How to Handle Dog with Separation Anxiety?

About 2 years ago, a family member who was terminally ill asked whether we would take her Tibetan Terrier.  I agreed on the rationale that we’d either keep him ourselves or find a good home for him.  The TT turned out to be everything she said he was: perfect medium size, beyond-adorable with his moppy black and white hair, loyal, good with kids, friendly to other dogs, smart, sweet and devoted.  However, he also turned out to have an extreme case of separation anxiety to the point that he is destructive when left alone, even for a short time.  We have tried everything from hiring a specialized trainer, putting him in a thundershirt, giving him anti-anxiety medication before we leave, using pheromones to calm him, etc.  Nothing has done much good and we have found ourselves slowly changing our lives to accommodate him—essentially not going anywhere that we can’t take him.  We are really at a crossroads:  we love him and want the best for him, but are becoming increasingly more resentful at not being able to do any of the things we should be able to do at this stage in our lives, things as simple as going to dinner and the movies.  We crate him when we leave in order to keep him and the house safe, but the long process of getting him into the crate, and his clear distress while we are gone, is making even that untenable.  I’m horribly conflicted about what to do.  I would love to find a good home for him, but that would likely entail someone homebound or who doesn’t go out much, or someone with the skills and patience to devote to a long term behavioral transformation program.  Is it even possible to find someone like that?   We love our little guy, and he adores us, but we also feel so burdened by him.  Help!     

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We have had a similar situation with our 10 year old Shepherd/Lab mix. Her separation anxiety became apparent after several moves, including one cross country. We tried a lot of the same things you did, including lots of behavioral therapy (my wife is a behavioral analyst). We also worked a lot to identify if there were other triggers. For her, beeping sounds would set off a panic attack, especially when we were gone. Perhaps you've already tried it, but the only medication we've had success with is Trazodone. Relatively large doses during acute stress helped a lot and maintenance doses everyday allowed us to leave the house. Decisions about what to do can be excruciating... best of luck.

Hi--sorry about the dog and wow, you've tried many things, so he's fortunate to be with you.

      Have you looked online at youtube instructibles?  I like Zak George's approach--it's positive rather than what some advocate.  Here's one on the anxiety you're confronted with   

     Also there's "Sandi" of Bravo Pup, a local training facility   she offers private training, one on one. 

AND last, but not least, are you exercising the dog?  Exercise is a great calming approach.

   Good luck. 

Get another dog! It sounds counter-intuitive but it will really with these issues. I'd be looking for a 4-6 year old female from a shelter. Make sure that the dogs meet and get along before you commit to bringing the new dog home. There are so many sweet older dogs in shelters that would love to be a companion to your dog.

If I'm reading this correctly you haven't tried a trainer. You must do this as soon as possible. A good dog trainer will absolutely cure this separation anxiety. I don't know any to recommend because I just have my sister do it, but she's in New Jersey. Please please please try this before rehoming him. He's been through a lot. 

Hello dog mom.  Wow, do I ever feel for you. I went through the exact same thing with a dog I adopted a year ago. I grew up with dogs and have lived with 10 different dogs in my life and never had I run across this problem with any of them. It was a shock to come across it for the first time. My dog, just as you describe yours, was perfect in every way—except that as soon as I left the house she destroyed everything, barked hysterically, cried, panted, and peed and pooped on everything until I returned. I tried putting her in one small room with some toys and our other dog but it did no good. After a week of this I put her in a crate when I left the house because I have a job to go to and she was not safe alone outside of a crate. I live nearby and so came home from work every four hours to let her out for 30 minutes. I could hear her barking, barking, barking non-stop before I even got out of my car.  Anti-anxiety meds did not help, treats and toys did not help, my other dog (her best friend) did not help. I was stressed beyond belief, terribly sad, and feeling completely hopeless.

But here's the thing. I researched a bunch of stuff online, came up with a separation anxiety plan, and THIS SAME DOG, after two months on the plan, was completely changed. She stopped ALL of her frantic behavior and she now spends the day when I'm gone, lounging around on the dog beds with absolutely no stress whatsoever. It's totally possible to help a dog with this issue—you just have to be consistent with the plan. But it's not really something a dog trainer can do for you. She/he can teach you how to do it (or you can can consult some websites) but it's really you in your own home that your dog needs to learn from. It sounds like you really love your dog which means you probably DO have the patience for this! 

A basic first step is to teach your dog a solid down/stay. Then gradually have her stay with you further and further away—2 steps away, 4 steps away, the other side of the room, a different room in the house, and so on until you are standing outside the house for 3 seconds, then 10 seconds, etc. Also, it's worth the investment to get a security camera so you can track whether things are improving when you're away. I got a camera by Arlo that I could check on my phone. It was SO helpful to see that even though things felt like they were going nowhere for a long time, the camera proved otherwise. Because of the camera I could see that bit by bit she stopped barking sooner when I left the house. This encouragement was invaluable. 

Try this website for a place to start:
And don't be alarmed by the sites that might scare you with stories about dogs taking a year or more to get over this. That may be true for some but certainly is not true for most dogs. 

Also, one other thing:  I don't think finding a new owner who never leaves the house does the dog a favor. This will just make the separation anxiety even more entrenched and, inevitably, a day will come when the new dog owner will have to go to somewhere that her dog is not welcome and the dog will be totally unequipped to deal with this. 

Good luck to you and don't give up. You can do this!

Have you considered leaving him in the car while you go to restaurants, movies, etc? This works with my dog, who seems to feel safer in the confined area, and knows that she's nearer to us. It also shortens the separation time and makes it possible for her to have breaks from separation (e.g. we can walk her in between the movie and dinner). She likes feeling like she's out and about with us - it's often stimulation comparable to walking. Obviously windows down, water in car, not on hot days, limit time, get a sun shield. The other thing that works with her is truly epic quantities of exercise.

We also have had a rough time with Separation Anxiety but are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Our dog sounds very similar, will destroy everything and bark incessantly whether in a crate or out. He's almost 3 years old now, we got him at 6 months and day one he had separation anxiety. He's a stafordshire terrior, border collie mutt; determined, stubborn and way too smart. For us, it's a different solution for different situations. 

The car : In the evening or cool cloudy days we can leave him in the car for up to 4 hours, he's perfectly happy and sleeps quietly. We worked him up to this. I started by sitting in the car with him and periodically moving my keys, fussing with the seat belt, rolling up and down windows so these wouldn't be trigger sounds for him. Other times, while my partner was in a store shopping, I'd walk around the parking lot coming back to the car frequently but building up the time that I was out of sight. Finally, I'd do short walks out of sight, if I heard him bark I'd come back only to scold him and then walk away again so he wouldn't be rewarded by barking. 

The office : I take him to work with me most every day. I started by tying him to my desk. I'd get up and go somewhere within sight so he got used to not being able to follow me. Eventually, I'd leave his sight, again he'd whine or bark a little, I'd scold him and walk away again. He likes to test things out. He was fine with being left at my desk for an hour or two. Before changing jobs I bought a soft sided crate and got him used to being in there both with the door open and closed, with me at the desk and away. He tested out barking at the new office but once I scolded him, he realized I was still there just out of sight. Now it's his safe space at whatever office we go to and it's nice to be able to keep him safely in place.

Home : We have another dog at home but this dog's anxiety cause's our older dog to also act up so we can't leave them together. That same crate in a separate room did NOT work at home. We came back to him still in the crate but with it flipped on its side. After over 2 years we finally found what works at home, it's my newly purchased maternity pillow. We leave him shut in our bedroom on our bed and he curls up in the maternity pillow, before the pillow he would bark. When we put him in the room we follow the same pattern as we would if we were just going to ask him to stay in the bedroom while we stayed home (ie, if someone is coming to the house and we don't want him barking at the door). We did this a couple times and stayed home before trying to leave the house. So far it's working really well, it's so nice to be able to leave the house for a few hours in the middle of the day again. For anything longer than a couple hours we drop him off at a doggie daycare.

Hope you find what works for you.