Dog Attachment Issues? Try This To Help With Your Dog's Separation Anxiety
Step 13 of 23 in the Dogly Anxiety Channel
with Melissa Dallier of ACanineAffinity, Training Advocate
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If your dog is constantly following you around or barking when you leave the house, he/she may be experiencing separation anxiety. Try this training to help your anxious dog cope before you leave the house.


As a reminder, separation anxiety is defined as a dog's distress at being away from his/her guardian. Separation anxiety can manifest itself in different ways in many dogs like barking, whining, chewing, pacing, and other distress behaviors.


When dogs develop separation anxiety, they may:

  • Appear anxious when you start to get ready to leave
  • Become agitated when you put on your coat or pick up your keys
  • Try to stop you from leaving by blocking doorways or jumping on you
  • Follow you around constantly
  • Get upset when you leave the room
  • Have accidents in the house when you're gone
  • Be overly clingy
  • Be destructive when left alone


Separation anxiety is a serious anxiety disorder that can be very distressing for both you and your dog. If your dog is showing any of the above signs, it's important to seek help from a professional trainer or behaviorist. With the help of a professional, you can develop a behavior modification plan to help your dog cope with his/her anxiety.


Try this separation anxiety training


In the previous guides in this series, we went through level 1 & 2 of how to make the door a bore for your dog before you leave the house. Why is this important? Because if the door is a non-event, your dog won't start to get anxious when he/she sees you getting ready to leave. This is an important first step for dogs with separation anxiety.


If you haven't yet, I highly suggest you revisit each step in the level 1 & 2 trainings before getting started with level 3 in this guide. It's important your dog is successful at level 1 & 2 before moving on to level 3.


Here's a quick refresh on the steps in level 1:

  • Step 1) Walk to door, jiggle door handle, return to normal activities.
  • Step 2) Walk to door, do not touch door handle, return to normal activities.
  • Step 3) Walk to door, open door just a crack (an inch or two) for a few seconds. Close door, return to normal activities.
  • Step 4) Walk to door, jiggle door handle, return to normal activities.
  • Step 5) Walk to door, open door just a crack (an inch or two) for a few seconds. Close door, return to normal activities.


And level 2:

  • Step 1) Walk to door, jiggle door handle, return to normal activities
  • Step 2) Walk to door, do not touch door handle, return to normal activities
  • Step 3) Put shoes on, walk to door, open door just a crack (an inch or two) for a few seconds. Close door, return to normal activities. Take shoes off.
  • Step 4) Walk to door, jiggle door handle, return to normal activities.
  • Step 5) Put shoes on, walk to door, open door just a crack (an inch or two) for a few seconds. Close door, return to normal activities. Take shoes off.


If your dog's anxiety was able to withstand your putting on your shoes, walking to the door, and opening the door without your dog showing signs of underlying anxiety, you're ready to move on to level 3 and walk out the door and immediately return. If your dog is still showing signs of separation anxiety, keep working on level 1 & 2 of this training until your dog learns to be calm and relaxed when you put your shoes on and walk to the door.


Important note


Remember, the below training will not cure or prevent severe separation anxiety in adult dogs or puppies immediately. Preventing canine separation anxiety is a gradual process you and your dog need to spend time working on with a certified professional. The point of this training is to help anxious dogs start to be more comfortable with the thought of being left alone.


**For these separation anxiety training sessions to take place, your dog needs to be able to see the door. If you're crate training in a different room, ask me for modifications in the Community discussion in the Anxiety Channel.**


Separation Anxiety Training: Level 3


When your dog is ready, increase the challenge slightly to level 3. The same rules apply as level 1 & 2. This is a short 10 minute training session for three days.


In between each step, take breaks for short periods - a quick 30 second to 1 minute break, go about normal business, etc. Don't ignore your dog, but try not to make a big deal about any behavior. Take note of behaviors or record sessions with a security/dog camera/phone. Complete all steps at once - do not just walk to the door randomly throughout the day; that's not effective desensitization.


Try this

  • Step 1) Walk to door, do not touch door handle, return to normal activities.
  • Step 2) Put shoes on, walk to door, open door just a crack (an inch or two) for a few seconds. Close door, return to normal activities. Take shoes off.
  • Step 3) Put shoes on, walk to door, exit and close door, immediately return. Take shoes off. (If your dog had any sort of panic response, go back to level 2.)
  • Step 4) Walk to door, jiggle door handle, return to normal activities.
  • Step 5) Put shoes on, walk to door, open door just a crack (an inch or two) for a few seconds. Close door, return to normal activities. Take shoes off.
  • Step 6) Put shoes on, walk to door, exit and close door, immediately return. Take shoes off. (If your dog had any sort of panic response, go back to level 2.)


If your dog's behavior isn't showing signs of separation anxiety, you're ready to move on to level 4. If you are seeing some distress signals, stick with level 3 until your dog is comfortable. Going too fast or skipping steps doesn't help reduce your dog's anxiety any faster.


Separation anxiety in dogs isn't something that can be rushed through. In fact, in some cases trying to rush to "fix" your dog's separation anxiety too quickly can make the problem worse. Take your time and let your dog move at his/her own pace.


Next up in the Anxiety Channel on Dogly


Now that you've gone through level 3 and you know how to make the door a non-event for your hyper-attached dog, keep going to level 4 here. Or jump to other step-by-step guides in the Anxiety Channel and learn how to help your dog stay calm outside of the house or what to do if your dog is barking at visitors in your house.


Hop over to the Anxiety Channel if you'd like to ask any of the Dogly Training Advocates who are all certified dog trainers a question in the Community discussion or start any of the step-by-step guides in Environment Anxiety, Crate Anxiety, or Understanding Anxiety.


And if you ever need more personalized training help, please reach out to work with me one-on-one here on Dogly!