Don’t Leave Me! Separation Anxiety in Adult Dogs

We’ve all seen that pitiful look from our dogs as we get ready for work. The tail droops, he pants and his eyebrows crease, heaping guilt on us as we head for the door. Chewed sofa cushions and worse may await us when we return.

I walked into a client’s house on a recent Saturday morning and met a male hound mix with a brindle coat and long, flapping tongue. Chewed chunks of area rug and gnawed baseboards around the door pointed to a tough case of separation anxiety, I wanted to help break the cycle of stress before the owner went back to work on Monday. Here was our approach—the same may work for your anxious pup:

  • Show the signs that tell the dog you are leaving. Pick up sunglasses, keys, and purse or briefcase. Go to the door.
  • Now reverse the order. Put sunglasses and keys back in their normal place. Casually ignore the dog’s reaction.

Separation anxiety begins even before the owner leaves the house, so this exercise is meant to desensitize the dog to the signs that show you are leaving. The signs appear, but the owner stays home instead. We repeated this several times until the dog stopped following the owner and just sat and watched. Now for part two:

  • Stash some meaty treats in the hallway and the living room for the dog to find later. A food-stuffed toy is a good pacifier as well.
  • Now show the signs of leaving again, but this time, walk out of the house.
  • Come back within a minute and check to see if the treats are gone. If they are, you have successfully redirected the dog’s anxiety to a task.

A long leash walk before leaving for work can also really take the edge off the dog’s reaction to separation so put your coffee in a travel mug and hit the pavement with your pooch. The solution isn’t simple, but with a little patience your little buddy could learn to let go of anxiety (and the sofa cushion) and trust you’ll return. That’s worth wagging the tail!

Let’s hear how you soothe a home-alone hound. Share your best tip below!