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Separation anxiety
Why does your dog pee or poop indoors every
time you go out and leave it?

And what can you do about it!

Overview of Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety in dogs

This is a serious issue and as with all dog behaviors, tends to escalate, if not treated the moment a dog starts showing minor symptoms.

Otherwise if left, each day will bring a little bit more anxiety to the dog, and I've seen some pretty severe symptoms develop in my experience with dogs.

As an example. Imagine you are a teacher, and you turn from the blackboard to find one of your students has gone missing. You are responsible for that student and you've lost him or her.

You then proceed to turn the school upside down looking for the student (and probably make one hell of a mess doing it), and there is no sign of him or her. Can you imagine the anxiety you would feel?

Then several hours later, in walks the missing student. Think of the gamut of emotions that will be going through your mind.

Separation anxiety in dogs

Now imagine if that experience were to happen to you everyday. Your anxiety levels would increase as each day passed and your greatest fear would be "maybe this will be the day he or she doesn't come back".

These feelings are exactly what dogs with separation anxiety go through on a daily basis when their owners leave for work. In doggie reasoning, he or she thinks they have "lost their owner". Humans on the other hand interpret a dog's welcome when they return home as one of "being missed" This is simply not so.

Every single person in this world has experienced anxiety first hand at some point in their lifetime. I think we can all agree that when it happened it was not exactly a fun time.

It's even worse for dogs that live in a world where they often don't have anyone else nearby who speaks their language. For the ones that do, odds are that dog is just as anxious and they will end up feed off of one another. Treating anxiety in dogs is quite different to treating anxiety in humans.

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So okay, what are the typical symptoms of separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety in dogs

Symptoms of separation anxiety take many forms. The most common are

  • Peeing and pooping inside
  • Chewing things, e.g. shoes, carpets, rugs,furniture, doorways, windowsills
  • Barking and wining
  • Digging holes in carpets, couches or bedding

None of these crimes are punishable by law, but rather a cry for help. Your dog is making canine decisions in your human den. These decisions are designed to make himself or herself feel better, and definitely not to make you mad.

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Is it separation anxiety or spite?

Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavior problems that dog trainers have to deal with on a day to day basis. And on some occasions dog trainers also have to deal with owners who with the best intentions in the world are actually responsible for unintentionally creating their dog's anxiety problems.

The most important thing to understand if your dog has separation anxiety is that he or she is not being spiteful in any way. Dogs don't destroy your favorite pair of shoes because they are mad at you for leaving them.

Separation anxiety in dogs

Think about it for a moment, your favorite pair would be the ones you wear the most, right? Therefore they will carry your scent more powerfully than others and be more attractive to your pooch.

This an easy problem to correct. Don't leave your favourite shoes (or any other clothing you don't want chewed) in your dog's line of vision, put them away in your wardrobe where they belong!

Never correct your dog for any destruction or mess he or she has done while you are gone. They have absolutely no idea of what they did wrong. If you come into your home and yell at your dog for chewing up the rug, all you are communicating to your dog is that he is in trouble because you came home, and that rugs are very, very, bad!

As for understanding why you are angry, if I started screaming at you in Russian, odds are that you wouldn't have a clue as to what I was upset about. You would however, know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was angry with you, right?

How do you think you might react to my behaviour? Would you cringe? Back away? Maybe even look for a way to escape from me and my screaming rage.

Separation anxiety in dogs

As a human I can understand how much it's going to cost to replace damaged items and that it's going to be a pain in the neck to have to clean up pee and poop and other mess after a long day at work. Your dog does not.

It can be extremely frustrating for dog owners, coping with the various forms of irritating and destructive behaviours from their dogs, e.g. peeing and pooping inside, chewed up carpets and furniture. The good news is that with hard work and patience, owners can fix separation anxiety in their pets.

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How to teach your dog how to be alone without the stress of separation anxiety

The process of teaching dogs with separation anxiety to be alone requires a lot of time, patience, and positive reinforcement, but the results are certainly worth your effort.

Separation anxiety in dogs

Dogs are pack animals and feel most secure when in the company of members of their pack, e.g. their owners or other dogs. Puppies and young dogs need to learn how to be alone gradually, and owners can do so much to help then, when given the correct information.

The key is to take the time to find what works best for you and your dog. Remember that dogs are different animals than we primates, they are "pack animals", and being left alone is unnatural and extremely hard for them.

Practise leaving your home for varying degrees of time

Start for popping out for a minute or two, and then gradually increase the time. Another tip which works well is to alternate the time periods you leave the house, say five minutes, then two hours, and then jump back to five minutes. Eventually your dog will lean that when left alone, nothing bad happens and their Mum or Dad will be returning.

Keep them calm and stress free

stress and anxiety when thunder and lightening strikes and fireworks

This one is far easier said than done. This is how I treat my own dogs Molly and Rosie.

  • I give them Rescue Remedy every day, and particularly before things I know will stress them, e.g. before their bath or having the groomer come in, if we are having visitors in who they haven't met before, taking them to see the vet,or if we have to go out and leave them alone for an hour or so.
  • I have bought them Thundershirts, which I pop on when thunder and lightening happens, or people in the neighbourhood are celebrating with fireworks. These coats wrap around them quite firmly and give them confidence.
  • I've increased their exercise levels to two long walks daily, usually around day break and again in the evenings, and they can't wait to get going! Exercise is a great stress reliever and tired dogs are far less likely to get into mischief, e.g. chewing your carpets.
  • I regularly spray all areas in the house where they used to leave their calling cards, plus the stairway steps with my special No dog odour spray-on formulae.

Keep them busy

Some people have achieved tremendous success by getting their dog to work for their food by packing Kongs or similar, with their dog's daily food allowance. In this way dogs will actually look forward to their owners leaving the house!

Keep them entertainment

Dogs really like chewing and playing with toys, particularly squeeky toys. Playing with toys is confidence building for puppies and young dogs. Just make sure the toys are safe and they can't swollow anything that may cause an intestinal blockage

Leaving the house

Try to make a quick exit, don't draw out your departure by petting and cooing with your dog excessively. Put your keys in your purse ahead of time for example, and have your shoes ready to put on at the door. Dogs know the routine of leaving, and if it's drawn out they become increasingly anxious.

Build your dogs confidence

There are lots of things you can do to build your dogs confidence, including: Separation anxiety in dogs

  • A basic obedience class can be beneficial even if your dog is already trained, because he learns he can handle new situations, and he gains confidence in you as "leader"
  • Spending quality time with your dog in the course of a day is essential, consisting not of babying or cuddling but activities that build a strong leader and dog relationship, e.g. playing fetch, hide and seek, taking him or her to the beach if you live near the sea, hiking, walking - all these activities are so beneficial for the psychological well-being of your dog
  • Doggy day cares are great resources for people who work full time. If your dog spends two to three days of the week in the company of other dogs, chances are he or she will be more tolerant of being left alone the other days. For some dogs, it's asking too much to expect them to stay alone all day, five days a week
  • In general, even if your dog doesn't have separation anxiety, I advise you to find a way to give your dog company during long days. Another great option is finding playmates to spend the day at your house, other dogs who would also be left alone. The last option would be acquiring another dog, but this option requires a commitment you might not be ready for just yet

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Natural treatments for treating separation anxiety at home

Clean up properly

The last ting you want is your home smelling like a barn yard, so you must clean up the areas where your dog has peed or pooped on. There is very little point in cleaning up so only you can't smell the odor. Dogs noses are a hundred times more sensitive to smell than humans. If they can smell their scent where they soiled last time, they will go back over and over again.

Carole's Doggie World has developed a two step process to a) remove the foul stink of dog poop and pee and b) remove the dog's scent. Please click here for the recipes.


stress and anxiety when thunder and lightening strikes and fireworks

A Thundershirt is a garment that provides a gentle constant pressure over the dog's entire body. Thundershirts use gentle hugging to calm dogs. They have a dramatic calming effect on most dogs if they are anxious, fearful or over-excited.

Thundershirts help relieve anxiety for the following problems:

  • Fear of thunder storm or fireworks phobia, e.g. trembling and shaking, hiding in areas such as under beds or under furniture, trying to get close to you, howling, barking, uncontrollable peeing and pooping indoors, panting & drooling, and even just running wild not knowing where they are going.
  • Separation anxiety
  • Travel anxiety
  • Crate training
  • Problem barking
  • Hyperactivity
  • Leash pulling

How do Thundershirts Work?

stress and anxiety when thunder and lightening strikes and fireworks

It is believed that a constant pressure over the body has a calming effect on their nervous system. It is not fully understood, but it may trigger the release of calming hormones such as endorphins. The use of pressure to assist with the relief of anxiety in humans and animals has been common practice for many years.

Many human parents have discovered the almost magical calming effect of swaddling their babies. Swaddling is the art of snugly wrapping a baby in a blanket for warmth and security and has been used by Mums the world over for donkey's years to sooth and calm fractious babies.

Thunder flower essence

Flower essence to help with thunder and loud noises

Dogs are very responsive to both the dynamic and gentle energetic healing properties of flower essences in their transformational abilities to balance the emotional attitudes of our furry friends.

Thunder flower essences drops are just so easy to administer and are ideal for dogs that suffer from anxiety symptoms, such as cowering or hiding themselves away during loud noises from:

  • Thunder storms
  • Fireworks
  • Construction
  • Cars backfiring

Rescue Remedy

Why Rescue Remedy? Rescue Remedy has an immediate calming effect in any stressful situation to help your dog over a variety of emotional or behavioral problems.

Interestingly enough it is the the only composite flower essence developed by Dr. Edward Bach who developed 36 different flower essences in total.

Common behavioural causes

Recommended training books

Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs

This book describes how to be the "Leader of the Pack" . . . . . and have your dog love you for it. It also describes how our actions effect our dogs and how we can improve communication, e.g. did you know a dog can feel threatened by a hug?

Don't Shoot the Dog

This book discusses positive reinforcement & clicker training, ending undesirable habits, shaping behavior without pain and tips for training your dog, kids and yourself!


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