Separation Anxiety Tips Help a Dog’s Fear of Being Alone

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 23, 2024

separation anxiety

We share expert solutions for treating separation anxiety in dogs in West LA to help newly adopted Siberian Husky Nova! In this in home dog behavior training session, we share a number of tips to help treat separaiton anxiety in dogs.

Before 2019, it was estimated up to 50% of all dogs suffer from some form of separation anxiety.  The number of dogs who are anxious when left alone is likely much higher in the post covid era. The good news is there are easy ways of reducing dog stress during separation if you know the dog’s limits and go at thier pace.

Nova was a special case as she is still adjusting into her new home. Oly being adopted a few days before this session, its a safe bet she is still finding her footing in her new home.

At the satrart of the session, Nova was more anxious than I expected, so I spent the first part of the sesison going over some fundamentals like how to use marker words to speed up her training and other tips to help her feel more comfortable with my presence.

It took Nova a while to take treats from my hand and 44 minutes before she finally felt comfortable enough to lay down. This told me I needed to be mindful of my movements and the volume of my voice during this in home dog behavior appointment.

I also went over dog consent and cut off signals to help Nova’s guardian beter read her and know when she is uncomfortable or doesnt agree with somthing. This is an important part of helpings insecure dogs gain confidence.

Dog Separation Anxiety Treatment

Treating Separation Anxiety in dogs is all about reducing dog stresss during alone times. In other words, finding a way for a dog to feel relaxed and comfortable when they are home alone. Our preferred treatment plan is to create a Sanctuary, a safe place away from the exit to the home where the dog can stay on thier own.

Over the next 2 months, Nova’s guardian will build up a positive association of the Sanctuary by conducting 10 fun or positive activites in the Sanctuary every day. These activities or training sessions don’t need to be long, in fact, most of them should be accomplished in 1-2 minutes each. The key is regular practice of these activities, conducted throughout the day, every day.

  • Feeding – Nova is fed twice a day and moving her meals into the Sanctuary is one of the easiest activities to start with. Right now Nova feels more comfortable eating with her human, but in time, we hope that she can eat her meals in the Sanctuary in her own with the door open. 2 Daily Sanctuary Activities.

  • Go to the Dog Bed – The next exercise we went over was teaching her to go to her dog bed (Beach) on cue. This activity stars with tossing a treat onto the bed, then marking and rewarding her when she steps on it. But as she progresses through the print out I shared in our sesison, she will transition to giving the name-cue “beach,” then marking and rewarding her when she does. This activity should be practiced at least twice a day, bringing us up to 4 Daily Sanctuary Activities.
  • Cookie in the Corner – Another easy exercise for the Sanctuary. This is an introductory scent game that is quick and easy and should be practiced at least once a day, bringing us to 5 Daily Sanctuary Activities.

  • • Scent game – Another scent game was finding a treat under the towel. This is an exercise to practice once a day. The guardian can alternate between this game and Cookie in the corner to keep things fresh.
  • Stay – One of the major exercises for our method to help dogs who suffer from separation anxiety is training a dog to stay. I like to break the stay into 2 parts; stay for distactions and duration for the first part, and then practice stay for distance once the initial stay foundation is in place.Id like to see the guardian practicing the stay exercise twice a day, every day. At first practicing only stay for distactions and duration till she can get up to 25 or more consistnetly without an auto release. Once that is the case, then she can transition to practicing stay for distance twice a day, bringing us up to 7 Daily Sanctuary Activities.
  • Cuddle Time – But all work and no play doesnt make Nova’s best day! Her guardian also needs to have at least one cuddle session in the Sanctuary daily with the door closed. This is easy and yet also important. We want the dog to identify the Sanctuary as a place of relaxation and what’s better than some snuggles from your favorite human for 5 minutes every day. And this easy one brings us up to 8 Daily Sanctuary Activities.

  • Group Solo Time – Another activity is to hang out in the Sanctuary with the door closed is what I like to call group solo time; this is where the human and dog are inside the Sanctuary with the door closed, but the human is doing something independent of the dog; reading, watching TV, etc.This should be a calm and quiet door closed activity separate from engaging with the dog. This helps the dog learn to keep themseleves occupied inside with the calming presence of a human. This is an easy one, but important. And it brings us up to 9 Daily Sanctuary Activities.
  • New Tricks – Teaching a dog a new trick can help boost their confidence which is an important part of helping dogs who cant be left home alone. Since Nova didnt seem to have a great down, some basic obedience training may be a good place to start. Once she has the basics down, the guardian can teach other lessons like hand targeting, the hurricaine, middle position or many other fun tricks or cues, bringing her across the finish line of 10 Daily Sanctuary Activities!

The Next Steps 

After a few weeks of practice, the guardian can transition to some of the other activities that we recommend for people who hire us to help their dog stop having separation when left alone like using a lick mat, tethered high value chews, scent detection training and box enrchment.

Aside from the lick mat, these are activities that can come after a couple weeks of practicing the program. Changing things up helps keep our dogs interest level high. And making the activites more challanging can help increase confidence, drain energy and continue building the positive associations with the Sanctuary.

With practice, we should see Nova choosing to go into the Sanctuary on her own. At first just to check if treats have been left on the dog bed or forgotten on the floor. But as the daily practice continues, a habit starts to form. Prepairing the guardian for the final steps of this plan to help dogs feel comfortable being left alone in the Sanctuary with the door closed.

Since we covered Nova’s confidence and many other dog behavior tips in this Weat LA dog trainining session, I recorded a summary video I like to call a Roadmap to Success. You can get a ton of free positive dog training tips by watching the free dog training video below.

After we finished shooting the above video, the guardian and I went over a few remaining questions and the next steps to help reduce dog stress during separation. We will need to set up a follow up session or two and adjust things as she works through this program and Nala becomes more comfortable in her new forever home.

Im looking forward to hearing how she progresses with her separation anxiety treatment plan over the next few weeks.


If you have a dog with behavior issues and want to set up a customized, in home dog behavior training session, you can request a quote with this link.

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This post was written by: David Codr