Old dog, new separation anxiety

Hello - We have a 13 year old small dog who has never liked being left alone, but post pandemic we can't leave him alone at all. He barks constantly when alone. Looking for a trainer to help with separation anxiety. We are also interested in hearing if anyone has successfully used medication to help with this, given the challenges of retraining at an advanced age. Many thanks.

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Our old dog developed some concerning out of character behavior when he was around 12 (not separation anxiety). We took him to the SFSPCA behavioral veterinarian because we thought it might be a medical issue vs just a training one. It was $$$ but very helpful for our dog because they were able to address the medical issues driving the behavior and recommended food, supplements, and medications that made an enormous difference. They also recommended some pretty simple training / management techniques that were easy to implement with an old dog that were helpful as well, but the big value was their ability to address the medical issues that were driving the behavior.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that route for a young dog that has separation anxiety (the money would be better spent on trainers). But for an older dog there could be some cognitive degradation, hearing or vision loss or medical issues that a regular vet might not catch that are putting him over the edge when you leave the house. And even if it’s not age related, they can prescribe anxiety medication if that’s the only issue.

In the meantime, is your dog crate trained? If not, I would recommend focusing on making the crate the best place in the world and get him super excited about being there. This serves 2 purposes. First, you can work on separation while you’re in the room - he can still see you and be rewarded, but he’s just in the crate. Once he’s totally comfortable with that, you can pop out of the room occasionally as long as he’s not stressed about it. It’s a nice way to work on separation anxiety without the leaving the house. Second, crate training is increasingly extremely important as dogs get old and inevitably spend more time at the vet - in a kennel. If they’re not stressed about being confined, it’s extremely helpful for their care.