Separation anxiety can cause dogs to panic. Here are some ways to help soothe it. (2024)

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  • BY TRACI HOWERTON | Contributing writer

    Traci Howerton

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Separation anxiety is a disorder that causes a dog to panic at the idea of being apart from his owner or left at home alone. It can be stressful for both dogs and owners, and it can be a tough condition to overcome.

The pet's anxiety usually sets in immediately after the owner leaves the home, so regardless of whether you are gone for a short period or all day, the dog still has the same reaction.

The distress can be so overwhelming that the dog becomes destructive, barks excessively, breaks out of his kennel, paces and salivates, and an otherwise housebroken pet may have accidents in the home.

Our dog, Stewie, suffers from a mild case of separation anxiety. Our other dog, Romeo, couldn't care less when we leave the house. Stewie paces when I am away, but he is not destructive. His overall behavioris not concerning because he usually settles down and goes to sleep after we leave. However, this is not the case for all pet owners with dogs that suffer from this condition.

How do you know whether your dog has separation anxiety? Here are a few behaviors that might indicate this condition:

  • The dog panics when he is left home alone.
  • Neighbors complain about hearing barking, howling or constant whining when no one is home.
  • The dog damages furniture, doors, curtains, blinds, kennels or other items when left alone.
  • House training goes out the window when you are away.

While there is not one definitive reason why some dogs have this condition, there are many things that can be looked at as possible triggers for separation anxiety, including:

  • An underlying medical condition.
  • Environmental changes such as the death of an owner or another pet in the household, a move to a new home, or the addition of a new baby.
  • A change in routine, such as a job change that takes the owner away for longer periods of time.

Reducing or stopping separation anxiety takes lots of patience, work and commitment. There is no “one size fits all” solution. If separation anxiety is the root of unwanted behaviors, there are some things that can be done to reduce the anxiety.

SHAKE UP THE ROUTINE: Dogs are intuitive. They watch what is happening in the morning and they know the activities that signal the humans are about to leave home. Try doing these same activities at different times throughout the day, but then don’t actually leave. A few weeks of the family dog seeing these activities — but no longer associating them with his people leaving — may ease some of the anxiety.

KEEP CALM: Don’t make a big production of hellos and goodbyes. Nothing is better than sloppy dog kisses and big tail wags when we walk through the door, and no one is more excited to see us than our pets. However, making a big deal out of leaving and coming home may contribute to a dog’s anxiety.

REWARD THE CALM: Reward calm behavior. Just as we give rewards for house training and learning new commands, if the family dog decides to go curl up in his bed on his own, or is being a couch potato on a Sunday afternoon, reward this calm and peaceful behavior with attention or a treat.

TRY DAYCARE: If DIY remedies do not help curtail the situation, consider sending Fido to dog day care.

FIND A FRIEND:If the family pup is an only dog, another four-legged companion to keep him company may reduce the stress of being alone.

TALK TO A VETERINARIAN:Severe cases of separation anxiety can cause not only destroyed belongings but can also pose a danger to the dogs themselves. Extreme cases may require the help of a behaviorist or medication.


MAY 4: JPAWS pet fest and adoption event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lafreniere Park, 3000 Downs Blvd., Metairie. Meet adoptable pets from over 20 local rescues and shelters. Food trucks, live music, microchipping and over 40 craft vendors, plus pet photos by Danny Kerr. The free event is open to the whole family. Pets must be on leashes — bring chairs, water and bowls for the pups.

Traci D. Howerton is the volunteer manager for Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For more information on ARNO, visit

Traci D. Howerton is the volunteer manager for Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For more information on ARNO, visit


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Separation anxiety can cause dogs to panic. Here are some ways to help soothe it. (2024)
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