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Ask Dr. Kara Your Own Question
Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 18173
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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dog with seperation anxieties ,barking and howling if no human

Customer Question

dog with seperation anxieties ,barking and howling if no human company
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 3 years ago.
Hello, my name is Dr. Kara and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I am so sorry to hear about Jack's separation anxiety.
As you have found negative reinforcement such as shock or bark collars don't work for dogs with separation anxiety, these things only make them more anxious and they associate being left alone with the effects of the collar, not the desired effect.
I don't know his history but if you got him as an adult then he may have been relinquished because of separation anxiety issues. Many rescues suffer from separation anxiety as they have already lost at least one family.
 Most dogs would prefer to spend all their time with their very loved family to make sure that they don't disappear. If he does well in a crate then I would use it while you are gone. Many dogs see a crate as a den. It's a secure place that they can be while the family is gone. They have learned that if they go in their crate you always come back. But if they are out in the big house alone they just don't know what to do with themselves, get anxious and get into trouble. If you had a camera on most normal dogs while owners are gone you would see they spend most of their time sleeping. They are pack animals and if their pack members are gone then they rest up waiting for their "pack" to come home and play. So don't feel guilty about giving him a place he can feel secure in and rest in. In time as he realizes you always come home then he may be able to be out in the house but for now if his crate gives him security then let him use it.

If however he is tearing up his crate and is very anxious in it then that's not the way to go. He may do better in a small bathroom or bedroom where he normally sleeps at night.

Ideally while you are working on training him he should only be left for short periods at a time anyway. If you must leave him for longer periods you'll need a friend or dog sitter to come in and check on him, let him out to eliminate and make sure he's OK.

Work on leaving for short periods of time (initially minutes) and always try and make coming and going boring, don't make a huge deal of it as that increases anxiety. Change your routine so that he cannot ramp up his anxiety about your leaving before you've even left. Pick up your car keys and walk around the house. Put on your coat and shoes and walk around the house. Practice him going in and out of his crate or wherever he will be when you are gone and staying there for a few minutes even when you are home. Make sure to praise him and give him treats for quietly staying there and ignore whining and barking.
Give him indestructible play things (like a king ball stuffed with a treat he has to work to get out) to do while you are gone.
Leave a radio or TV on for company, initially both while you are home and away so that the noise level is the same, home or not.

Make sure that you ignore him for the first several minutes when you get home. Busy yourself with mail, or putting things away so that coming and going is never a big deal. Once you've been home for a bit then sit down and give him attention.

The goal is to increase his confidence, both in himself in being alone and in your reliability to return.

Some of the OTC products for separation anxiety are safe and effective, but they must be used in conjunction with training. Medication alone almost always fails.
Here are some links that may help you:

A program that may help build his confidence in general which will transfer over to him accepting being left alone and is called "nothing in life is free". This gives him confidence in your fairness and his ability to please you and where he fits in your home. Here is a link that better explains the program:

As far as over the counter medications I do like DAP products (dog appeasement pheromones) which are synthetic analogs of a calming pheromone a bitch produces while nursing. These come in sprays, collars and diffusors. See this link for information about these products:

See this link for some examples: hop&tbo=u&sa=X&ei=_yGDT5KCBIiqiAL7jPn5Ag&sqi=2&ved=0CIgBEK0E&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=83ec0cc01db0c140&biw=1249&bih=569

I also like products made by Bach's Rescue Remedy:

I see that you have tried some sedatives from your veterinarian but did you use them in conjunction with training methods? If not they won't work alone. Ideally we need to get him calm enough so that he is able to learn. If he is terrified and extremely anxious then he won't learn to comfortably be alone.

I don't know which medication from your veterinarian that you tried, there are a few to try and sometimes we need to use a combination of things. Just because one doesn't work doesn't mean that others won't. I would discuss medications, such as clonicalm or amitriptyline, with your veterinarian. He is young and they likely won't need to be forever, just until he learns to trust that you are coming back and it is OK for him to be alone in his safe place.

I know that this is frustrating for you, and Jack is making your life very difficult, but imagine his mounting anxiety when you go, and him knowing that you aren't pleased with him when you return, which only is increasing his anxiety more. He is a complete wreck too. Separation anxiety can be worked on and helped, my current pup had it too. It takes time and patience and figuring out what works for your particular fellow.
Let me know if you have any further questions.