How to Mess with Dogs with Separation Distress


For so many dogs, sheltering in place at our homes was a dream come true. But now either very quickly or yet to come, regular schedules have resumed or are about to.

There’s little doubt that separation anxiety was on the rise for years prior to the pandemic. Did the problem of separation distress surge in the pandemic because of all the adoptions and today’s record number of dogs? Therefore, with a record number of dogs it seems logical that dog behavior problems of all sorts are on the upswing. Perhaps, the rapid increase of separation anxiety all media hype? Or perhaps the points below might explain it all:

  • For individual dogs who had been re-homed several times, there’s data to support the notion that these shelter/rescue dogs may be more predisposed to separation distress.
  • What’s more, it’s conceivable that some of these dogs have never been left home alone, as their people have stayed at home day in and day out after being adopted/fostered.
  • Change isn’t easy for many people, and dogs aren’t any different. It’s possible that many dogs who had no previous separation anxiety might be thrown off by a sudden change in routine.

You’re On Camera

Camera systems are inexpensive to set up. You’ll want to point your primary camera to the door family most often departs from, at least in most cases.

Signs of separation anxiety include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Howling, barking, or whining to excess.
  • Indoor “accidents,” though the dog is housetrained.
  • Chewing or eating inappropriate items; digging in the carpet; pacing; scratching at windows and/or doors.
  • Trying to escape crates.
  • Excessive drooling and/or panting.
  • Trying to escape.

Be Proactive

There are steps you can take right now to potentially prevent or at least modify the level of separation anxiety that could occur.

While it’s great so many of us are taking more walks with our dogs, I suggest everyone in the family takes some walks without the dog, leaving the pup home alone. If you happen to have a shelter/rescue dog that’s not yet been left home alone or a dog with previous separation issues, take it slow and only depart, at first, for five or so.

Maybe 15 minutes before you depart, stuff dog cookies or low fat and low salt peanut butter inside a Kong toy, sterilized bone or a safe toy left somewhere out of reach, but have the dog see it’s there. The dog focuses on that toy instead of your impending departure. Ask for your dog to sit, and then deliver the treat as you depart. Once you leave, if the dog ignores the favorite treat – you know there’s a problem.

If there is no issue – great! . Leaving your dog home alone periodically is actually the right thing to do for your dog.

Generally Anxious Dogs

If your dog is described as generally anxious, lower that level of anxiety.

*Consider a pheromone product, called Adaptil. This is a copy of the comforting pheromone naturally found in the milk of nursing dogs. Adaptil is as both a diffuser (you plug into the wall) and a collar.

*Another idea for generally anxious dogs is the Thundershirt, which may come with Thunder-Ease (same as Adaptil). The Thundershirt Itself wraps around the dog (kind of like a vest or shirt) and has a swaddling calming effect on some dogs.

*You may simultaneously use Zylkene, a nutraceutical capsule. Zylkene contains bovine-sourced hydrolyzed milk protein, an ingredient with calming properties (though it doesn’t typically cause any drowsiness). It’s like grandma used to say, “To help relax, drink a warm cup of milk.” It turns out granny knew best.

*Calming Care is a probiotic from Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets; simply sprinkle on the dog’s food. The stomach and the brain are indeed connected. A six-week supply of supplements contains a strain of beneficial bacteria known as BL999 that has shown to help keep dogs calm during stressful situations like separation.

*CBD: Anecdotally, CBD (cannabidiol, is a non-psycho-active chemical compound from the Cannabid sativa plant) has shown to relieve anxiety, and even help some dogs deal with separation distress. However, to date, there’s no science to specifically demonstrate this use. Also, beware, not all CBD products are equal.

While all these products are generally safe, contact your veterinarian before trying.

Calmer Canine or Psychopharmaceutical

Dog wearing Calmer Canine

Dog wears Calmer Canine

For dogs with diagnosed separation anxiety, the best bets are either or both of these choices. The Calmer Canine. can help to deal with generalized anxiety, but was specifically developed for separation anxiety. Also, a psychopharmaceutical (prescribed by a veterinarian) similarly adjusts brain chemistry in dogs who are suffering from amounts to a panic attack.

The Calmer Canine fits like a halo above the dog’s head. As the fight or flight center, the amygdala, is the area in the brain responsible for producing fear and emotional responses, which express themselves as the signs of anxiety. An anxious brain is out of balance, not only hormonally, but also with overactive brain cells that produce harmful substances causing inflammation.  Calmer Canine’s treatment emits targeted pulsed electromagnetic field (tPEMFTM) signals. The same technology is effective in treating humans with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. The signals are invisible, sensation free and there are no known adverse reactions to the Calmer Canine.

The Calmer Canine helps dogs with current separation anxiety, but can also prevent the problem. This is a “big gun” that works, particularly for people adverse to giving their dog drugs or for dogs unable to take drugs.

More on Separation Anxiety

Crate training is generally a good thing, but not always for dogs with separation distress.

It’s simply untrue to think that dogs with separation anxiety will soon realize that eventually their people are returning, and that anxiety will ease all by itself. In fact, left untreated the anxiety more often worsens over time. We don’t know exactly what these dogs are thinking. Perhaps they are in the moment believing their people are never returning, or more likely experiencing separation from those they love is something they can’t tolerate.

With all the stress that many families are feeling financially, I am worried that dogs may more likely be relinquished to shelters for reasons which they may previously have tolerated. And that landlords or neighbors may not be as patient regarding excessive barking, potentially even seeking an excuse to see certain tenants depart.

More You Can Do

It might not be a bad idea to hire a dog walker. While it sounds crazy, music support calming nervous dogs.  A talk radio station or the TV playing might do the same. The TV commercial shown during the Super Bowl, called Saving Sawyer, showing adding a second dog solves separation anxiety, is rarely true.