.

Create a Safe Space

Designate a comfortable and secure space for your dog to retreat to when you're away. This could be a crate, a cozy bed in a quiet room, or an area blocked off with baby gates. Ensure the space is equipped with familiar items such as toys, blankets, and clothing that carries your scent to provide comfort and reassurance.

Practice Counterconditioning

Counterconditioning involves changing your dog's emotional response to being alone by associating it with positive experiences. Before leaving, give your dog a special treat or toy that they only receive when you're away. This helps create a positive association with your departure and can help reduce anxiety over time.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is essential for promoting physical and mental well-being in dogs and can help reduce anxiety and stress. Engage in daily walks, play sessions, or other forms of physical activity to help your dog release pent-up energy and tension. Mental stimulation through training, puzzle toys, or interactive games can also help tire out your dog and keep them mentally engaged.

Consider Medication or Supplements

In severe cases of separation anxiety, medication or supplements may be prescribed by your veterinarian to help manage symptoms and reduce anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications or supplements such as CBD oil may be recommended as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Always consult with your veterinarian before starting any medication or supplement regimen for your dog.

Seek Professional Help

If your dog's separation anxiety persists despite your efforts, consider seeking guidance from a certified professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can assess your dog's behavior, provide personalized recommendations, and develop a tailored behavior modification plan to address the underlying issues contributing to the anxiety.


Handling separation anxiety in dogs requires patience, understanding, and a proactive approach to help your furry friend feel more secure and relaxed when home alone. By establishing a routine, gradually desensitizing your dog to periods of separation, creating a safe space, practicing counterconditioning, providing regular exercise and mental stimulation, considering medication or supplements when necessary, and seeking professional help as needed, you can help your dog overcome separation anxiety and enjoy a happier, more fulfilling life. Remember to be patient and compassionate as you work with your dog to address their anxiety, and celebrate each small step toward progress along the way.