Most Effective Ways to Treat Dogs with Separation Anxiety


The most common behavioral disorder in dogs today is likely separation anxiety, affecting 20 to 40 percent of all dogs. That’s many millions of dogs, and an all-too-common explanation for dogs landing in shelters as the landlord, HOA and/or neighbors demand quiet or people don’t want to return home to torn up pillows or dog poo.

The simplest explanation is that these dogs – while we don’t know exactly what they are thinking – are suffering a panic attack when people leave. And at this time of year, we often leave most often.

While it’s VERY important to understand that behavior modification can ultimately help dogs with separation anxiety, first the neurochemical soup in the brain requires an adjustment so they are no longer panicked for these reasons:

  • Dogs (or for that matter humans) cannot learn to change behavior when panicked.
  • Often times in apartment or condo settings, neighbors are complaining about barking – and there needs to be a “quick fix” or the dog and/or even humans will be tossed out of the premises.
  • The dogs are truly suffering (and people are feeling guilty) when household members depart.

Two Most Important Products

While a host of products can be helpful and to be used as long-term to modify anxiety, realistically there are now primarily only two “big hitters” for this category which make it possible to adjust the brain chemistry so dogs can learn not to be so anxious when their people depart:

  • Psychopharmaceuticals: Some drugs have a more immediate effect, and others are to be used for many months or even years. Sometimes both a drug that has a faster onset is used in conjunction with a more long-term drug (which may take four to six weeks to begin to work).

*Upsides: No question, psychopharmaceuticals are hugely effective to do what they are supposed to.

*Downsides: Getting just the right drug(s) and dosage(s) correct can take a minute as all drugs aren’t for all dogs. Some dogs, especially geriatric dogs, can have difficulty regarding potential adverse reactions. Some people have a challenging time getting a drug into the dog and/or remembering when to drug the dog. And some people (though I personally disagree with their thinking) absolutely refuse to use a psychopharmaceutical for their dog.

  • Calmer Canine: This product emits targeted pulsed electromagnetic therapy (tPEMF), but does take at least a few weeks to up to six weeks to truly kick in. The product which can be worn like a vest for simply held over a dog’s head for 15-minutes twice daily signals to the area of the brain responsible for causing the symptoms of anxiety, effectively returning the anxious brain to a more balanced emotional state and with long-lasting effects. And if for some reason, the anxiety reoccurs, there’s no downside to using the product again and no prescription is required. It looks like these dogs are wearing a little halo; clearly they’re all our angels.

*Upsides: There are no known adverse effects (side-effects) and the product can be used on any adult dog of any age. The Calmer Canine is administered in the comfort of the pet parents’ home. No pilling dogs (and potentially adversely impacting the human/animal bond) is required.  For a more immediate effect, the Calmer Canine can be used in conjunction with a pharmaceutical (or two), since this generally takes at least a few weeks to four to six weeks to kick in. However, ultimately the pharmaceutical(s) can be eliminated (which also can save pet parents money in the long run) and run any risk of an adverse effect to a drug or drugs.

*Downsides: The product doesn’t work if the pet parent forgets to use it. Though multiple studies demonstrate the product works, it doesn’t do so overnight.

The Calmer Canine is $199. However, a lifetime or even extended period of using a drug can far exceed that cost.

Now What? Behavior Modification

Once the anxiety or true panic is controlled, the first step is behavior modification and the second may be choosing one or two products to lower anxiety long term in order to wean off a anti-anxiety drug. And though there is no known downside to using the Calmer Canine for a very long time (except the necessity to change a battery), people tend not to prefer that option.

Behavior modification includes but isn’t limited to:

  • Help dog habituate to the cues of departures.
  • Change departure rituals/graduated departures.
  • Supporting dogs’ confidence to be left alone in another room when people are home.
  • Many dogs (but not all dogs) can be trained to a safe haven, such as a crate.

While doing the following wont “cure” separation anxiety, they are helpful to support treatment:

  • Plenty of exercise (note: without doing more than merely exercising a dog with separation anxiety, you will now have a tired dog with separation anxiety).
  • Plenty of enrichment – from food puzzles to novel smells – for when people are at home, and most importantly offering a dog “occupational therapy” for when people aren’t at home.