How to Leave your Separation-Anxiety-Ridden Dog Home Alone in 43 Easy Steps

DSCN1798This is Bodhi.
We adopted her from the pound almost two months ago.
After having her with us for a couple of weeks, we discovered she did not like being left at home alone. Now, I am not even that knowledgeable or by any means an expert, but these are things I’ve tried to ease her anxiety over being left alone in the past six weeks or so. It is merely an attempt to laugh at the great lengths we as dog owners will go to for the love of our furry beasts. Or, at least it’ll explain why I haven’t left the house more than five to ten to fifteen to thirty minutes lately.

  1. Determine your dog has separation anxiety after coming home to find your pooch drenched in drool, panting, barking, whining, scratching at exits like their life depended on it, possibly having injured themselves in the process.
  2. Read internet articles. Lots and lots of internet articles.
  3. Discuss problem at great length with friends who also have dogs with anxieties.
  4. Form a training plan, which is also called desensitization and counter-conditioning.
  5. Never leave the dog alone. If you need to, hire a dog-sitter. But mostly kiss your freedoms and social life goodbye.
  6. Begin “gaslighting” your dog by acting like you’re leaving, but don’t, saying, “What? I wasn’t leaving. What are you getting so stressed about?”
  7. Never make eye contact with your dog. Especially when you move around the house.
  8. Pick up keys, jingle them a bit, put them back down.
  9. 60 minutes later, pick up keys, go shut yourself in the bathroom, come out and put keys away.
  10. Continue this until you can pick up your keys and the dog won’t jump up and pant, following you around nervously for five minutes, looking for real signs you might be leaving.
  11. If your dog never settles over you picking up your keys, begin searching for other remedies.
  12. Spend hundreds of dollars on essential oils, diffusers, relaxation drops, vet appointments, dog training, prescriptions, Thundershirts, kennels that create the feeling of a den, and books, while making repairs on your damaged living area.
  13. Buy natural, organic food without grains. No corn! Only fish!
  14. Attempt leaving for ten seconds.
  15. Do not make eye contact with the dog!
  16. Always act like leaving and returning are normal. You know, like they used to be.
  17. If your dog still hasn’t settled with key jingles and leaving for ten seconds, try more tactics.
  18. Turn on every fan in your house full blast.
  19. Play music or talk radio.
  20. Close every curtain in your house.
  21. Turn off all the lights.
  22. Section off part of the house with large baby gates, preventing access to exits and windows.
  23. Go through the same process every time you leave for ten seconds.
  24. Turn on fans.
  25. Play music.
  26. Turn on diffusers.
  27. Give treats with relaxation oils.
  28. Put on Thundershirt.
  29. Throw treats out into the living room for the dog to find.
  30. Leave for ten seconds.
  31. Then fifteen.
  32. Then a minute.
  33. Then ten.
  34. Every time you return, undo what you did to leave without making eye contact.
  35. This will take a few weeks.
  36. Meanwhile, ignore all invitations to get-togethers and have someone stay at home so you can go to the store.
  37. Get to know your pizza delivery guy.
  38. Try to be as routine as possible.
  39. Go for long walks daily. Twice.
  40. Try different methods. Get a Kong and fill it with peanut butter. Freeze treats into a stainless steel dish full of water. Leave your dirty laundry in the kennel, or wherever the dog likes to lie the most during the day.
  41. Watch the weeks and invitations pass, but notice your dog is making some improvement.
  42. Occasionally, when you pick up your keys and go through the routine of leaving, start dropping pieces of meat on the floor to associate you leaving with something really good.
  43. Repeat all steps. Again. And again, and you, too, will be able to leave your house without worrying about your dog doing damage to themselves or your house.


8 replies
    • step.
      step. says:

      I’ve discovered the Bach’s Rescue Remedy does WONDERS. I give it to her in her food, and hadn’t for a day because she got sick in the car. Yesterday, I went to leave and she flipped! Even howled! I gave her some of the RR and she calmed immediately and wasn’t even barking when I got home. I’m buying that stuff in bulk.

  1. Jan
    Jan says:

    We’ve just adopted a shelter dog and are going through ALL of these steps. I’m sure it’s been more challenging for you, as the only adult in your home. Blessings on you for giving her a loving home. (Headed to the Internet to look for Rescue Remedy!)

    • step.
      step. says:

      Rescue Remedy works! So does leaving for a few seconds once an hour. And getting a dog sitter. It’s stressful for sure! Good luck!

  2. thepalerook
    thepalerook says:

    Hey, thank you so much for the Rescue Remedy tip! I’m about to go on a long, necessary road trip with my giant adopted and slightly neurotic greyhound who hates cars, so this is will hopefully be a massive help. 🙂

    • step.
      step. says:

      I don’t know if it works for EVERY dog, I’m sure it doesn’t. But with mine it takes the edge off just enough so she doesn’t spiral into crazy anxiety.

    • step.
      step. says:

      I thought of another one–buy beef stock marrow bones, boil them for a few minutes, and let them chew away. Chewing releases pent-up tension or something like that? My trainer suggested it, and she seems to be a lot happier and more relaxed and confident when she has a bone to gnaw on.

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  1. […] my dog is a last resort. I am at that point. We’ve worked hard for the last few months. I’ve tried every trick in the book over and over. But I need relief more than paying someone ten bucks to sit with her while I go out for an hour or […]

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