Helping dogs with Separation Anxiety – Why suspending absences is vital

June 13, 2021

Separation Anxiety is a phobia where that dog is truly terrified about being left alone.  Your dog has no control over this fear, and the fear results in the behaviours you may be seeing such as barking, howling, toileting in the house when you are gone, destructive behaviours, pacing, panting – the list is endless as different dogs will display different behaviours as a result of the fear. The important thing to remember is your dog is not behaving this way out of spite, or anger, and he is not being “naughty”.  It is the same as a dog who has a fear reaction to fireworks – dogs who have a fear of being left alone can experiencing that same panic.

Suspending absences – why is it vital?

One of the vital parts of helping any dog who has a fear of being left alone, is to suspend absences. By this, I mean the dog must not be left alone at any other times than when we are working through our daily, personalised, individualised training sessions.  The dog does not have to be with the owner 24/7, but they have to not be left alone. The reason for this is if your dog is still feeling fear and panicking during alone time, it is impossible to teach them that being home alone is safe and you will never make progress.  Unfortunately dogs will never just “get used” to being left alone if we keep exposing them to alone time…in fact it is most likely that their separation anxiety will actually get worse because we are reinforcing to them that being home alone IS terrifying. In order to teach a dog being home alone is safe and that he/she doesnt need to panic, we have to prevent that panic from being felt in the first place.

This is not a requirement that only I make….this is a requirement of learning! Fear and panic all inhibit learning.

While suspending absences, it is then possible to identify how long your dog can cope with being left alone before they panic (this length of time will vary from dogs to dog – it could be the dog cant even cope with you opening the front door, or they can manage 2 minutes before they go into panic), and gradually and incrementally increase the length of time you leave your dog, in a very controlled manner, ensuring your dog never reaches that panic point enabling them to start to learn being left alone is safe because they dont feel that fear and panic anymore.  This takes time, and it is the dog that dictates how fast or slowly we can increase duration of absences.

It IS achievable!

The thought of not leaving your dog for the near future can be overwhelming and seem impossible – but I can assure you, with a bit of planning and consideration in some cases, it IS possible! All of my clients have made it work, and as a result all  have and are seeing results with their dogs being more comfortable with periods of alone time.

It is also important to remember that suspending absences is NOT forever. How long it will be needed for is impossible to say, because as mentioned earlier, progress is very individual to each dog. It does take time, in the same way as it does when modifying fears and phobias in humans (think of fear of flying in humans – that can be resolved but it takes time), but it wont be forever.

All of my Separation Anxiety clients are just amazing – totally dedicated to helping their dogs feel safe home alone! They have all found ways of ensuring their dog is not left alone, and I am happy to help any of you think of ways that you may not have thought of. As a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) I am passionate about helping owners help their dogs with this phobia, and I have also personal experience with working with a dog with Separation Anxiety as my own dog, Dylan, suffered when I first rescued him in 2009. He has been a recovered Separation Anxiety dog now for many many years!

If you would like help resolving your dog’s Separation Anxiety please complete this form and I will be in touch.


By Angela Doyle

I am a highly experienced and qualified reward based dog trainer and behaviour consultant based in Surrey, UK. I am a fully qualified CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer) and specialise in helping dogs overcome Separation Anxiety.

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