Does your dog:

  • Whine and pace as you prepare to leave and/or long after you are gone?
  • Do his pupils become dilated?
  • Is he panting and/or drooling?
  • Does he have sweaty pads?
  • Does he tremble or shake?
  • Does he engage in nonstop barking or howling while you are away?
  • Does he soil the house?
  • Is there any destructive chewing or digging especially around the entrances and exits?
  • Will the dog eat or take food?
  • Does the dog engage in desperate or injurious attempts to get out of the house or crate?



Suggested Causes:

  1. Lack of learning to cope with being alone and/or frustration intolerance. Frustration intolerance is the dog’s inability to handle not getting what they want. This is the most common cause. Maturation has to do with coping with frustration.
  2. Hidden symptoms. The dog has never been comfortable with being home alone but outward signs of anxious behavior have not been previously presented.
  3. Under stimulation or lack of a job is the greatest single factor in Canine Home Alone Problems. Too much stored up energy that the dog cannot get rid of except by engaging in destructive behaviors.
  4. Fear or anxiety.
  5. Personality.
  6. Traumatic separation.
  7. Trauma experienced by the dog while the dog was alone.

Some signs of Separation Anxiety are the dog’s anxiously following the owner around like a shadow as the owner is getting ready to leave. We will be addressing some of the cues or triggers that we present to our dogs that tell the dog we are leaving. A systematic desensitization and counter conditioning program is recommended.

Common Expressions of Separation Anxiety: taken from Patricia B. McConnell, PhD.

  1. Whining and pacing as owner prepares to leave extending into long after the owner has left.
  2. Dilated pupils.
  3. Panting and/or drooling.
  4. Sweaty pads.
  5. Trembling or shaking
  6. Nonstop barking or howling particularly the first 45 minutes after the owner leaves.
  7. Urinating or defecation.
  8. Destructive chewing or digging, especially around entrances and exits (doors, door knobs, door frames, window moldings, and/or carpet by those areas).
  9. Appetite suppression.
  10. Desperate and often injurious attempts to get out of the house or crate.

Canine Home Alone Problems can occur more often:

  1. After holidays.
  2. Owner (or family) illness.
  3. After periods of having house guests.
  4. Change in working hours.

Suggested Beginning Protocols:

  1. Ignoring (contact) exercises. This aids in reduction of frustration intolerance and also can prevent some cases of generalized anxiety. Have the dog perform a sit, stand, and down BEFORE you offer any physical contact to the dog. It makes no difference what order or how correctly you and your dog do these exercises. What is important is to allow the dog to work for the treats and the contact that he receives from the owner. The dog must learn to earn owner attention. Ignore all attempts by the dog to solicit your attention (muzzle punches, chin on your lap, barking, whining, etc.)
  2. House train your dog. Ensure your dog is fully and reliably house trained.
  3. Limit your dog’s access to furniture. Dogs jump on the couch or other furniture mainly to feel in touch with their owners as furniture harbors strong scents of the owner giving the dog a sense of the owner’s presence.
  4. Do not leave your dog loose in the house. Most dogs actually feel more secure if they are confined to only part of the house, and this is especially true of territorial or protective dogs.
  5. Keep entrances and exits very neutral and boring (non-events).


Katherine Smith

Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants), Professional Member APDT, (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), AKC Canine Good Citizenship Evaluator, Animal Behavioral College Mentor