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Sally G.
Sally G., Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 9685
Experience:  Service /assistance dog trainer,Therapy dog evaluator and trainer, AKC evaluator, pet first aide and member of PAS Animal Response Team.
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My 5 year old dog (mixed breed, 17 lbs) is such a great

Customer Question

My 5 year old dog (mixed breed, 17 lbs) is such a great smart dog, but he cries(really screams) so hard when I have to leave him, I have had him for 3 years. He was left at he vets (starving, strep throat, bad shape) when I took him. I can here him crying a half block away.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Ola Barrett replied 1 year ago.

Hello I am Dr RB and I am a small animal veterinarian. It sounds as though Stretch has a behavioral condition known as "separation anxiety." Some dogs with separation anxiety can be helped with behavioral modification through exercises you can do at home; other dogs require these exercises coupled with anti-depressant medications.

Behavioral modification exercises you can do with him should all center around teaching him that you leaving him is not a horrible thing. This will take some time but it can be done. When you leave the house, do not make a big deal about giving him tons of attention (no treats, hugs, kisses, etc). When you return home, do not drop everything and run to him with baby talk and a big scene. Making leaving a returning home a very calm event. When you are at home, start doing things that you typically do before you leave, such as picking up your keys, putting them down again, picking them up, putting on your coat, and gradually increase these exercises until eventually you are able to walk out the door and leave for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, and so forth. Be calm and acknowledge stretch but do not make a fuss.

Environmental changes will also help. If you are not using a pheromone diffuser or spray please get one as this will provide some natural calming effect (look for DAP or dog appeasing pheromone diffuser). Also make sure he has plenty of toys that keep him occupied while you are away, especially toys that encourage problem solving.

Try these methods over several weeks time.. if no improvement with these alone, you may need to visit your regular DVM for a prescription of anxiety/anti-depressant drugs which are very effective for case of severe separation anxiety. I hope this is helpful advce for youl:)

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I have done all the things that you suggest, Left for 4-5 min and came back, put my purse on the table to be picked up later. He watches me very closely. Always in the same room with me. I will not get him anxiety meds. So you do not have a good answer, Thanks, Madonna
Expert:  Ola Barrett replied 1 year ago.

Respectfully, ***** ***** do have a good answer.. these practices are effective but they must be practice repeatedly over the course of several weeks. Anxiety meds are not always needed but can be used, if needed..

Expert:  Sally G. replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I have been in the dog field for 25 years. I am a Therapy Dog & AKC Evaluator/trainer/ as well as an assistance/service dog trainer, specializing in behavior. It will be my pleasure to help you today

Can you tell me how often you train in basic obedience?

What commands does the dog know?

How do you train, meaning what method?

Beside doing the above what else have you tried?

Expert:  Sally G. replied 1 year ago.

It seems you may have gone offline and I will soon have to go off for an appointment so I have been working on your question with other suggestions as well as explanations to why we do certain things with dogs that have anxiety.

If you have any questions on the below please come back and ask and I can explain further when I am next online. Give the links a look over so you can get a feel for what needs to be done. Remember that a dog that was a rescue has a past that no one knows about and one cannot know what may make an imprint that will have the dog slide backward a bit.

I hope I have been helpful to you and your experience with me was a pleasant one. Please don't forget to rate the service before you leave so the company compensates me for my time.

DR RB gave you some sound advice and I would just like to add some other solutions that were not mentioned above.

Yes you have to practice the above on a daily basis and basically change your whole routine daily so the dog never knows when you are coming or going, Ignore the dog for 15 minutes before you leave and after you come home. You are correct, your dog knows your routine very well and has memorized every detail of things you do before you walk out the door , right down to the coat you may wear to work as opposed to one that you wear to take out the garbage and this is why it is so vital that for a long period of time you must change up your routine on a daily basis.

Along with that you need to train the dog positively so you build up the dog’s confidence. Think about a shy person who is suddenly tossed into the middle of a party. They have not been given the skills on how to handle that situation. You must build your dogs skills to be without you. So daily training positively helps boost the confidence the dog needs, and you need to practice alone skills which would consist of getting a firm down stay on the dog’s bed as you are able to move further and further away from the dog until eventually you are in another room for a second, then come back and reward the dog for that alone time. Gradually you want to build up the time you stay out of sight. This helps the dog to build a sense of self assurance.

It does sound like he has a very bad case of separation anxiety so this will not be solved over night and figure a good six months of daily training and confidence boosting before the dog is comfortable to be alone. Also know that even after the dog is okay with you leaving, that it can slide backward if you stop daily training. This is because dogs go through imprint periods of their life, one of the imprints that are repeated through a dogs life a different intervals is a fear imprint. So if you think the dog is okay to be alone and you stop the obedience training, you could leave the house, there could be a large truck or construction starting on your street which brings with it a loud noise , and something that simple can put the dog back into a fear imprint.

As for medication, there is an over the counter med in the vitamin aisle of your drug store called melatonin. Melatonin works in conjunction with what the brain already makes, serotonin , but does not make enough of which causes the dog anxiety. The melatonin will not drug the dog, but it will add the extra serotonin the dog needs to help keep from being anxious. So you may want to give that a try. This works great for noise phobias as well.

There are other products to try to help calm a dog and I am going to put them all below with links.

Even with a change in routine, the melatonin and other suggestions below, the most important thing to do is continue confidence building through training. Eventually you can scale back on the amount of times a day you do this, but is should still be done daily even if you can only fit in 10 minutes. I am going to direct you to clicker training as well which is easy to follow and if you cannot do each and every command daily at least get a good down stay. The key is you want to set the dog up to succeed not fail.

You can try combining many of the below items. The calming music works well especially for any noise phobias and just has a calming influence over the dog. This is used in many kennels where anxiety is high.


Clicker training

video’s to see how clicker training is done, scroll down to videos

Melatonin found in drug stores by vitamins

DAP Diffuser

Through a dogs ear music

3 hours of dog calming music on youtube to try out

Anxiety wrap

mind stimulating toys

talk to me treat ball

Kong these work great when stuffed with cream cheese and frozen

Buster cube

Dog Puzzles. If you just type in dog puzzles on amazon you will come to a page full. I just happened to pick this one . PetCo also carries dog puzzles.