Blog Banner v11

Ease Your Pet's Stress with Dog Separation Anxiety Training

If your pup panics, pees, poops, barks, or destroys your home when you leave them alone, you might need dog separation anxiety training. While there is no overnight fix for separation anxiety in dogs, working with your pup a little bit every day over time can help reduce their symptoms over the course of a few weeks or months.

Check out our comprehensive guide on how to help a dog with separation anxiety. While you may need to work with a trainer for the best results, we’ll provide you with the information you need to start trying to desensitize your dog so they don’t suffer from so much anxiety any time they’re left alone.

Blog Banner v1

Understanding Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Before learning how to treat separation anxiety in dogs, you have to understand what it really is and whether that’s what your dog is actually suffering from. Separation anxiety is extreme distress when a dog is left alone or separated from their owner. The problematic behaviors may start as soon as the owner prepares to leave or may start within a few minutes of the person actually leaving, but they don’t happen when the owner is home.

If your dog’s problem behaviors (such as barking, incontinence, or destructiveness) occur whether or not you’re around, then they’re caused by something other than true separation anxiety.

Untreated separation anxiety can result in your dog destroying your property, hurting themselves, or even escaping from your home and running away or getting hit by a car, so dog separation anxiety training is crucial to help keep your pup safe.

Blog Banner v10

Identifying Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Your Dog

The following are signs of separation anxiety in dogs if the behaviors are only done when the pup is left alone.

Howling and Barking

If your neighbors report that your down howls and barks while you’re away, but they don’t typically do that while you’re home, it may be a sign they’re suffering from separation anxiety.

Peeing or Pooping in the House

While troubles with incontinence or improper housebreaking may trigger a dog to soil the home if they’re left alone for too long, a dog with separation anxiety may pee or poop in the house very shortly after being left home alone, even if they just “went” outside right before you left.


Often paired with defecating in the home, dogs battling separation anxiety may eat their poop when left alone. Again, if you see this behavior when you are home, then it’s a sign of another problem besides separation anxiety.


If you have a motion-activated camera, you might catch your separation anxiety dog pacing in lines or circles around your home or a certain room of your home. If this is a behavior you don’t see when you’re around, it could be a sign of separation anxiety.

Blog Banner v9

Being Destructive

Whether it’s chewing up your shoes, clawing at the door, or gnawing on the bars of their crate, some dogs release their anxiety by causing destruction. Worse than the potentially expensive property damage this may cause, your dog may injure or even potentially kill themselves while scratching or chewing on something they shouldn’t.


Dogs that become destructive when suffering from separation anxiety may manage to chew or break their way through a window, door, wall, or fence and escape. At best, you may need to go get them from the shelter. At worst, they could get hit by a car after their escape.

Exploring the Causes of Separation Anxiety

Several different things might cause a dog to suffer from separation anxiety, including:

  • •Changing families: Dogs who have been surrendered to shelters, abandoned, or otherwise moved to a new family after living with one family for some time are more likely to develop separation anxiety.

  • •Change in household membership: Grown kids moving out or household members passing away can confuse and upset dogs to the point where they develop separation anxiety.

  • •Moving: Simply moving to a new home may be enough to trigger separation anxiety in some dogs.

  • •Change in routine: Dogs love routines, and a sudden, drastic change in routine (such as a person going back to work in an office after working from home for a while) can trigger separation anxiety.

Blog Banner v2

Initial Considerations and Rule-Outs for Diagnosis

Some behaviors that may appear to be signs of separation anxiety may actually indicate something else, so you may want to talk to your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer before deciding that your dog definitely has separation anxiety.

Medical and Behavioral Assessments

Your veterinarian or a dog trainer may determine that the behaviors you believe are tied to separation anxiety may actually be a sign of something else, such as:

  • •Incontinence due to medications or medical problems

  • •Urine marking their “territory” inside your home

  • •Submissive urination

  • •Incomplete house training

  • •Boredom, lack of exercise, or a young dog not knowing better

  • •Excessive barking or howling tied to other triggers besides separation anxiety

Blog Banner v3

Dog Separation Anxiety Training Strategies

Now that you have a pretty good idea of whether or not your dog has separation anxiety, let’s discuss how to treat separation anxiety in dogs.

Techniques for Mild Cases

For dogs with mild separation anxiety, counterconditioning may be enough to solve the problem. What’s counterconditioning? It’s where you associate something your dog previously disliked (being alone) with something they love (like wet or raw dog food frozen in a Kong or other enrichment toy).

To try it, all you have to do is give your dog the stuffed Kong (or treats in a puzzle toy, or a chew they love, or anything else that will hold their attention for a while) every time you leave them alone, then pick up that item when you come back. If your dog only has mild separation anxiety, learning that they’ll get a special treat any time you leave—and ONLY when you leave—may be enough to cure their separation anxiety.

Approaches for More Severe Cases

Many dogs with separation anxiety start to panic when they simply suspect their owner is leaving and get too upset by the thought of being left alone to be swayed by tasty treats. In these cases, you need to arrange for several weeks (at least) when your dog will NEVER be left alone except during VERY brief (a few seconds, to start with) training sessions.

For best results, you should work with a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB), or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) with specialized training and experience working with dogs who have separation anxiety.

Blog Banner v4

Here’s a brief guide on how to train your dog to accept being alone without panicking:

  • •Start by desensitizing your dog to the cues of you leaving. Act like you’re going to leave, but stay home instead. For example, you might put on your shoes, then sit down and watch TV, or you might pick up your keys but put them in your pocket and start playing with your dog. Do this several times a day without actually leaving until your dog no longer panics as soon as they suspect you’re getting ready to leave.

  • •Next, train your dog to “stay” out of sight behind an interior door, like the bathroom. Gradually increase how much time you ask your dog to stay on the other side of the door where they can’t see you and reward them handsomely after you allow them to break the stay and come see you.

  • •As you increase how long your dog stays out of sight from you, use different interior doors before eventually graduating to an outside door. Keep in mind that you need to increase the length of time your dog can’t see you very gradually so you never induce separation anxiety.

  • •Don’t do these training exercises back to back. Always allow plenty of time between these short training sessions so your dog has a chance to relax and isn’t constantly worried about you going where they can’t see you.

  • •Over the course of several weeks (or maybe even months, depending on the dog and their degree of separation anxiety), you should be able to graduate to leaving them alone for up to 90 minutes. If your dog can be alone for 90 minutes without a problem, they should be able to handle a whole workday alone.

  • •Again, this training works best if your dog is never alone other than during these training sessions. You may need to take some time off work, have friends or family watch your dog, or take them to doggy daycare so you never trigger a full-blown anxiety attack at the thought of being alone.

Day-to-Day Management of Dogs With Separation Anxiety

Here are some additional tips that may help you treat your dog’s separation anxiety:

  • •Consider crate training. When dogs learn that their crate is their safe space, it can help soothe them when they’re alone. However, crating a dog that’s experiencing severe separation anxiety may cause them to be even more upset and could even cause them harm if they try to escape. Learn more about crate training here.

  • •Give your dog plenty of exercise. A tired dog is a happy dog, and increasing how much exercise a dog gets can significantly decrease a surprising number of behavioral problems. Try taking your dog for a long walk, jog, or swim right before you leave them alone.

  • •Give your dog some or all of their meals in enrichment toys. That might be raw food frozen in a Kong or spread on a lick mat, kibble hidden in puzzle toys, or treats scattered and hidden throughout the house before you leave. Making your dog “work” for their food provides physical and mental stimulation and helps distract from the fact that you’re gone.

Blog Banner v5

Medication as a Possible Supplement

Some dogs have such severe separation anxiety that they need medication for any training to work. Talk to your vet about the pros and cons of giving your dog anxiety medications either daily or before you leave, and your vet may prescribe you something that can help.

Anxiety medication should be used in conjunction with, rather than as a substitute for, dog separation anxiety training.

Training Techniques to Avoid

Never punish or scold your dog for the behaviors they do when they’re alone. They are doing those behaviors out of fear and anxiety, so punishment can actually make those behaviors worse. Picture somebody yelling at you because you screamed when you saw a spider or hesitated to walk across a really high bridge.

Your dog isn’t chewing, barking, or pooping in your home to “punish” you for leaving them alone; they’re doing it out of fear, so punishing the behavior can only cause more psychological harm to your dog in the long run.

Blog Banner v8

Raw Dog Food Makes Excellent Enrichment for Dogs With Separation Anxiety

Looking for a great way to keep your separation anxiety dog busy when you have to leave them home alone? We Feed Raw is a complete and balanced raw dog food that’s finely ground, making it extremely easy to spread on lick mats or stuff into Kongs, Toppls, or other enrichment toys. You can even re-freeze the food inside the enrichment toys to help mealtime last even longer.

We Feed Raw isn’t only good for enrichment. Some of the benefits of a raw diet include:

  • •Reduced allergies

  • •Shinier fur and healthier skin

  • •Smaller, firmer, less frequent poop

  • •Mealtime excitement

  • •Improved oral health

  • •Stronger immune system

  • •Better weight control

  • •Healthier digestion

Replacing even some of your dog’s current diet with raw food provides numerous benefits (among them the ability to spread it onto and stuff it into enrichment items), and it’s safe to feed your dog both kibble and raw if you can’t afford to feed a fully raw diet.

Blog Banner v6

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is dog separation anxiety?

Dog separation anxiety is extreme distress when a dog is left alone or separated from their owner. Signs of separation anxiety include barking, howling, peeing, pooping, chewing, or other problematic behaviors when left alone.

What are signs of separation anxiety in dogs?

Symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs include the following (assuming the behaviors are only or primarily done when the dog is left alone):

  • •Howling or barking

  • •Peeing or pooping indoors

  • •Eating poop

  • •Pacing

  • •Being destructive

  • •Escaping

Blog Banner v7

How can I help a dog with separation anxiety?

In short, you need to gradually get the dog used to being alone while also giving them a reason to look forward to being alone, such as an enrichment activity they only get when you leave. Anxiety medication may help with training a dog that has such severe separation anxiety that even being separated by a door within the home causes the dog to panic.

How do you treat separation anxiety in dogs?

Treating separation anxiety in dogs is a long process that often includes one or more of the following:

  • •Gradually leaving the dog alone for longer periods of time, starting with just a few seconds behind a closed door within the home

  • •Giving the dog an enrichment item (such as a Kong stuffed with raw dog food and then frozen) only when they are left home alone

  • •Medication may help dogs with severe separation anxiety calm down enough to tolerate training, but it isn’t a replacement for training and enrichment

Can you fix separation anxiety in dogs?

Yes, you can fix separation anxiety in dogs. However, it isn’t an overnight process. It takes several weeks or months of consistent training and gradually leaving your dog alone for longer and longer time periods. Medication may help, but it should be used together with training; medication is not a replacement for training.

Blog Banner v11(1)

What causes separation anxiety in dogs?

Some of the most common causes of separation anxiety in dogs include being rehomed, abandoned, or surrendered to a shelter; moving; schedule changes; and changes in household membership.

Are there specific training methods for dogs with separation anxiety?

Yes, there are specific training methods for dogs with separation anxiety. In short, you need to gradually get your dog used to being alone by first simply putting an interior door between you for just a few seconds at a time and gradually increasing how long your dog is comfortable being left alone.

How do I prevent my dog from becoming anxious when I prepare to leave the house?

If your dog gets anxious when you prepare to leave the house, desensitize your dog to those cues by doing things that make it look like you’re leaving, and then DON’T leave. If your dog learns that those signals don’t automatically mean that you’re leaving, they’ll stop panicking every time they see those cues.

Blog Banner v12

Is it possible to leave a dog with separation anxiety alone?

Eventually, yes, you can leave a dog with separation anxiety alone. However, leaving a separation anxiety dog alone for longer than they can handle can de-rail training. For best results, don’t leave your dog alone until you’ve already spent the time gradually desensitizing them to being apart from you.

What should I avoid doing if my dog has separation anxiety?

If your dog has separation anxiety, you should avoid giving them attention every minute of the day while you are home; that simply makes their anxiety worse. Get your dog used to having some “alone time” even when you are home, even if it’s keeping them in a separate room for a while during your meals.

Blog Banner v13

Up Your Dog’s Enrichment With We Feed Raw

As you've learned from this comprehensive guide, helping your furry friend overcome separation anxiety requires patience, training, and the right kind of enrichment. One exceptional way to support your dog during times of separation is by offering them an enticing and comforting distraction that can ease their stress and redirect their focus.

We Feed Raw provides a perfect solution for pet owners looking to enhance their dog's coping mechanisms during alone times. Our finely ground, complete and balanced raw dog food is not only a nutritious option for your dog's overall health but also serves as an excellent enrichment: easily spreadable on lick mats or stuffable into Kongs and other toys. This offers a dual benefit—nutrition that supports their physical wellbeing and mental engagement that helps manage their anxiety.

Our raw food is specially designed to keep your dog occupied, making their alone time more enjoyable and less stressful. This natural diet promotes smaller, firmer stool; shinier fur; healthier skin; and an improved immune system, among other benefits. By turning mealtime into an engaging activity, your companion won’t dwell on your absence and instead will relish in a satisfying and stimulating experience.

If you're ready to provide your dog with both a delicious meal and a meaningful distraction to help them during those challenging moments of solitude, visit today. Take our quiz to find out how simple it can be to integrate raw food into your dog's diet and watch them thrive in body and spirit. With We Feed Raw, you're not only giving your furry friend a meal; you're giving them comfort and a happier, healthier life.

Raw food for dogs by We Feed Raw

Complete & balanced raw meals.

Portioned out, packaged up, and cold-shipped (for FREE!).