Features September 2012 Issue

Treating Your Dog's Separation Anxiety

Severe separation anxiety can be devastating for dog owners who fail to build and maintain an adequate support system.

[Updated March 19, 2018]

I get several calls a week from people whose dogs are suffering with varying degrees of separation anxiety. The dogs may exhibit mild isolation distress, where they are uncomfortable at being left alone; a severe form of anxiety, where they go into a full-blown panic when left alone; or anything in between.

separation anxiety dogs

Siam Sam (right) and two other dogs are spotted by WFFT animal rescue workers in the second-story window of a flooded and unfinished building, where they had taken shelter from floodwaters in Thailand. Photo by Emma Carter.

Separation anxiety is a serious condition. Dogs suffering from the more severe forms may salivate, pace, bark, howl, and/or urinate and defecate in panic. They can destroy cars, homes, and possessions at an incredible rate, and dig and chew their way out of windows and doors. They sometimes resort to self-mutilation when left alone. Just think about how intensely frightened you’d have to be to lose the contents of your bowels when left alone, or to rip out the walls of a room to escape. These dogs are suffering immensely and miserably. They need help from a patient and understanding owner – and the owner needs professional guidance from an experienced, educated trainer who understands the behavior and the necessary steps to overcome it. What I didn’t realize until early this year was that, in order to help a dog triumph over a severe manifestation of this condition, extraordinary support for his owner is absolutely crucial.

First Signs of Severe Separation Anxiety

I learned this the hard way: first-hand. Though I had no intention of doing so, I adopted a dog that I had cared for at an animal refugee shelter in Thailand. Siam Sam was one of hundreds of street dogs left behind in an evacuated city about 50 miles north of Bangkok. His was one of the cities hardest-hit by record floodwaters. The human residents had been evacuated from the disaster zone, but the abandoned dogs – street dogs as well as family pets – were left behind and had nowhere to go to get away from floodwaters. They climbed onto any surface that was above the water level.

separation anxiety dogs

Sam is given food by a rescuer; shortly afterward, he and the other dogs in the flooded building were captured, sedated, taken by boat to a truck, and transported to a makeshift shelter for evacuated animals, where Sandi Thompson first met him. Photo by Emma Carter.

Sam and several other dogs were spotted by an animal rescue team organized by Soi Dogs and the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) and photographed as they peered out from the second-story window of an unfinished building. It was their safety zone from the floods, but there was no food and they were facing certain death by starvation or disease, not to mention being easy targets for poachers of the dog meat trade. Sam was one of the lucky ones rescued and evacuated to a shelter.

I met Sam in one of these emergency shelters in Thailand when I went there to do relief work. He was one of hundreds of dogs housed in a cattle quarantine facility with four or more dogs to a stall. I can’t say exactly why, amidst all of the hardship in the shelter, Sam stood out to me. He made me laugh every day. He was silly, but in a noble kind of way, like he was clowning around to lighten the mood for the other dogs and the volunteers. He didn’t seem to be affected the same way a lot of other dogs were; as the days of close quarters in the shelter stretched into weeks, many of the dogs got more and more stressed. Fights broke out constantly. Several dogs succeeded in chewing their way through the bars in efforts to escape; some withdrew and shut down. Sam seemed calm in comparison; he smiled and did something goofy each time I went inside his stall.

It was grueling work to take care of hundreds of dogs in such a crude facility in sweltering heat, with just a handful of volunteers – and yet Sam was able to make me smile every day. He began to really grow on me and I knew I’d miss him the most.

Two days before I was to fly home, I went inside Sam’s stall for the nighttime feeding and he grabbed onto my waist with both paws, buried his head in my hip and wouldn’t let go. He repeated this behavior every time I went into his kennel for the next two days. I knew that dogs who were unclaimed a few weeks after the cities were repopulated would be returned to those city streets – and I found that I simply could not leave Sam to an uncertain future on the streets of Thailand. I made arrangements to have Sam shipped to me if he wasn’t claimed.

separation anxiety dogs

About 30 days later I flew to Los Angeles and met him at the airport. I was excited to see him again, but concerned about how he survived the flight. Sam was visibly shaken from the 20-plus hour flight and I couldn’t tell if he recognized me or not. He had become quite thin since the last time I saw him and he had lost a lot of hair. Since I said goodbye to him in Thailand, he had been moved to two different shelters while waiting to get his papers in order. He was well looked after, but I think his mental state deteriorated from all of the stress. I rented a luxury sedan so that he would be as comfortable as possible and Siam Sam and I drove home to Berkeley, California.

I spent the next week or so slowly getting him used to living in a house. He was afraid of being indoors and walking through any kind of doorway. He was happiest outside, so we spent a lot of time going into and coming out of the house. I offered him his choice of three different sizes and shapes of comfy plush beds and he chose to curl up on the cold floor each and every night (now he will not even consider sleeping on any bed less than six inches thick!).

Once it seemed that he was getting comfortable, I decided to leave him (and my other dog) for about 20 to 30 minutes while I went to the store. This was a big mistake. I should have tested a shorter absence first. I came home to the frightening spectacle of Sam hysterically screaming and frantically panting. His forelegs were bloody and his pupils dilated. The kitchen doors and windows had claw and teeth marks indicating where he tried to escape. Curtains were chewed and fecal matter was spread all over the floor and walls. My heart sank – but I hoped that it was a short-term problem that I had caused by leaving him too soon and for too long.

I tried again a couple of days later, but this time it was an experiment, rather than a real departure. He had been crated a lot during his stay in the shelters in Thailand and had been fine, so I thought he might do better in a crate. I put him in a crate with a food-stuffed toy, walked out of the house and spied on him from a window. His reaction was immediate and heart-wrenching to observe. He again became hysterical and frantically tried to chew through the bars, and then started chewing his legs. All this within minutes.

I was stunned. I knew he might have a hard time adjusting to his new life and that it would take patience, time, and understanding – and I was totally on board for that. But I wasn’t prepared for the severity of his disorder, and I wasn’t prepared for the hardship of helping him overcome this affliction. The first couple of times I left Sam were hell for him. My hell began after that.

Keep Separation Anxiety Treatment Slow and Steady

I have helped hundreds of owners of dogs with mild separation anxiety (SA). I could probably recite in my sleep the steps that an owner needs to take in order to modify mild to moderate SA behaviors. However, when a client came to me with a dog who had a moderate to severe case, I would refer them to another trainer. It’s not that I felt I was unqualified to help owners through this process; I understood the theoretical steps to modify the behavior. Honestly, it was that I couldn’t imagine standing in their shoes.

Seriously. I couldn’t fathom never leaving a dog alone throughout the lengthy training process and making all the difficult life changes necessary. Rehabilitating a dog suffering from severe SA may require months of painfully incremental steps of desensitizing the dog to his fear of being left alone and/or confinement. During this tedious process the dog should never be left alone. I couldn’t picture myself spending hours each week of mindlessly dull, repetitive desensitizing departures with the dog’s success measured in seconds! So how could I advise someone else to do it?

Well, that was then; this was now. Now I was the owner of a dog with severe SA. I needed to get over regretting Sam’s adoption and feeling sorry for myself and get to work.
Here is what I knew I needed to do, and what I immediately started doing for Sam:

-Made an appointment with a veterinarian, to make sure he was well and didn’t have a health problem that could be contributing to the issue – and, just as importantly, to get a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication for Sam.

-Increased his daily exercise.

-Started “alone” training, to begin helping him to be comfortable away from me. (I have another dog, but as in most severe SA cases, Sam couldn’t have cared less whether my other dog was home with him or not; he was anxious about being away from humans.) We worked particularly on minuscule stays, “go to your place,” and rewarding calm behavior.
Started using counter-conditioning, by giving him food-stuffed Kong toys to work on while I was in another room.

separation anxiety dogs

Thank goodness for stores that allow dogs inside. Shopping online can get you only so far!

-Started desensitizing pre-departures and departures, getting him accustomed to my leaving. I endlessly picked up my keys and walked toward the door – and returned. Tediously. Until we were both exhausted and bored with it.

-Used any “can’t hurt/might help” remedies I could think of, including the flower essence remedy called Rescue Remedy, “dog appeasing pheromones” (DAP), a Thundershirt, and the calming music CD Through a Dog’s Ear.

-Used “shaping” exercises such as “101 things to do with a box,” to encourage him to engage his brain and offer behaviors that I could reward. I did not want him to always look to me for a cue; I wanted to encourage his independent thinking.

-Resisted cuddling and “babying” Sam because I didn’t want his attachment to me to become even stronger. And I didn’t want to reinforce his anxious behavior.

Your Needs are Important, Too

I also had to modify my own life quite a bit so that Sam was never left alone. I knew the drill too well: from this moment forward, until he was well on his way to being cured, I would not be able to leave him alone, not ever. My life had just changed dramatically. I was now standing in those shoes that I could not imagine being in before. I was about to enter into an undetermined period of isolation from friends and family, endless hours of desensitizing protocols, ordering all my supplies and groceries online, and the hardest part for me: relying on others for help.

I called a friend of mine who specializes in SA and pleaded with her to help me. I felt dazed by the colossal tasks I was facing and I needed someone to get me started. “Get a support system in place,” she said. “You cannot do this alone.”

I was daunted by what lay before me, but I had no choice. I didn’t want to ask for help, but I knew she was right: I couldn’t do this alone. I have a training business to run, and couldn’t possibly take him with me to every class I taught. I had to find some paid and volunteer dog-sitters; I couldn’t afford to pay professionals for all the time I needed sitters!

I sent out a somewhat dramatic email asking for help (I was in a panic!) to a group of friends – and was amazed to find several patient people willing to watch him on a regular schedule while I worked. I organized a different sitter for each day I was gone so as not to put too much strain on one person; I needed these people to be in it for the long haul.

Not all of the sitters worked out. I had to find people Sam was comfortable with and who I could trust to keep him safe from any extra stress. It was critical that he never be left alone, that he never be punished or stressed or else it would cause a major setback. I had to find people who understood Sam’s condition and took this seriously. Some people don’t understand the severity of the condition, or believe that it’s just attention-seeking behavior, boredom, or “brattiness.”

separation anxiety dogs

Two close friends dog-sit Sam on Thursday nights, and prepare elaborate Thai meals to share afterward. They called this event “Thursday Night Ditch and Dine,” and it helped keep Sandi sane.

Oddly though, I felt that I could understand the sensation of pure panic suffered by dogs with severe SA, like Sam. One summer when I was about 5 years old, my brother and I were playing around with an old cedar chest. We loved looking at the old photographs and keepsakes my mother kept inside. At one point my brother suggested that I climb inside it and report to him how dark it was once the lid was closed. I remember protesting but then decided it was safe when he crossed his heart, hoped to die, and swore to God he wouldn’t lock it. Click. It locked automatically and the key was long lost.

I became panic-stricken. I screamed and kicked and pounded with my fists from the inside. I heard my brother yelling for help as he desperately tried to pry open the lid. My fear grew worse with every moment I was trapped inside. Extreme panic suffocated me; I felt that I couldn’t breathe. I began to try and claw my way out with my bare hands. I will never forget the uncontrollable fear that overtook my mind and body during this incident. It was more than just being scared; it was sheer terror.

This, I imagine, must be close to what a dog with severe SA feels when left alone. I was trapped in that chest for probably five minutes. Most dogs with SA are left alone for 8 to 10 hours a day, five days a week, and for many weeks or months before their owners seek help. Unimaginable! The lucky ones have an owner who finds a trainer or behaviorist who understands the disorder and can coach them through treating and modifying the behavior.
Most, unfortunately, will get bad advice from all sorts of people (trainers included) who do not understand this complex condition, causing the behavior to get worse, and will end up being relinquished to a shelter and/or euthanized.

In the past few months, I’ve heard stories from other owners of SA dogs who have been advised to crate the dogs and rap sharply on the crate when the dog screams or paws at the cage walls; to spray the caged dog with water; to use a shock collar to “interrupt” the anxious behaviors; and more. It makes my skin crawl to hear these stories, and to imagine how this treatment must make a dog feel when he is already blind with panic and terror.

Strategies for Managing Your Own Stress

I am incredibly blessed to have such a wide circle of dog-loving friends, who became Sam’s “staff” and looked after him so I could do the bare minimum of work away from home. But because I wanted to minimize how much I had to lean on these valued friends, I cancelled everything else that required me leaving the house without Sam. I stopped making appointments for private consultations with training clients. I also stopped going to the gym, hair appointments, movies, dinner out, and gatherings with friends. I cancelled all my doctor and dentist appointments and professional meetings. I couldn’t even go to the store! I ordered all of my groceries and supplies online.

I remember one pathetic moment when I ran out of a few things and my next delivery wasn’t due for several days; a friend brought a tube of toothpaste to my workplace for me. I felt very isolated and depressed. My friends slowly stopped including me in get-togethers and I missed five important milestone birthday celebrations of close friends. It seemed at times I would never lead a normal life again. I felt trapped in my own home.

I kept it up, however; I was fully committed to this dog! I was the one who brought him here – I had to see him through it! If behavior modification protocols to treat SA are not followed carefully and correctly, the dog will suffer and have major setbacks.

Here are the things I put into place during this period:

-I found and frequented only the stores/places that allow dogs; for groceries and other things available only where dogs are not allowed, I found stores that would make deliveries.

-I set up a rotating schedule of dog-sitters for Monday, Thursday night, Saturday, and Sunday, during the hours that I teach dog-training classes. (Kim, a a friend who is from Thailand, and her husband Vince, offered to dog-sit Sam on Thursday nights, and began a tradition of cooking an elaborate Thai meal that would be ready to share with me – and Sam! – when I got home from teaching my night classes. We started calling this event our Thursday night “Ditch and Dine.” Their kindness, generosity, and gracious company brought me to grateful tears many times.)

-I used Web cameras (and later, a program on my iPhone) to monitor Sam’s behavior when I stepped outside my front door, so I could calmly return before he had even a few seconds of anxiety about my absence. In this way, I could stretch my “departures” out as long as possible, without risking a setback.

separation anxiety dogs whole dog journal

An early meeting of Sandi’s “SA Support Group” (and their dogs, of course!) at a local pub. The group also communicates via a Facebook page, to encourage and help each other through difficult times.

-I turned down invitations to anything where my dog was not allowed (missing events with friends/family).

-I kept Sam safe from stress.

I was videotaping each “departure” training session so that I could go back and watch to make sure his body language was calm while I was outside the door. Live streaming also made it possible for my trainer friend who specializes in SA to log in and watch the footage on her computer, too. It was helpful to have an extra pair of eyes and I welcomed her opinion. It was really important to have her validate my progress and keep my sanity in check.

After a month of practicing every day, I had tediously worked my way up to 90 seconds – a minute and a half when I could consistently walk out the front door and not have Sam become anxious. Then, suddenly, our progress was stopped in its tracks. Sam was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and needed 6 to 8 weeks of chemotherapy. He had an 80 percent chance of remission with this treatment, so it was a no-brainer for us. However, this was a big setback for our SA work and he had major regression. It was extremely stressful for him to have chemo, and for the next two full months, Sam made no progress whatsoever. He obviously felt unwell, and even with his daily Prozac, he was clingy and anxious.

This was incredibly disheartening and depressing for me. My spirits were pretty low at that point. I felt like I had wasted three months of tedious work in total isolation, and I was daunted by the process of starting over from scratch. I was also terrified that I was going to lose my support system. My wonderful dog sitters had already been on the job for three months and now I was back to square one. I was going to lose my mind!

I was lonely, trapped in my own home, and I was tired of being misunderstood. People in my life who were supportive at first were also starting to become skeptical. “Why is it taking so long? You’re being neurotic and making it worse. Just leave him and go to the store, for goodness’ sake. He’ll snap out of it!” I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I couldn’t face another day of it.

Enlist Your Friends' and Family's Support for Your Dog's Separation Anxiety

Then, one day, I came to the realization that if I, a seasoned trainer, was feeling this way, how on earth do other people who have SA dogs cope? I knew of at least four students in my regular classes who were struggling with SA dogs. They had heard me talk about Sam in class and confided in me that they, too, were battling this problem. That’s when I decided I should start a support group for people with SA dogs – and it was the best thing I’ve ever done.

I found a nearby pub with a large outdoor area and a dog-friendly manager, and invited those clients to join me for drinks and sympathy. We had a great time at the first get-together and word began to spread. Many people found out about it and pleaded to join. I then started a Facebook group so we can support each other in between pub meetings.

My SA Support Group is comprised of people who are all dealing with or have dealt with a dog with SA. It’s important to understand that the unpleasant feelings are normal, that we aren’t alone, that we are not going crazy, and it will get better. We listen to each other’s struggles and encourage each other to carry on. We congratulate the tiny successes as the major milestones that they really are! Who else is going to get excited about a 30-second increase in the dog’s ability to stay home alone?

The group makes the struggle less of a struggle. Even though I’m a dog trainer, and often find myself giving dog-training advice to others in the group, I can honestly say that our meetings are as therapeutic for me as they are for anyone. I was going bonkers from the lack of socializing! A support group makes the experience far less isolating and validates the hard work that we all do. It also is a big relief that no one is judging us, and we can talk freely without the worry of being labeled as obsessive or neurotic. We all look forward to it; it’s fun and it gives us fuel to carry on. Some of us have already won the race and we find satisfaction in helping others still struggling through it.

It astonishes me that, in my 20-plus years of dog training, I haven’t seen a serious discussion of how life-altering (in a bad way!) dealing with a SA dog can be. One of my fellow “SA club” members (interestingly, another dog training professional who rehabilitated his own dog with severe SA) baldly stated, “It can drive grown men to tears.” The fact that this condition is generally misunderstood by most people can further add to feelings of isolation.

It baffles me, because this is such an important piece of the puzzle. If the owner, who is already isolated, confused, and distraught about the situation, is not getting support, then she won’t be motivated to continue with the lengthy training required to get the dog past his fear. If she doesn’t do the work, then the dog doesn’t get better. If the dog doesn’t get better, the owner is miserable, the dog gets returned to the breeder or shelter and either lives in misery or dies. It seems to me that support should be at the top of the list!

separation anxiety dogs

Sandi uses Web cameras and an iPhone app to monitor Sam when she leaves him at home. Three cameras ensure she can see him at all times, and the pictures are live-streamed to her phone. This enables her to return quickly if Sam should become upset or anxious while she is gone, to prevent triggering a serious setback.

Dealing with an SA dog can also cause strife in friendships and relationships. Many couples have confessed at our group sessions that they argue a lot about the dog and that both parties have periods of feeling envious of, or bitter toward, the other. It is common for one person in a relationship to do most of the work with the dog while the other goes about their life – and this, too, can cause a lot of resentment. A friend struggling with an SA dog told me, “As I kissed my husband goodbye in the morning, I remember thinking how lucky he was that he escaped from the building that had become my prison.” Several have even admitted to me that the other party gave them an ultimatum; that if the dog didn’t improve soon, then the dog would be gotten rid of. I can’t imagine the extra amount of stress this would add to an already horrible situation!

Some “SA Club” members confessed to feeling guilty for somehow causing the separation anxiety in the first place. Some expressed feeling resentful toward the dog and then feeling guilty for being resentful! Several admitted to almost losing their jobs because of consistently being late for work or not coming in at all (because of a pet-sitting snafu or general depression).

One thing has become clear to me, as a constant attendee of this club: If an owner does not get support throughout this lengthy process, relationships become strained, employment suffers, motivation wanes, and training stops. Everyone loses in the end, most notably the dog.

This knowledge has helped me through the past few months of working with Sam. I’ve now learned to stay away from people who are not supportive! If a friend tells me that I should “Just let him cry it out!” or “Just let him deal with it while you go to the store!” I avoid discussing Sam with them, or avoid them altogether.

It Will Get Better

I never could have gotten here without my support group and my dog-sitting friends, including Colleen Kinzley, who watched Sam for me at the location where I teach on Monday nights – which also happens to be the place she works every day, and her night off! With the help of all of these special people, I’ve been able to continue Sam’s training and he’s been able to make more and more progress. As Sam has improved, and the amount of time that he can be left alone has increased, I have been able to “release” some of my dog-sitting friends from their duties (though I don’t know how I will ever repay them for their great kindness).

I still use a camera app for my smartphone, so I am able to watch Sam in real time on my phone when I leave the house. I now have three cameras set at different angles so I can watch him and be ready to come back home if he starts to get upset.

Last night I went to work and left Sam home. I had my cameras running and checked in on him in between the classes I was teaching. I was gone for 5½ hours. He mostly slept the entire time.

I think we’ve crossed the finish line. It was unspeakably hard, probably harder than anything I’ve ever done. But I have to say that through this difficult journey some beautiful things have happened: I’ve made a lot of new caring friends. Even today I cannot believe the selfless efforts that these people made to help Sam and me. I could not have done it without their support and the support of the group I created. I am more grateful to them than I can ever express.

Before this started I was afraid of separation anxiety. Now, because of this journey with Sam, I have a newfound sympathy and understanding of what owners of SA dogs are going through and feel confident and uniquely qualified to help others through this.

Many people have asked me, “If you had known about the SA before you brought Sam home, would you have still brought him home?” I can answer that honestly and without hesitation: No. Had I known what was in store for me I would have tearfully said goodbye and walked away.

But if you ask me now, “Would you do it again?” I’d say absolutely, unequivocally yes. My life is better after all the struggles in so many ways, but mostly it is just better with Siam Sam in it.

Sandi Thompson, of Bravo!pup, is a dog trainer and a long-time model for training articles in WDJ. She shares her home in Berkeley, CA, with Siam Sam and her little dog, Turtle, who sometimes gets mistaken for WDJ’s Otto.

Comments (40)

What an incredible article. Honestly, this could be life-altering for me, as I’ve been struggling with SA since May 2017 with my sweet, beautiful rescue that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I have been joking about needing a 12 step group to get me through this...not so funny, right? After reading this article, I am looking into starting my own support group; don’t think there is one near by.

A question for Rescue GSD: I waited a long time before trying medication; it’s very encouraging to read of your success with meds. I started my dog on Prozac a month ago and am increasing her dose starting tomorrow from 20 to 30mg. She is 55#. My vet didn’t mention Xanax, but I know you start slow and move up/add meds. Can you share your dog’s weight and the doses you administer? Did you start both meds at the same time? How did you know when you had hit the proper dose? Thank you!

Posted by: Jeannie B | November 8, 2017 11:00 AM    Report this comment

I too adopted a dog with severe SA plus storm anxiety plus loud noise anxiety. I so used to love fireworks... not anymore! Luckily for me, once I understood what I was dealing with, I had the help/support of a veterinarian with a tremendous amount of experience dealing with all of this.

Drugs were THE key to our success. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO USE THEM! My dog is on Prozac AND Xanax [and will be for life]. I'm so tired of comments from people saying that drugs are not necessary, that they're a cop-out, that training alone will "cure" the problem, blah, blah, blah.. These statements are FALSE!

Here's the TRUTH: #1. Anxiety is a crippling disorder. #2. Drug therapy AND #3. Behavior modification therapy is all part of the complex solution.

Talk to PEOPLE with severe anxiety that use drugs to help them [Prozac & Xanax]. I did and it was eye opening! Ask them about their anxiety and how these drugs help them manage their lives. Once you understand how they work and help HUMANS. Then you will understand how they can help your pet.

Its month 3 [on Prozac & Xanax] for us and life is SO MUCH BETTER! On her meds & with behavior modification; I am finally able to leave the house for work or personal enjoyment for 8, 10 & 12 hours no issues. Full disclosure: I have dog doors to a potty area in my yard and I do have another totally chill dog.

In addition, after some basic obedience work, I now have my rescue enrolled in scent training. This is a wonderful way to boost a dog's self-confidence and teach them to work away from the trainer.

You can survive SA!

Posted by: Rescue GSD | November 3, 2017 10:20 AM    Report this comment

Dear Sandi,
I have read your article here 3 times - crying the entire time. Your experience with Siam Sam is difficult and extraordinary. We too have adopted a SA german shepherd. He was abused and neglected so terribly that when I met him, he weighed only 42 pounds, had no hair, a rat tail and was spinning himself into walls -- all the while incontinent of urine/feces. It frightened me when I met him - but after one walk I knew he had great potential. So I brought him home.

He was #2 on the list for euthanasia the day our rescue took him. Now only 10 weeks since adoption, he weighs 75 pounds, loves cats, doesn't love little dogs and loves people. All in all he is as close to perfect as can be. Except I cannot even go to the restroom without his anxiety becoming so severe he begins self mutilating & spinning. I have done everything, hired trainers - have support system, altered my life in many of the ways you describe and the situation seems to be going in the wrong direction.

The only thing I have not tried is medication - and this is because our vet wanted to make sure he did not have underlying medical issues that were causing his spinning & chewing. He is thankfully physically healthy & a beautiful dog - so the anxiety is from his separation from me specifically. Our vet is still resistant to anxiety medication and I understand the reasons. However, I am going to gently but firmly request we give Bo a trial run - he just doesn't have the requisite ability yet to calm himself before he begins harming himself. Thank you for the time you spent writing about your experience w/ Sam because it likely has saved Bo from being re-homed, which would not be good for him or me. Like you I am in for the life time- I didn't temporarily adopt him - it was for his life. I just have other beings who are suffering too. I feel much better after reading your incredible story of a most beautiful journey. Sincerely, Stef n Bo

Posted by: Stef %26 Bo | April 26, 2017 11:36 AM    Report this comment

My 10 month old puppy has separation anxiety. He has had it for a while but what seems to work for us is him being in his kennel, with his thundershirt, his favourite toys as well as a special bone and a sweater of mine. I still feel terrible about leaving him and I worry the whole time I'm away but when I come home he is usually sleeping or wagging his tail excited to see me. I have tried not putting him in his kennel when I've left and he has torn the whether stripping off the door, chewed the flooring and barked the entire time. Never pooped or peed anywhere but panicked a little and chewed things. His kennel is his safe place and I'm so happy I kennel trained him because I know I can leave him and he isn't panicking or destroying the house!

Posted by: Tratch7 | April 5, 2017 3:08 PM    Report this comment

I'm in tears reading about your journey with Siam Sam. My journey is with a German Shepherd mix named Jessie. She's about ten years old. We've had her about a year and a half, adopting her after she was surrendered at a shelter. At first I thought her anxiety issues were due to her being surrendered, but finally had a chance to talk to her previous owner and found she's always had anxiety issues. My concern is with medications. I would love to know what medications others who have dealt with SA have tried. I'm afraid Jessie is over medicated. She's on Levetiracetam, Trazadone and Rimadyl.

Posted by: jobaker | February 5, 2017 12:20 PM    Report this comment

Hi everyone, my family and i just got a dog from the pound, great Dane cross. Very affectionate, but just found out she suffers from separation anxiety, badly, tried lots of things but there not working, don't know what to do! Worried about complaints from neighbours and her general health.

Posted by: Samb | January 22, 2017 9:55 PM    Report this comment

ADVICE NEEDED TO ASSIST A SPEEDY AS POSSIBLE HEALING FROM AS DUE TO OUR DIFFICULT SITUATION. PLEASE READ TO THE END BEFORE ASSESSING WHAT I SHOULD DO. have a 5 yr old toy poodle called Emma. Her bonded sister also a toy poodle 6yrs of age died 2 months ago from a blood disease. Within 5 days of finding blood in her mouth and being tested and treated, she died in my husband's arms at the vet. She was not euthanized.
Five years ago we all travelled from the other side of the world. Close to 30 hours flying time plus many injections against disease totally unnecessarily
Something happened during that long journey to make both girls confidence decline. Before Sarah's death Emma was fairly confident but less so than before leaving their home country. Neither one or the other was the leader. They took turns. Now, Emma refuses to even look at other dogs. She pants and cries hysterically in the car or in crowds. I think if left more than a minute she'd hurt herself in our absence.. she wants my husband and I in the same 2 metres of space always.
We've put a deposit on a puppy that chose Emma. In six weeks he will come and stay.
I've tried good quality calmatives, not medical drugs. If it's possible they made her panting and panic worse.
I know she has moderate to severe SA. We'll be leaving this home where she lived with Sarah in a month. We plan to walk her longer so she gets tired. And we'll destroy all Sarah's toys and scent where possible. And we'll join a puppy obedience along with the new little fellow when he arrives.
My question is: Should we try a veterinary medical drug? What else should we do to improve her confidence to be left at home, taken in the car, taken to busier environments.
My husband and I can't do necessary business together any more. To top it off my husband is in a tenuous remission from renal cancer himself. Future prospects concern me but I am generally a calm person. However, of course I feel the same as anyone else in this position. Finding ways to speed the healing for Emma are crucial.
It breaks my heart,to see her regress. Any suggest please? We live in the UK. Thanks everyone four sharing. I wish you all peace and success with your suffering pet.

Posted by: MandyQ | June 11, 2016 6:49 PM    Report this comment

I don't know if you will ever read this to know how amazing this was to read. My dog doesn't have severe SA it's more like moderate as it is just howling/barking, but everything that you wrote there was exactly how I feel and exactly 100% accurate. I feel like a prisoner sometimes and get so lonely and depressed and sometimes feel like my whole life is going to be this. I've worked up to the point where jaffa can be left for a few hours IF we are in a different room of the house. I've recently been sneaking out the bedroom window because I just need some space, it has actually worked a couple times but last night had a major set back, I recorder her like always and somehow she knew I'd gone and howled the entire time. It's funny how it can feel like the end of the world when really it's probably not as as I'm imagining it. But I woke up this morning and felt sick to my stomach and just had to ask my partner if she could deal with the dogs for a bit I just wanted to stay in bed. Every time I look at jaffa I just want to say sorry I've made you like this and I love you. Now it's been a few hours since I got out of bed and I needed to read some success stories to help me feel better. I came across this and I am so glad I did. Thank you, I thought I was the only one feeling all those things. Hopefully jaffa can be like Sam some day.

Posted by: Megan Stuart | March 27, 2016 5:14 AM    Report this comment

Thank you so much for this article. What a blessing! I adopted a rescue dog with severe SA. I thought I was just being selfish and feeling guilty about all the work and overwhelming feelings. Thank you so much for helping me see I am not crazy and not alone! We are working with a specialist to help him. It will be a long process, like you said. I do need support. I feel trapped in the house, but I will start looking for help with sitters. Thanks again. It was a rough day and you have helped me see I can do this!

Posted by: Jill Carlson | March 11, 2016 11:25 PM    Report this comment

If you can't look after a dog with anxiety take him to the humane society but its not grounds to have an animal killed. You may have caused his anxiety. That's not being a responsible owner and if you do that you don't deserve to have an animal.

Posted by: Shannon Close | January 2, 2016 9:49 PM    Report this comment

My 15 year old shih tzu has separation anxiety from losing her bonded sister two years ago. I'm in an apartment so I can't train her as well. She goes to daycare and boarding but its getting very expensive. I'm getting angry because I can't do anything without her. I love her but its not a good life for either of us. May I please join your support group on Facebook I really need help.

Posted by: Shannon Close | January 2, 2016 9:20 PM    Report this comment

I can say that robinson's lovespells works, I feel happy once again, and like never before. It felt good to have my lover back, Thanks to (robinsonbuckler @ yahoo. com)...

Posted by: Catherina Moses | December 6, 2015 4:45 PM    Report this comment

I can say that robinson's lovespells works, I feel happy once again, and like never before. It felt good to have my lover back, Thanks to (robinsonbuckler @ yahoo. com)

Posted by: Catherina Moses | December 6, 2015 4:44 PM    Report this comment

hello help

Posted by: mccart | February 14, 2015 4:10 AM    Report this comment

I need help!!!! I rescued a dog 3 months ago, she was most likely from the fighting world, but she is my life and my best friend. As much as I saved her she has saved me. Her issues are flight or fight response and severe anxiety. Breaks my heart because we can't go on walks and do what most dogs love. I have always had animals and dogs of all kinds and Sweetpea is very special to me. I invested in a top behaviorist which travels around and that is the problem. We only communicate via email and she has only seen her once. I have tried everything!!! She is currently on proanthazone, swanson ultra women's anti stress, free form snip tips, harmonies, and now the behaviorist prescribed amtripyline. I also do deep breathing exercises, put lavender on her collar, and when I am home she is a complete angel and do not even know she is here. When I started to get ready for work she paces back and forth and is a nervous wreck. I have a dog box (we tried crates and she chewed them to pieces so we now have this beautiful lol dog box in our room that was for our hunting adventures. Its big and has a lick dispenser and I leave her toys, but she is still a mess. She has been not been able to get out and has only pooped 2 times in there in the past 3 months) but last week she had actually chewed the top of the ply wood and got out. When I got home she was out but had not done a single destructive thing to our home only urinated a little bit. Now the other problem, she can't be around other dogs and will go crazy so we only go on ninja style potty breaks BUT she LOVES PEOPLE. She is the most humble and appreciative dog I have ever owned. I just want her to be healthy and happy. I am now starting to make homemade treats and organic food to see if that will help. If anyone can give me some advice please please do!!!

Posted by: Suzsweetpea | January 11, 2015 1:36 PM    Report this comment


Posted by: Tracy Adams | July 31, 2014 9:27 PM    Report this comment

Unfortunately, there are many spam comments on this site, as well as comments from people who want others to do the work for them.
Face it---there are not many SANE PEOPLE who want your neurotic dog, Either euthanize the dog or do what you have to do.
Unfortunately, Sandi doesn't say what specific 'exercises' she die with Sam to bring him around. I've successfully used sit & down stays, working my way up by seconds and inches. Took months for one dog with very bad SA. The only alternative, however, was euthanasia.

Posted by: RobynM | July 30, 2014 9:24 PM    Report this comment

I have a Boston Terrier 2 years old named Tobby, this dog gave me many problems. It ate my shoes, urinated in the room, the furniture stank. A teach my dog to behave with some training videos I found online. Pay 1 dollar for a trial period of 3 days. And 37 monthly payment, but worth every penny. My dog ​​is very well behaved, and does not make those deviltries and I have taught him many tricks. This is the location where I found the training: www.theonlinedogtrainers.com

Posted by: misard | June 20, 2014 8:15 AM    Report this comment

I feel so disheartened after reading this article. I just took on a dog from another owner who couldn't look after her anymore and I think this is what has triggered her seperation anxiety. I don't know if its mild or severe, but when we leave to go to the shop for 20-30 mins she will begin barking and trying to escape from the house which makes me think its SA. The only trouble is that I and the person i'm living with have to work so Betty is on her own for 8 hours twice a day. I don't have anyone who would be willing to sit with her for that long =\ So any training I do will just be set back by this departure? Is it impossible to treat a dog for SA if you leave them on their own? I just cant see any light at the end of the tunnel its so sad

Posted by: jijilicious | May 21, 2014 7:09 AM    Report this comment

Brilliant article. I've just written a review for Malena DeMartini-Price's new book Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs" on my blog.

Posted by: njr201 | April 26, 2014 10:39 AM    Report this comment

I have been dealing with SA with our almost 3 year old Klein poodle and 4 month old standard poodle. Today I successfully left them in our kitchen together for 25 min. I hope this will continue. We moved from Germany to to Virginia and I believe that set it off. The howling and barking were terrible. Our older dog still acts crazy when we come back home. I hope it gets better!

Posted by: Kelli V. | April 14, 2014 1:08 PM    Report this comment

This article was read while crying as I too am currently experiencing this debilitating disorder. However mine is couple with inter-dog aggression. I have 3 Siberian Huskies, all female, 10 years, 5 years and 1 year. The puppy has had SA since we got her at 7 weeks. Crating is not an option as she additionally has barrier anxiety and any type of confinement from accessing humans throws her into full tilt. I too feel trapped, overwhelmed, helpless, depressed and now have my own anxiety issues because of this. My job is suffering, as I am required to travel at least once a month and I do not have the option of boarding her because of her SA. I don't have the support group of people to help out. I cannot find any active support groups online or elsewhere, and I don't know who to trust for behavioral therapy. Does anyone have any suggestions??

Posted by: Aprille V | March 3, 2014 11:16 AM    Report this comment

I've had my dog, Nikki a lab mix, for 12 years while growing up. Some of it I was away at college in another state, lived in a dorm nearby, and then eventually moved out to a place that I couldn't take her, but I could my other small dog. During those years when college and moving out was important my mom was her consistent person and the two small dogs she had. Shortly before I moved out, My dog began barking off and on throughout the night due to anxiety. My mom would get up and take her out 3-4 times a night thinking that's what he needed. She wanted to make sure someone was still there for her and wanted us up with her. But mom was moving, we decided that I move back into the house, so her anxiety wouldn't increase by moving. Mom took her two smaller dogs and I moved back in with my small dog and room mate. We soon realized the different pet dander now bothers my asthma and was making my room mate sick too. So we had to make accommodations for Nikki, we take more medicine but try to keep her outside or in the garage to minimize the dander. So nights she stayed in the garage, cuz my neighbors have made threatening letters in the past about her barking during the night. She barks all night in the garage. So we got ear plugs. Some nights she is fine and we barely hear her, cuz she is calmer then. And during the days when we are gone, she's in the garage too with my other dog. And they seem fine then, or at least better. So I tried them both in there, but it only gave my other dog anxiety. And she barks all night in the house too cuz we are asleep, so the fact it's the garage doesn't make that much of a difference. I've talked to my vet and we have tried to kinds of medicine. One the vet said is the best made he have breathing issues and vomiting, the next was xanax but it has only made her hyperactive. With these medicines, I have tried a crate training since my smaller dog did well in one. No luck, only would hurt herself til she was bleeding, plus he figured out how to get out of it. I have her food stuffed toy an she is not interested in any treats once I'm gone. So the vet just keeps asking me to wait and when these medicines are not helping in the process. They have made her have accidents and she is also tearing up the baseboard, door trim, and drywall. To the point, my worst fear, she ripped the drywall right into the house. So now there is a hole in my wall. My mom has tried being support stove by paying for the aids and medicine since I can't afford it. But everyone I know wants me to put her down cuz I can't train her, she's old, and her SA is only getting worse. I have a full time job and a night student. So any time I work, take classes, or sleep her SA is acting up. My family wants to help by making her disappear while I'm gone during the day. That way my stress and own anxiety will be gone. They say yes I may be upset at first, but later it will be ok cuz she will be at ease and so will I. And hearing it can be months to help her of not leaving, I can't do it. I have no support currently and no one can stay with her all the time, my room mate helps the most she's willing but her nerves are at end since she has no attachment or likes the dog ( but she stills takes her out, helps me clean up the messes, and gives her medicine when I'm not at home), plus I can't afford to take off when I can barely afford what I doing now. I would like to did her a home but I know people don't want to take in a dog with severe SA. I'm a lost but feel my parents will step in and decide what to do once they find out she ripped a hole in the wall.

Posted by: Unknown | October 6, 2013 5:05 AM    Report this comment

I went through severe SA when I lost one dog of a bonded pair (mother and daughter who had been together 13 years). I thought I was going to lose the remaining daughter through illness (would not eat or drink) injury or self mutilation. I was fortunate to find a lot of expert help and my employer was very supportive. The daughter was crate trained and suddenly could not tolerate being crated, when left alone at home she would injure or mutilate herself. Kissy was medicated, went back to obedience school, started getting lots and lots of exercise, met many new "friends", forced to eat enough to survive because I could not bring myself to let her go.
I had to detail clean the house, yard, car and my office because catching a scent of her mother brought on hysterical and relentless searching (even though I had allowed her to sit with the deceased mother as recommended). She dug up a collar that had become lost in the yard many months ago and it derailed the progress temporarily. Pet sitters came and went, as did friends and coworkers.
At 15 years of age she was still going strong and I gave in to getting a puppy. Kissy ran to greet the pup, picked it up and ran to the food bowl and ate every morsel, she washed her pup and then fell asleep curled around it. Then began the retraining (again) of Kissy crated and the puppy crated...at first next to each other...always increasing the distance until I could crate them in separate rooms. The pup and Kissy went on walks together, and once crating was working I could exercise them apart. I was a long and slow process. I lost Kissy at 16 1/2 years. I do not regret any of the time, expense or emotional challenge it took to make her life "livable" and eventually happy again. In a way I am glad that I did not just jump into getting a puppy because I learned how to work with a new dog to try and ensure I would not be repeating the experience when I lost Kissy.
Having your dogs love each other is wonderful, but they each have to be able to stand alone. Everything in life is a lesson. I guess I needed this one. My two beautifully trained perfect girl dogs made me proud and confident in my abilties to solve dog related problems...and losing one broke my heart and handed me a nightmare. Working through the troubles taught me so much and brought back a higher level of humility and compassion for others dealing with SA. Yes, sometimes we create the problem....but sometimes we do not. And even if we did, we need kind hearts, understanding and support to work it all out.

Posted by: Chrisot3 | July 27, 2013 1:02 PM    Report this comment

You're story is very touching and Sam is lucky to have you! We adopted a hound mix (Gracey) from a local humane society about 2 1/2 years ago and have been struggling with her in similar ways ever since. She is now 3 years old and still destroys the house and herself when we leave, regardless of the amount of time. We "broke" her out of the crate 6 months ago but sadly have set it up again because she has not stopped chewing, eating, ingesting anything she can get to. She is harming herself by eating things (plastic hangers-which she still hasn't passed, fabric, shoes, books,etc.) and causing me so much heartache. I don't know why she does this- I work 3 days a week and my husband is in and out all the time. I've tried doggie day care, dog sitters, dog runners, kongs, music, etc. She gets A LOT of exercise consisting of runs, bike runs, fetch with the ball and "chasing" the birds (she can never catch them). She is super healthy, extremely fit and has a endless supply of energy. She is a really sweet girl who i describe as being "high maintenance" but my husband is at the end of his patience with her. I was in tears last night because we were only gone 1 hour and she destroyed 3 LARGE, very expensive textbooks (I'm also in school), obviously jumped on the counter and pulled the entire dish rack down and ate all the utensils including the handle of a very big knife, all the tupperware and a wooden bowl. About 6 months ago i decided she was lonely and i adopted a kitty sister (Minnie) for her to have some company. Gracey and Minnie love each other and play all the time until they both pass out but Gracey still has the energy and now i realize, the anxiety, to destroy the things around her which in turn, harms her. She has had the run of the house including a doggie door to let herself in and out of as she pleases, she has me home 4 days a week, she has Minnie, my husband ( Alpha to her) and all the exercise she could possibly need but it isn't enough!! I have always thought she is just bored but after reading your story- i'm pretty convinced she has anxiety. My husband is suggesting we give her away to a family or person who is home all the time with her. He loves her but really does not want to deal with the destruction any more. She will be crated as of today, when we leave the house- which saddens me because i know i am not helping her by doing this, but i don't know what else to do. I know i do not have the ability or resources to do what you have done with Sam. I'm going to make an appt. with my vet and talk to him about different options as well as try some of the routines you mentioned in your article. I just wanted to write in and acknowledge that it really is life changing and difficult to own a dog with these types of issues and now i know i'm not alone in my saddness or frustration. Thank you to everyone who shared their story.

Posted by: jamiety | July 8, 2013 9:42 AM    Report this comment

Hi, I read the article above, I hope the poor baby gets better soon. I have a terrier-chihuahua mix, I got him at 3 months old. He was used to my working my 8 hr days, or at least I thought he was, he cried and tried to get out the door with me, and tried blocking me every morning. He never destroyed anything in the house, however he cried and howled on & off all day. I have been home from work for almost a year (Lyme Disease) I can no longer leave him home alone, if I do he cries, shakes, and lays at the door until I return. when I get back home, he cries and whines as he says hello, he tries to get as close as he can to me and won't allow me to leave the room for the rest of the day. I feel so bad I have cried when I had to leave him. He is an excellent dog, listens well, stays by my side, never runs off. I have tried thunder coat, it didn't work for him. I have no idea why he has such anxiety, he also jumps sometimes as tho he has been hit. I have NEVER hit him, and I'm very understanding of his anxiety, I bring him Everywhere I go. I don't know what to do.

Posted by: Unknown | June 19, 2013 2:08 PM    Report this comment

I inherited a 15 year old dog when my mother passed away. 'Lucas' had never been left home alone until my mom passed away. When I got him I took him to work with me where he hated having to sit under my desk all day. Eventually I started leaving him home half the day where he could roam the house. One supplement that helped Lucas is "Happy" by Epic Pet Health. It helped with the separation anxiety and grief he was feeling from the loss of my mom. Now I have some freedom and he's happy at home where he feels safe and can relax. It works pretty quickly too.

We're still working on finding a dog walker that he will go outside with! LOL! He's a very loyal little guy. Worth every sacrifice and lifestyle change I've had to make. He's 18 now and I hope he lives a lot longer. Good luck Siam Sam! Luke and I are rooting for you!

Posted by: Amy S | April 29, 2013 1:37 PM    Report this comment

Never had an animal that had separation anxiety , but a niece of mine adopted a sweet dog at 3 years old . This was Chole's third home and she quickly found out why, you guessed right SA . But my niece just like you ,would never think of getting rid of her. She tried many thing talked about in all comment above. She asked me if I had any ideas. I told her she should try to find a Animal homeopath ( they are veterinarians that only practice ,homeopathy) .So she found one that happened to be out of state , luckily homeopaths don't have to see the animal to figure out what remedy is needed. I have used a doctor of homeopathy for years now for any problem I have had with my dog physically or mentally . It's never failed yet. Anyway she gave her Chole the remedy and she could not believe it . The behaves got less over a few days and then gone completely .That was two years ago . She called me two days ago and had to dose her again because the doctor told her that as soon as you see a hint of her doing that again dose her .but like I said two years went by with no problem, she dosed again, and again she's fine. I've also have witness my mothers dog respond to homeopathy. Tiger at 12 years old had been very fearful of thunder since about 1 year old . When I discovered homeopathy I had her do a phone consultation with the vet. He quickly sent out the remedy, we gave it , and the next time there was a storm,he had no reaction,remarkable! I know it sounds simple for such a great issue but it works. There is probably more than one remedy for that issue, so it would be best just to do a consult with a vet that practices "classical homeopathy" that means one remedy ,not a mixture of them.And they will want to know everything your dog exhibits ,mentally and physically ,truly amazing . This type of practice saved Chole, and my nieces pending marrige because her fiance was ready to give her an altamatum, him or the dog ,because Chole was destroying everything in ther house ,and bloodying herself on several occasions . I hope this helps. Georgia R

Posted by: Georgia R | April 27, 2013 10:58 PM    Report this comment

I am so impressed with your patience and dedication. Luckily I have never been faced with that level of SA in the dogs I foster for the local shelter. I too always get the question, can't you just crate them, my current dog only had minor injuries from the last time he was left alone in a crate. He is okay as long as he has my dogs as company.

Thank you for the invaluable information.


Posted by: Linda B | April 27, 2013 10:13 PM    Report this comment

As a professional Animal Communicator, my wife and I ask client's animals where the beginning of their separation anxiety issue started. It is when we know what the pet is suffering from - the source of where all these pent-up separation feelings began, that we can then address and help fix the separation anxiety issues - no matter how severe the problems may appear. Many times separation anxiety symptoms appear with rescued pet that has been in one or two previous families who may have created the situation long before you adopted your pet. It's no one's fault, but it's time to get proper help for your furry family member. We can address issues going back as far as your pet need to and begin the journey to healing. It often only takes understanding to help heal separation anxiety. There are more behavioral steps once you know what the issues are, however, knowledge of the problem is always the key to the solution - otherwise you can only guess at what your pet is reacting and what might help. Check out our web site for our wonderful testimonials and more info on help with dog behaviors at http;//animalhealings.com/dog-behavior.html

Posted by: AnimalHealings | April 27, 2013 4:29 PM    Report this comment

I am absolutely full of admiration for all of you ,who have helped your SA dogs over their many hurdles. About 15 years ago,I had a co-worker,who wound up euthanizing her Min Pin because of this problem.At the time I thought ,she caused the behavior in the first place ,and then made the dog pay.I might have judged to harshly.
I'm so lucky with my dogs (one at the time),not to have encountered SA at all.

Posted by: Indy'smom | April 27, 2013 1:35 PM    Report this comment

I need a support group! I live in Pheonix and am stuck at home due to my dog s extreme separtion anxiety. He now knows how to brake out of my house by braking thru glass windows. I have done and practiced everything i can possibly think of. HE had blood work done today and our next step is bringing a dog trainer out to the house and am hoping to get him on meds so I can slowly crate train him. Any advise on how i can find a support group would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by: Natalie M | April 10, 2013 3:37 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for writing this. It brought back a lot of memories and even made me cry. Our Akita suffered with SA. I wasn't a very educated dog owner so I made a lot of mistakes when it was in it's early stages and easily treatable. When we finally got on the right path we too had the help of friends. We could have never done it without them. She spent a lot of time with friends at their houses, in their cars, on their boats in summer and even hanging out at our local bar. Her social calendar was full! When she had to be home alone for an hour or two between our departure to work and a friend picking her up it would sometimes take me hours to leave the house. I remember the day, months into her rehabilitation, that our friend said that when he arrived to pick her up he could see her through a window sound asleep on the living room carpet. I cried with joy!
Rehabilitating SA is a long journey that requires total commitment. Good for you for starting a support group and a Facebook page. People dealing with their dogs SA need all the support they can get. Please post a link to the Facebook page. I'd love to join! Again, thank you.

Posted by: Senanigans | April 8, 2013 9:46 AM    Report this comment

What a good article and a happy ending
I have a patterdale terrier bitch who is nearly 5 years old, for the last 12 months it has just been me and her, even living with my partner we had this problem. At night she will not sleep inher crate, she goes in the crate during the day but at night she barks and cries, I have had trainers out to her and spoke to many more, I live in a caravan and it isnt an option ignoring her as I am having complaints about her. I love my dog and realise that I may have added to her problem with being with every day and night, like I say she is ok during the day, any help appreciated

Many thanks
Dawn Pollard

Posted by: dawniemeg | March 19, 2013 4:04 PM    Report this comment

What a great article! Coping with severe SA really does require a lot of support and it's wonderful to hear about someone who has shared this experience.

We've been dealing with severe separation anxiety since we adopted our dog in July. We were making slow, steady progress until we moved and my husband got a new job that meant there were more days home alone. We tried leaving him alone in the crate for a full day and had a major setback -- he had been able to stay home alone in his crate for 2-3 hours, and after panicking from being in there too long, he now will start to get anxious after 10 minutes. Home alone outside the crate is the same story -- he gets very destructive and anxious. At 80 pounds, he can really do some damage.

Staying patient with very slow progress is the biggest challenge -- we learned that the hard way by trying to rush into a long day home alone and then experiencing a setback. It's great to hear others have worked through it and have come out on the other end!

Posted by: FG | January 30, 2013 4:16 PM    Report this comment

I recently adopted a rescue and quickly realized something was wrong. Our bonding week where i rarely left the house and spent a lot of time with him was great. but when reality joined our party, and i had to go back to work - i was amazed. He's not resorted to hurting himself, or chewing through metal, but if un-crated, he'll go to the bathroom, whimper, howl, bark for hours. My poor neighbors.. This article has been helpful, though i'm wondering how long did this entire transformation take? How long did it take for your SA dogs to show signs of improvement? Im saddened because i can't afford 8hr dog sitting, most of my friends and family work, and so having him attended to 24hrs a day feels impossible. Reading this helps me to know im not alone, but it also has frightened me because as a single person, i can't afford to quit my job and certainly can't afford to pay for private sitters, and definitely can't ask any friend or family member to do the same. I've not tried medication yet, but it seems that even with medication - the symptoms remain, so can anyone explain how they actually help? *deep breath* Thanks for your help.

Posted by: franksmom | January 23, 2013 12:46 PM    Report this comment

I have just become a widow of 3 years. I got married just before I was 21 yrs old, been married until my sweethearts death in 2009. I will be 60 Sept 25th ! I can relate to your sweet dog. Now its just me and my Dusty 2 no one else. The ONLY time when I leave him is to get grocerys. He has always had a window to look out and sees when when I leave and come home. It has really helped with his sepration problems. I don't have a social life, I don't need one. This is how I communicate with people. When we are young, we don't think about what could happen. Dusty 2 is my life and my reason to live. Dogs are the best friends that we could ever have.

Posted by: Dustysmama | September 10, 2012 9:57 AM    Report this comment

This is an excellent article on this problem . I adopted a rescue dog 18 months ago.The foster home stated he had no separation anxiety . Wrong! The first day i had to go to work, he tried to chew his way out of the crate.He would not touch the stuffed KongsI left for him like all my other dogs enjoyed when left alone. I was devastated and knew he could not be left alone from this point on until we got a grip on this behavior.
Luckily I had a great vet who gave great advice and was willing to start meds, Clomicalm, immediately .I implemented the type of strategies mentioned in the article . I took a week off of work and lined up an excellent daycare.I went super slow, realizing any setback would be a major problem.i disregarded any advice form others who tried to minimize the problem.In addition to desensitzation and alone training in the house , we went to obedience class and agility class to build confidence and learn to work away from me.
I was lucky in that he felt safe in my truck and he would stay happily in it,so he could go along with me when the weather was cool. I took him to dog friendly places and my friend allowed me to bring him to her Pilates studio so I could do pilates for sanity! He can now be left alone , enjoying stuffed Kongs and other special toys until I return .He is a calm, confident ,really cool dog! It is a lot of work to implement this type of program, but it can succeed.

Posted by: CAROL M | September 8, 2012 8:30 PM    Report this comment

Hello wise people, can you help me determine what is 'normal' for my 13 month old bichon frise, relative to her hyper-greeting behavior? First of all, you should know that we walk and play ball for 1 to 1 1/2 hours every morning. She is confined to the kitchen, which is large and receives daylight, while I go to work, from 12 noon to 8 or 9pm. She makes no complaints when I leave (beside pouting), and she usually gets a new bully stick. She is never destructive. My dog walker takes her out at 3 and 6.
When I get home, I can hear her high-pitched squeal as soon as the key is in the door. When I enter, she cannot contain herself, jumping up on the fence, screeching, tail wagging, etc. Lately, I have been trying to ignore her until she quiets down, she sits until I open the gate, and then she is all over me -- jumping, wiggling, madly trying to kiss me -- for a looong 3 - 5 minutes. Can I be confident that this is merely puppy exuberance that will mellow with maturity, or does it seem more serious to anyone.

Posted by: Sarah W | September 8, 2012 12:53 PM    Report this comment

Wow. I have a Jack Russel that has been through the Petsmart obedience series and he has been with me from 10 weeks old. He had somewhat intense seperation anxiety issues for about the first year. Today he is 2.5 years and I never leave him completely alone (people, other dogs) because I can see it stresses him out, but I could leave him alone if I had to without damage to property or self mutilation.I think worst case would be an episode of K9 Colitis. This story about Sandi's journey with Sam was very enlightening to me in relation to the extremes of SA. In dealing with my own dog's less extreme SA issue I found that communicating with the animal as the Alpha male, "I have to get provisions for the pack you stay here and guard the cave" was a vibe my Jack Russel reluctantly responded to. Every work day we would participate in our little work day ritual. He will get up with me, stand outside the shower while I take my shower, watch me put on my work clothes, share a little breakfast with me, walk with me to the door where I tell him to "stay." He knows this means I have to go away from the house somewhere alone and that I always return 10 or 12 hours later. Obedience school is essentially learning to communicate and this has been helpful with my Jacks SA issue. Socialization has also been a valuable tool. Taking him to the park, and wherever I can (Lowes, Tractor Supply) to let people pet him and let him interact with other friendly dogs has given him a type of mature confidence.

Posted by: Jim M | August 31, 2012 12:35 AM    Report this comment

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