Separation anxiety is one of the most common dog behavior problems. This is because many owners may not realize the cause of the problem and make the issue worse without realizing what they are communicating to their dog.

Separation anxiety occurs when a dog is extremely attached to their owners and cannot cope when left alone. The symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs include:

  • Vocalization. This includes incessant whining or barking.
  • Destructive behavior. The dog may lick, chew and scratch inappropriately.
  • Obsessive behavior. This can include some destructive behaviors and other dog behaviors like pacing.
  • House soiling. An anxious dog might eliminate in the house or in unusual places.

The most common reason a dog might develop separation anxiety is that the dog is very rarely left alone. This usually happens when a member of the family is constantly with the dog or takes the dog with them whenever they leave. Dogs need to learn how to be alone.

“Alone time” training should begin as soon as you bring your new puppy home. Most people get a new dog or puppy and plan to spend an entire weekend or a week’s vacation consumed with making the dog feel “part of the family”. This is all well and good, but you must allow the dog to be alone.

To being alone time training, Start out by crating your dog and leaving the room for 5 minutes. Do not return unless the dog or puppy is quiet. If you return when she is barking, whining or crying you have just told her that that behavior works — it gets you back in its sight. The dog is now controlling your goings and comings.

Begin extending his alone time, incorporating actually leaving the house for extended periods of time. Do NOT make a big fuss when you either exit the house or return home. Departures and arrivals needs to be low key so you dog does not attach any “special” meaning to them.

Another factor in dogs having separation anxiety is lack of structure in the home. Dogs are very much like children, they do very well when they know what is expected of them.

Basic obedience such as simple sits and downs can work wonders in adding structure and leadership role into your relationship with your dog.

(C) Jim Burwell 2011