In detail

Overcoming separation anxiety in the dog: How to help him


Separation anxiety in the dog is a serious psychological problem in the four-legged friends. Dogs are originally pack animals and it is life-threatening for their ancestors and relatives in the wild to be separated from their pack. However, there are gradations from mild restlessness when your pet is all alone to severe panic attacks as soon as you leave his field of vision. How can you help your dog if he suffers too much from a separation? "Please don't leave me alone," this frightened French bulldog seems to think - Shutterstock / Irina Kozorog

In principle, it is normal if your dog does not like to be all alone for a long time. The pack animals first have to learn to be alone, ideally already as puppies. Sometimes this does not work so well or - for example with shelter dogs that have already experienced a lot - the four-legged friend is so damaged in his basic trust and self-confidence that he develops a fear of separation. There are mild cases where he only shows symptoms of restlessness and stress when he is alone for a long time. However, you should help him in more severe cases.

Alleviate separation anxiety through employment and relaxation

Mild forms of separation anxiety in dogs can usually be overcome with a little training. It is about your four-legged friend feeling that being alone is completely normal and trusting that you always come back when you go out the front door. You can make it easier for your dog to separate if you leave it alone for about 20 minutes before saying goodbye and after you return, and do not pay any attention to it. This is how he learns that he must be able to keep himself busy even when you are there. It also takes the excitement out of your departure and your return. Avoid tearful, dramatic scenes before going out or coming back. Your dog finally gets used to the fact that it is part of his everyday life to be alone in between.

Before and after the rest phase, you can play with your fur nose, go for a walk or cuddle to strengthen the friendship between humans and dogs and to help him relax. If your four-legged friend is pleasantly tired from a walk, play and cuddle lesson, he will not miss you so much during your absence, because he then has good reasons to doze in his basket. To prevent boredom, we recommend intelligence and food games that your house wolf can deal with alone. Feeding games have the additional advantage that you can hide your favorite treats in them - in this way, he combines being alone with the delicacies and loses his fear of them.

Prevent separation anxiety in dogs: 5 tips

You put on your shoes, leave the apartment and off you go: your dog barks and howls ...

Help dog with separation anxiety: desensitization

An important part of the therapy against separation anxiety in dogs is the so-called desensitization. Dogs with separation anxiety sometimes become restless when they perceive certain stimuli that announce the departure of their favorite person. The goal of desensitization is that your four-legged friend no longer reacts stressed as soon as he notices these key stimuli. To do this, you have to deprive the stimuli of the meaning your dog assigns to them. Typical stimuli can be, for example, that you put on your shoes, insert your keychain, take your coat off the hook and grab your bag. But also familiar morning rituals, which are part of your daily routine, give your pet possible indications that you will soon leave you alone.

Desensitization must take place in small steps and requires a lot of patience. Caution! If your dog is severely afraid of separation or if you are unsure, contact a specialist, such as an animal psychologist or a dog trainer trained in behavior therapy. Desensitization mistakes can make things worse because your dog will lose confidence. A professional will help you find the right level and pace in the exercise sessions.

For light shapes, you can also try it yourself, if you dare to. Teach your dog that if you put on your shoes or jacket, take your key, have breakfast or take a shower, it doesn't necessarily mean being alone. You can do this by breaking your own routine and confusing your own habits. As a result, the individual stimuli lose their signal effect. For example, insert your keys and then sit on the sofa to read. Or put on your shoes and jacket, but stay indoors. Also change the order of your morning rituals, for example take a shower after breakfast or vice versa. Change only one small thing at a time and see how your dog reacts to it. If he starts to panic when your keychain rings, you must first teach him that the sound has no special meaning.

Overcome separation anxiety by overstimulation?

A special method of desensitization is "flooding", which means "flooding" in English. In doing so, you expose your dog to being alone for a few minutes throughout the day and then come back immediately. This overstimulation of stimuli confuses the anxious expectations of the four-legged friend, so that they finally lose their meaning. Walking and coming is nothing special anymore and your pet realizes that he does not have to be afraid of the separation. This training requires a lot of tact, so it is advisable to do it with a professional.