Separation Anxiety Training

There are three primary components to training a pet to not experience separation anxiety. For most dogs all three components are necessary, but it depends on the dog and the degree of anxiety.

1. Most dogs require some form of “medication” to lower their anxiety level so that training can be successful. At Birdneck Animal Hospital we prefer to start with more natural forms of treatment, so an oral herbal antianxiety supplement and/or a pheromone release collar are usually recommended. If it is found that these treatments are not effective enough or if the pet shows very severe anxiety, we will then recommend prescription antianxiety medications.

2. The second step in treatment is desensitization to the cues that you are about to leave. Doing the behaviors you normally do before leaving (such as picking up your keys, putting on a jacket, putting on your shoes, and even opening the door) but not going anywhere can help to desensitize your dog to those cues. It is also helpful to ignore your pet when you do come home and he or she is extremely excited. Wait until your pet is calm and relaxed before giving any attention or treats. You want to give positive reinforcement to being calm, not to being excited.

3. The final step is the actual training that lets your dog learn that you are returning and that he or she will be okay. This takes a lot of time and patience on your part.If your pet has not already been trained to lie down and stay, you must train him/her to do that first.

For this training we will use a toy during the training. Preferably it is a new or seldom used toy. Your pet does not have to like the toy. It is to be used as the signal that you will be returning. It also will only be used during the training exercises until you have gotten to the point that you can leave the house for hours without your pet becoming anxious, then you will always put down the toy before leaving. The toy should not be used for play.

Put your pet in a down stay in an area where she/he often lays down.

Put the training toy (let’s call it a red ball but it can be any toy) down in front of her/him. Walk a short distance away. If you pet remains calm, return, give praise and a very small, very tasty treat. Repeat this several times getting just slightly further away each time. When you are done with training, pick up the “red ball” and put it away.

At each daily training session get further and further away. Eventually you will go around a corner out of sight. Prolong the time out of sight each time. Eventually get to the point where you open and close the front door without going out, go out for a few moments, go to the car and open and close the car door, etc. The point is to very gradually increase the amount of time, distance and the anxiety “triggers”, without your pet becoming anxious. If at some point your pet does not stay calmly in the down stay, go back a step or two and reinforce that step of the training and take smaller steps the next time. Remember to put the “red ball” downat the start of each episode, give praise and a small yummy treat as a reward for being good, and pick up and put the “red ball” away at the end of each exercise. If your pet makes a mistake, don’t scold or punish her/him. That will only increase anxiety. Just call her/him back to the training spot and take a smaller step, so you can end the exercise on a positive note.

Separation anxiety is stressful for the pet and the owner. The training is often not easy, but with patience can usually be successful


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Feedback from our clients

  • "Words can not begin to express our gratitude for the care you had given Hunter over the years. When his time came, he watched for you to come through the door and his tail showed his affection towards you. That was most comforting having you there. Thank you.""
  • ""Thank you so much for taking care of Maggie over the years. Y'all are the best and Dr. Johnson, you are the best vet in the world! God bless you all.""
    ~ J.D.
  • ""Your care for my beloved Mattie these last 10n years made her life, and mine much better….God bless each of you for all you did for us and I'm sure for all your other two and four legged patients.""
  • ""Thank you for saving my life." ~T.C."
  • ""I can not express how grateful I am for you and your staff… I appreciate everything you did in Beckham's treatment. He was so lucky to have such a wonderful doctor on his side. Thank you for all you do for the benefit of all our beloved pets.""
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  • ""Thank you for the great care you took of Taco and the rest of our family. He is doing great now! He is enjoying running and playing with all four legs again.""
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  • ""A sincere thank you for taking such good care of Dulce. We are so thrilled that she is back to her normal self. You gave her the support and care she needed in her darkest hours and kept us confident in her recovery.""
  • ""Just to say how much we appreciate all of you. You all are wonderful people. We feel blessed to have our beloved furry children in your care when they need it. Your professional knowledge and your acts of kindness have a beautiful act all it's own. You are a great vet, compassionate and everything good all in one. You are in our daily prayers.""
  • ""Thank you and all of your staff for the excellent care you gave to my wonderful Abbey, who was so much a part of the family. Thank you for all the advice and support you gave to me these last few months. I don't know how I would have gotten through this without your constant support. I will, and I have highly recommended you to family and friends, as I feel you are the best!""
  • ""Thank you for taking care of my kitty, Slingshot. He is feeling better and better. My Paw-Paw said that you took extra special care of him and I really appreciate it. So, thank you again for taking care of my cat.""
    ~T.B. (age 6)
  • ""Dr. Johnson, I don't know why you decided to move here from your home in New Jersey, but I absolutely believe it was so you could help me and Mickey. I know coming to someone's home is not what a typical veterinarian would do, but you are obviously an extraordinary man in a world filled with ordinary men….On top of that, your sensitive and wonderful handwritten note arrived and touched my heart…You are one of those quiet, unheralded champions who make life easier for everyone you touch.""
  • ""Thank you so much for taking care of Lola when she had her reaction, and your office was already closed. I know you took time away from yourself and your family and I really appreciate it.""
  • ""Thank you for giving me more time with my best friend. We are all so grateful.""
  • ""Thank you for all of your support for Maxine during her illness. All was very much appreciated and will always be remembered. I have related to all my friends of what a great doctor and staff at Birdneck Animal Hospital.""
  • ""Thank you for taking such good care of me over the last 4 years. I am doing well and both legs and feet feel great. You sis an awesome job on me Dr. Johnson, and I'm gonna have a great year this year and I hope to see you only for my check up. You guys are the best!""
  • "We can't thank you enough for the wonderful and loving care you gave to"Budkus" while he was in your care. He was so little and so sick and we were so scared for him. Each and every one of the staff members made us feel like we had the only dog in the world. Like nothing else mattered except getting "Budkus" well again. Our deepest gratitude to all of you for the excellent care and attention we received, for your encouragement, comfort, and understanding, and most importantly for saving his life! Thank you so much.""
    ~ J.,B.,C.