Separation anxiety in dogs: causes and treatment


About 40% of dogs suffer separation anxiety Due to different reasons. Some of them suffer from this disorder as a result of premature weaning, while others have developed it after experiencing a traumatic situation alone, among many other causes.

Without a doubt, it is one of the most common problems and it is our responsibility to treat it to keep the animal emotionally stable. For this reason, in this article of Animal Expert we share a complete guide on separation anxiety in dogs, talking about its most common causes, the usual symptoms that lead us to an accurate diagnosis and the patterns of action. Discover how to know if your dog has separation anxiety and how to treat it.

What is separation anxiety in dogs?

Separation anxiety is defined as state of stress that reaches the dog when it does not have access to its owner. This state does not occur because the animal feels a dependence on its human, but because it is not able to manage the situation of loneliness and separation.

Thus, it is not an obsession, but a attachment link and an inability to build a balance by being alone. For the dog, its owner acts as a reference figure that guides it and provides protection, in other words, it is its secure base. When his safe base is not there, and the dog has not learned to cope with this situation, it is when stress, fear, frustration and anxiety appear, causing him to present a series of unwanted symptoms and behaviors.

However, there are different types or degrees of separation anxiety in dogs, so that some of them can be related to a relationship of hyperapego on the part of the dog and, at the same time, a bad management of the separation.

  1. Type A or primary hyperapist: It happens in dogs that have been separated from their mother and siblings prematurely. When a weaning early and, therefore, less natural, the dog has not experienced a progressive detachment, so he has not learned to be separated from his secure base (in that case his mother). Ideally, let the weaning occur naturally so that the mother teaches her puppy to be without her protection. Therefore, the best age to adopt a puppy is three months of life, both to prevent the development of this emotional disorder and to prevent problems of socialization, and behavior in general, arising from the early separation.
  2. Type B or secondary hyperapist: occurs after having spent a long time with the dog, such as after a vacation or a work leave. In this case, the dog was initially able to manage loneliness, but after experiencing that repetitive contact with his reference figure, he creates a kind of dependence that causes anxiety when his secure base is absent. On the other hand, this type of separation anxiety in dogs can also happen after a move, an abandonment or the death of their reference figure. Here, the dog has lost what for him was an important stimulus (a home or a person), feels the need for contact with his secure base and is fearful, stressed, nervous or anxious in solitude.
  3. Type C: occurs when the dog has suffered a traumatic or negative experience being alone. In this case separation anxiety manifests itself only when the stimulus that causes fear in the dog appears.

In general, a dog with separation anxiety is unable to find a balance between environment, social stimuli and reference figure when one of these elements fails. This ability to balance the different elements that are around, although one of them is absent for a certain time, is known as sensory homeostasis. A balanced can is able to maintain this balance even if its reference figure (owner) is not at home. A dog with altered sensory homeoastasis, for the above reasons, suffers from this type of anxiety.

When he is left alone at home, the dog feels threatened, in danger, and a alert state which can lead to the destruction of objects, desperate crying, etc. As the name implies, the separation over a period of time, whether short or long, between dog and owner produces in the dog a state of uncontrollable anxiety for him.

Approximately between 20 and 40% of the canine population suffers separation anxiety, being one of the most frequent reasons for consultation. In any case, it is essential to intervene and end this situation as soon as possible.

Causes of separation anxiety in dogs

Before we go into the symptoms of this type of anxiety and the possible solutions to treat it, it is important to talk about the most common causes that cause it.

As we have commented in the previous section, the premature weaning It is one of the most common reasons for the development of this disorder. Also, the home change or abandonment are also among the main causes of separation anxiety in dogs. Therefore, it is common to find these types of cases among adopted dogs, adults or the elderly, due to the separation experienced with their previous owners.

However, they are not the only reasons, so this alteration of the balance can also occur for the following reasons:

  • If you spent practically all day with your dog and, for whatever reason, you have stopped doing so, this is probably the cause. Go from always being with you to stay many hours alone at home it may have triggered the state of anxiety in type B, or secondary hyperapist, explained in the previous section.
  • In relation to the previous point, have you made any changes to your daily routine or habits? If so, this may be the reason.
  • If your dog has developed this state suddenly and without any apparent explanation, the cause may reside in a traumatic episode I experienced while alone at home. The relationship that the dog establishes is very simple: without its secure base, something negative has happened, so that the situation of loneliness is now insecure and, therefore, he feels fear and anxiety when he is now alone.

Once diagnosed separation anxiety it is essential to treat it to restore emotional stability to the dog, since he has a really bad time being alone. But how is it diagnosed?

Very simple, ensuring that the dog manifests the symptoms only in the absence of the owner. These signs should show them as long as he is alone, including short departures.

Although not all, most dogs with separation anxiety show nervousness and anxiety when their safe base leaves, despite the fact that there is another person at home or not in the family nucleus.

Symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs

Anxiety is distinguished by a series of strange or abnormal dog behaviors that we can easily glimpse. However, sometimes they can be confused with the symptoms of other problems. Therefore, to know them better and learn to identify them without error, we will separate them into two groups: the symptoms that the dog shows during the separation and the associated signs that it presents before or after.

During separation, the dog with this type of anxiety can show productive symptoms or deficit symptoms. The productive ones are the following:

  • Destructive behavior. When he is left alone at home, he can destroy objects, furniture and even spread the garbage.
  • Excessive barking, whining, groans and, depending on the breed of the dog, you may even howl when you are alone.
  • Urinate and / or defecate indoors, especially near the exit door, although you can also do it throughout the home. In well-trained dogs, accustomed to doing their needs on the street, this unusual behavior may be the key that indicates that something is happening.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea. In severe cases of anxiety, it is possible to see these symptoms, although they are not usually very frequent.

As for the deficit symptoms that a dog with separation anxiety can develop by being alone, are:

  • Stop eating.
  • Not drink anything.
  • Ignore toys, even food dispensers.

It is possible that a dog only experiences this type of symptoms, making it difficult for its owners to identify the problem. However, in these cases it is common to see that the dog eats a lot or drinks a lot of water after its owner has returned home. This behavior may be strange, but if we think that he has been able to spend all day without eating and drinking, it is totally justified.

Following the symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs, we now go with the associated signs, which usually occur before or after departures:

  • Anticipatory anxiety. The dog identifies the steps prior to departure and before the separation occurs it shows nervous, cries, groans or barks, follows the human everywhere and tries to get his attention.
  • Exaggerated reception. It is possible that even before your caregiver enters the home the dog is already barking, jumping or scratching the door as a greeting. Once inside, he continues to be nervous, jumps and performs various vocalizations, typical of an exaggerated greeting. Depending on the dog, it can last more or less and, even, it is possible that some drops of urine may escape from the same emotion.

If we have detected that our dog has any of these symptoms, or all, we must take him to the vet to make sure that it is separation anxiety, and is not the product of a physical abnormality or internal pathology. Likewise, it is possible to confuse the symptoms with the signs shown as a consequence of other problems, making a wrong diagnosis. The most common cases in which this occurs are the following:

  • Lack of stimulation. Boredom, lack of exercise, non-development of exploratory behavior, etc., cause the dog to destructive behavior, which is often confused with the symptoms of separation anxiety.
  • Excess stimulation. Listening to other dogs barking, the bell of the house or that of the neighbors, the neighbors themselves speaking or entering their house, etc., can cause the dog to become nervous and bark, cry or howl. In general, it relates to a lack of socialization.

How to correct separation anxiety in dogs? - Guidelines to follow

The treatment of separation anxiety in dogs comprises different factors. On the one hand, it is indispensable identify the cause to correct it, since to eliminate it it is necessary to act on the root of the problem. On the other hand, it is important to work the symptoms to reduce anxiety as much as possible and treat, more effectively, the underlying cause. Thus, in general, the protocol of action usually includes the following guidelines:

  • Behavior modification techniques.
  • Biological therapy through drugs or pheromones.

The behavior modification techniques They are not always easy to execute, so especially in the most serious cases, we recommend going to a canine educator or ethologist. That said, let's see what these guidelines are for treating separation anxiety in dogs.

1. Modify the relationship with your dog

As we have said, the main problem of this type of anxiety is the lack of self-control and the inability to manage loneliness. For this reason, reinforcing the dog when it is in a state of nervousness (before leaving or arriving) or while presenting any of the symptoms mentioned, is totally counterproductive. Thus, it is essential to consider these recommendations:

  • Don't pay attention until it shows completely calm. While excited or trying to get your attention, ignore it. Remember that a simple look or a "No" is not a corrective act, it is an involuntary reinforcement that worsens your condition and, therefore, your hyperapist.
  • Don't come in again If you hear it starts to bark, cry or howl as soon as you leave. Again, it is a reinforcement, since the dog through that behavior achieves what he wants, which is your presence. Even if it costs, ignore it and continue with your exit. In this sense, talking with the neighbors so that they understand that you are in the process of treatment to correct the problem and notify them of your dog's vocalizations, can be of great help.
  • Increase game sessions and physical exercise. This will allow you to better manage the handling you should have with your dog, favoring your ability to ignore it in its constant attention calls, and help the animal feel more stimulated. This is not a technique that treats separation anxiety by itself, but it does make work easier.

2. Work on your salt signals>

Until recently, it was considered that one of the guidelines to be followed to correct separation anxiety in dogs was that of prevent the dog from anticipating departures. This method consisted of performing the usual exit rituals during the day, such as taking the keys or putting on the coat, but without getting out in order to minimize the predictive value of the march, considering that in this way the The dog would avoid being anxious or stressed when he sensed that his caregivers were about to leave. However, recent studies reveal that these guidelines do not benefit dogs as previously believed, but rather keep them in a constant state of anxiety, precisely because they are not able to control when their humans will be absent. In other words, a dog that expects its owner to go out may be anxious during those minutes in which the person prepares to leave and be calm the rest of the day (when accompanied). However, a dog that does not know when his humans will leave him alone, can be nervous all day, waiting for the moment to occur because he doesn't know it. This last case, we could say that the dog is in a state of chronic anxiety.

Studies indicate that, being the predictability one of the psychological factors that directly affect the body's response to stress, the fact enhance the predictability of the outputs It benefits dogs that suffer from separation anxiety because it allows them to know when their humans will march and when they will not, making them also control when they can be relaxed and calm.

After seeing all the above about predictability, the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs should not be based on eliminating exit signals, but quite the opposite. Thus, we recommend continuing the usual exit ritual. Of course, in addition to working on your signals, it is essential that you modify certain aspects of your exit routine, like the ones we set out below:

  • Ignore the dog 15 minutes before leaving to avoid reinforcing it involuntarily and worsen your state of anxiety.
  • When you return home, ignore it completely, so that don't greet him until he's relaxed and quiet If you greet him as soon as he arrives, again unconsciously you are reinforcing anxious behaviors.

3. Make small salt>

Performing exit signs without getting out keeps the dog in a state of chronic anxiety, however, carrying out small real exits during the day itself can allow you to work on the separation anxiety of the dog, help you manage loneliness better and get him to understand that his humans will return.

Thus, it is highly recommended to schedule a series of departures throughout the day to start desensitizing it, which we will call "false departures". What does this mean? That from here will begin the treatment that will help the animal to manage the separation. For this, experts recommend introduce a new signal, such as placing an object on the door handle, just before leaving. At first, this new signal should only be used when false outputs are made, so it will not be used when you must leave to go to work, for example. In this way, the dog understands that this exit is part of the training and that, in a short period of time, his humans will return, allowing him to stay more relaxed. The steps to follow They are as follows:

  • At first, make very short departures, for a maximum of five minutes, when you go out, stay for a little while and come back in. Remember to place the exit signal before leaving.
  • Make these false trips as many times as you can per day so that the dog gets used to it, understand that you always come back and understand that staying alone is not negative.
  • Over time, it progressively lengthens the minutes In those who are outside. At this point, you can intersperse fake five-minute departures with fake departures a little longer, 10 or 15 minutes. Of course, if lengthening the exits the animal shows the symptoms again, it means that so far you have done the guidelines well, but that you have lengthened the time too quickly, so you will have to take a step back to practice again short departures
  • As the dog gets used, reduce the number of false outputs.
  • For long absences, of 8 hours or more, or for holiday periods, during treatment it is advisable to leave the dog with a trusted person or a canine residence that knows how to deal with this type of disorders.

Once you get the dog to remain calm for an entire hour, that is, without showing symptoms of separation anxiety, you can use the false exit signal also in real exits. It is essential that all changes be made progressively and, above all, that you be consistent with the training. If you break with the treatment without having obtained the desired results, it will be as if you had not done anything and your dog will continue to manifest separation anxiety.

4. Maintain a stimulated environment in your absence

Although your home may seem comfortable for you, is it for your dog? Do you have enough stimuli to keep you entertained in your absence? Do you usually turn off the light when you leave? To reduce as much as possible the anxiety of your furry friend, it is essential to complement the above guidelines with an appropriate environment. But how should it be?

    The space should be as close as possible.

5. Use a camera to watch your dog

We currently have cameras that allow us to monitor our animals when we are not at home. In this way, it is much easier to establish an appropriate action protocol and verify whether the established guidelines are working or should we modify them. The Furbo camera It is one of them, which stands out for its image quality and features in general, designed to see and interact with dogs. This camera allows us to:

  • Check through a mobile application how the animal is in our absence even at night, since it has night vision.
  • Throw candy to reward the dog when it deserves it, although this functionality is not recommended during treatment for separation anxiety.
  • Talk to our dog. This functionality is also not recommended during treatment because it can cause stress in the animal upon hearing but not seeing us.
  • Identify that you are barking, since it has an alert system that is activated when the barking is heard. When noticing them, we do not advise doing anything, but we do take note of the moment in which they have started and why, since it can help us adapt the treatment.

Since some of the functionalities are not advised during the treatment, what is the camera for? Very simple, it is a really good and recommended instrument to verify the effectiveness of established guidelines, find patterns of action that allow us to better identify the cause of anxiety and adapt the treatment to obtain better results.

Bibliography consulted

«The behavior of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) during separation from and reunion with the owner: a questionnaire and an experimental study». Veronika Konok, Antal Dóka, Adam Miklósi. 2011. Applied Animal Behavior Science

"The effect of time left alone at home on dog welfare." Theres Rehn, Linda J. Keeling. 2010. Applied Animal Behavior Science

"Influence of Owners’ Attachment Style and Personality on Their Dogs ’(Canis Familiaris) Separation-Related Disorder." Veronika Konok et al. 2015. Plos One

"Frequency of nonspecific clinical signs in dogs with separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobia, and noise phobia, alone or in combination". Karen L. Overall, Arthur E. Dunham, Diane Frank. 2001. JAVMA, Vol 219, No 4. August 15, 2001

"Separation axiety in dogs: the implications of predictability and contextual fear for behavioural treatment". M. Amat, T. Camps, S. Le Brench, X. Manteca. 2014. Animal Welfare

"Risk factors associated with behavioral problems in dogs." Angela González Martínez, Germán Santamarina Pernas, Fco Javier Diéguez Casalta, M. Luisa Suárez Rey, Luis Felipe de la Cruz Palomino. 2011. Journal of Veterinary Behavior

«Manual of Canine Ethology», Pablo Hernández. Servet Publishing, 2012

6. Be patient and be constant

Correcting separation anxiety in adult dogs is not easy or fast, so you should be aware that you will not get results in two weeks. Patience and perseverance will be your best allies in the whole process, so it is essential that you do not break the established guidelines, as we have already recommended, and that go to a professional if you need it. If the months pass and your dog remains the same, it is possible that some of the guidelines are not being applied correctly, or that your dog needs a different protocol of action that only an educator or ethologist can determine after assessing the case personally.

Pharmacological treatment for separation anxiety in dogs

The use of synthetic drugs or pheromones They can help speed up the recovery process because they temporarily reduce the dog's stress. In this way, they allow you to work much better on the cause of the problem and on the symptoms.

Especially in cases of separation anxiety in puppies, the diffuser pheromones They help establish a relaxed environment in our absence because the smell emitted is equal to that of the mother. In adult dogs it does not always work, but it is advisable to try it.

Regarding the use of drugs for separation anxiety, it is important to remember that both these products and pheromones they don't treat the problem, but fight the stress produced, which is one of the main symptoms. In this way, we do not recommend to base the treatment solely on them, because when withdrawing them the dog will continue to suffer the same symptoms. Therefore, they should be a complement to behavior modification techniques that help to work better with the animal by reducing that state of stress. Little by little, they must be withdrawn.

We can administer drugs such as the following, although the veterinarian should always prescribe them:

Before acquiring any of the mentioned drugs, it is essential go to the vet to approve its use after evaluating the health status of the dog and indicate how to administer them correctly.

Is it good to adopt another dog to treat separation anxiety?

Roundly NO. As we have explained throughout the article, the problem lies in an inability to manage loneliness due to the relationship established with the owner, so that introducing another dog will not change anything. The dog with anxiety will continue to develop stress when separation occurs, regardless of whether he has the company of another dog or not.

On the other hand, since anxiety is not treated and the dog continues to show the usual symptoms, there is a risk that the new can decide to imitate it, resulting in a double problem. Therefore, if you want to adopt another dog, even if it is not to treat separation anxiety from the current one, rate your particular case very well and act thinking about what is best for the dog that already lives with you.

Common mistakes when treating separation anxiety

During the article we have already pointed out some of the most common mistakes that should be avoided in the treatment of separation anxiety. However, below we will review all of them and add some more:

  • Punish the dog by showing any of the symptoms.
  • Greet him when he is overexcited.
  • Define it in a small space or in a cage. This not only does not address the problem, it makes it worse.
  • Wear an anti-drip collar. Nor does he treat anxiety, it worsens his state of fear and stress because, in addition, he cannot express his feelings.
  • Add a new animal.
  • Not exercise.
  • Not be constant in the treatment.
  • Abuse drug treatment.
  • Do not enrich the environment.
  • Do not leave water available for fear of urination at home.
  • Not treat the cause and base the action protocol solely on reducing symptoms (barking or destruction).
  • Do not go to a professional in the most serious cases.

This article is purely informative, at we have no power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any kind of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian in case he presents any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Separation anxiety in dogs - Symptoms and treatmentWe recommend that you enter our section on Mental Problems.

The solution goes through a change in the conditioning of the pet

Destructive behaviors such as tearing furniture, shoes or even remote controls, loud barking or stools in inappropriate places are symptom unambiguous that the pet suffers separation syndrome.

According to József Topál in the text ‘Attachment behavior in dogs’, in the same way that a child suffers anxiety as they separate from their parents, the companion animal experiences a similar reaction with humans. This response is based on the emotional relationship between the two.

Also, the study developed by Veronika Konok and other authors, indicates that this phenomenon occurs in the absence of the owner or when the dog has limited access to it. Research indicates that in both species there are individuals with a lower threshold in the activation of the attachment system that makes them develop a separation response that is inadequate.

How it originates

Than a dog follow its owner around the house when he senses that he is going to leave it is normal, but if he starts whine, go and come, gasp or tremble probably suffer separation syndrome.

“Although most feel emotional attachment with their owners, those who present anxiety they develop it more than the less anxious ones, ”said psychologist Rebecca Sargisson in her article Canine Separation Anxiety.

It is estimated that 20% of the canine population suffers from this condition, triggered by various factors. “Sometimes it develops due to experience in protective, kennels or laboratories. But also in pets of elderly or sick people who are suddenly missing. It is also common in those separated from the litter at a very young age, ”says psychologist and therapist specializing in animal behavior, Annalisa Tantini, a psychologist specializing in animal behavior and collaborating in Animal Space.

However, one of the most frequent factors originates in the relationship that the human establishes with the pet. In the words of psychologist Anders Hallgren: “Physiologically, people and dogs are very similar and their stress reactions are often identical. We can understand the reactions of our dogs much better when we are fully aware of ours. ”

Beyond the annoying consequences that the excessive reaction causes in the environment, these mild primary symptoms, they can cause emotional and physiological problems in the animal in the medium term.

“Some of the most common sequels are the strong depression, gastrointestinal disorders, self-mutilation, immune system problems, dermatological, etc. We are talking about an alarming situation on a physical and emotional level, ”warns the animal behavior therapist.

In addition, this disorder is associated with a greater sensitivity to loud noises Like fireworks and storms. According to the study ‘Behavioral disorders related to anxiety and neurotransmitters in dogs’, these are more likely to be aggressive towards their owners or strangers and develop phobias or compulsive behaviors.

Solve the problem

There are several techniques with which separation anxiety can be worked on. But nevertheless, the first step is self-assessment from the owner to understand his emotions and those of his pet. “Without a balanced relationship, by that I mean the formation of a bond made of respect and trust, the other techniques will only help if the emotional bond is resolved. In the In most cases, when we have an overreacted dog, the owner also manifests anxiety and dependence.”, Emphasizes Lisa.

The fundamental thing is consult the problem with an ethologist or a positive educator and therapist. “As always, prevention is important. It is more difficult for a dog with a good knowledge of its environment, with self-confidence, environmental enrichment and with adequate stimulation to be in this situation, ”he adds.

It is important cease punishments, as it has been shown that they can be adverse. The most effective is systematic desensitization and counterconditioning. In this line, the expert recommends accustom the animal to being alone, making scheduled departures.

Sargisson maintains that initially the periods must be very short, returning almost immediately and gradually increase the time of absence. It also affects that Before leaving the house, the dog should be fed to associate the separation with the positive experience of eating.

"There is drugs that help control these problems although it has been shown that complementary therapies, such as floral, cranial sacral, Tellington Touch, acupuncture and kinesiology, offer very effective help, ”recommends Tantini.

What is separation anxiety?

It is a very common problem. It is estimated that affects 15% of dogs since, genetically, they are prepared to live in a pack and not separate from it. Cuando esto ocurre, el animal siente ansiedad que no desaparece hasta que los miembros de la familia y, en especial, el 'guía' llega a casa. Según el grado de estrés que experimente, puede manifestarlo ladrando, aúllando, destrozando muebles, haciéndose pis, defecando y/o salivando.

Todos estos síntomas pueden desencadenarse desde el mismo momento en que el dueño sale por la puerta o al cabo de unos minutos. También puede ocurrir cuando se supone que los dueños ya deberíamos estár en casa pero nos retrasamos. Por ejemplo, si la hora de llegada suele darse en torno a las 14 horas y aún no hemos llegado, el animal puede empezar a manifestar su estrés y ansiedad.

"He perro es un animal altamente social. ands capaz de formar un vínculo muy fuerte con la especie humana, por lo que se podría decir que su tendencia natural sería considerar la separación del grupo como una situación antinatural o negativa", explica la veterinaria y especialista en etología, Gemma López Aguado, de Kivet Sant Pere de Ribes en Barcelona, centro colaborador de Kiwoko.

Teniendo esto en cuenta, los principales factores predisponentes a la ansiedad por separación en perros son:

  • Apego excesivo hacia su propietario o familia. Algunos perros crean una dependencia demasiado fuerte. Seguir al dueño, solicitar atención y contacto físico continuado suelen ser algunas de las conductas típicas de estas mascotas.
  • Destete precoz y experiencias traumáticas durante las primeras semanas de vida del animal. Los cachorros que son separados antes de las 8 semanas de edad, cuando la madre no les ha podido enseñar todavía a gestionar la separación, pueden manifestar esta ansiedad.
  • Experiencias negativas durante alguna ausencia del propietario. Por ejemplo, ruidos de tormenta, petardos. En definitiva, sustos en los que desarrollan fobia a quedarse solos en un futuro.
  • Cambios en el entorno del animal. Cambios de horarios de trabajo de los propietarios, regreso al trabajo después de una baja laboral, mudanzas, llegada de un nuevo miembro a la familia o desaparición de alguno, ya sea humano canino o felino.

¿Qué debemos hacer para tratarla?

  • Entender la raíz del problema. Hay que comprender que el animal no actúa de un modo rencoroso, desobediente o de castigo hacia nosotros por haberlo dejado solo. Su conducta responde a un estado anímico de ansiedad y que, por tanto, sus actos son involuntarios y van encaminados a librarse de esa ansiedad.
  • Modificar el entorno. Establecer una rutina y hábitos de paseos rigurosos, así como medidas para entretener y estimular, sobretodo mentalmente al animal, a base de juego y ejercicio físico suficiente, adaptado a la necesidad de cada animal.
  • Terapia de modificación de conducta. Es el pilar del tratamiento. Consiste en enseñar al perro a permanecer solo de manera relajada. Se recrean una serie de salidas ficticias a las que asociamos una situación agradable para el animal. De manera muy gradual, el animal va tolerando permanecer solo, ya que aprende que no se trata de una situación negativa para él.
  • Feromonoterapia. Se trata de acompañar la terapia con productos a base de feromonas apaciguadoras y otros relajantes, orientados a reducir los niveles de ansiedad en el perro. No son fármacos y por lo tanto no tienen contraindicaciones. Pero es aconsejable utilizarlo con el consejo de un veterinario y leerse el prospecto.
  • Terapia con psicofármacos. En ocasiones en los que al animal sufre ansiedad muy intensa, es necesario medicar para conseguir reducir los niveles y permitir el aprendizaje. La terapia farmacológica no sustituye al resto de estrategias, siempre debe ser complementaria al tratamiento de modificación de conducta y debe llevarse a cabo por un veterinario etólogo clínico.


Lo mejor como siempre es prevenir, aunque no siempre vamos a poder evitar que se desarrolle este problema. Tenemos que conseguir que el perro no esté excesivamente apegado a sus guías o que tenga un apego inseguro y se le debe acostumbrar a quedarse solo. Una de las opciones es hacer salidas graduales, aprovechando ejercicios con las señales de sentado y quieto o practicando que permanezca tranquilo en “su sitio” o cama mientras nos vamos alejando progresivamente, hasta llegar a conseguir salir fuera de su campo de visión e incluso llegar a salir de casa.

Cuando nos marchemos de casa no debemos decirle nada al perro, sobre todo si nos ha estado siguiendo durante nuestros preparativos previos a la salida y notamos que está nervioso o triste.

Cuando regresemos a casa no es adecuado reforzar los saludos demasiado efusivos, es mejor hacer un saludo corto y neutro para que el perro sea consciente de que le hemos visto pero que no aumente su alteración. Después ignoramos al perro hasta que se haya calmado, ya en algunos perros el ser ignorados completamente nada más llegar a casa, eleva su ansiedad. Una vez que esté tranquilo, le llamaremos y le saludaremos pero seguiremos teniendo en cuenta su nivel de excitación para regular las interacciones. Esto también es muy útil para evitar que moleste a las visitas, a las que podría no gustarles que le salten encima, etc. En algunos casos puede ayudar indicarle una señal estática como sentarse o tumbarse, pero no se puede recomendar de forma general hay que evaluar cada caso, ya que algunos perros al tener que “contenerse” en esa posición, se alteran más y cuando se les libera, detonan más excitación todavía. Además, estas señales deberían se entrenadas en lineas de adiestramiento en positivo y estar relacionadas con reforzadores y con calma, ya que si se utiliza presión para enseñarlas, cuando se las pidamos no ayudarán a la calma, probablemente tendrán el efecto contrario.

Sería una buena idea facilitarle un lugar al perro que sea exclusivo para él y donde se sienta seguro. Con juguetes, un sitio donde dormir y donde nadie le moleste. Ahí se le podría dar un juguete especial, para que se entretenga, un poco antes de que vayamos a salir. Así no nos seguirá por las casa y podremos salir tranquilamente. El juguete especial debe ser algo que le encante, y es muy recomendable que sea algo que pueda morder (existen juguetes comerciales que se pueden rellenar de comida o se pueden hacer caseros, como un hueso con hueco dentro, también relleno).


Si aparecen los síntomas anteriores, para tratar el problema lo mejor sería ponerse en contacto con un especialista en comportamiento canino, para que diagnostique correctamente el problema y proponga unas pautas a seguir para la modificación de la conducta. Hay que tener en cuenta que a veces puede deberse a otras causas, por ejemplo, si orina en casa puede ser porque le hayamos dejado demasiado tiempo en casa o porque tenga algún problema en las vías urinarias, como una cistitis. Por eso sería adecuado que los profesionales que ayudaran al guía fueran un veterinario en primer término para descartar problemas físicos, posteriormente un especialista en comportamiento canino para diagnosticar el problema de forma correcta y la ultima parte debería estar en manos de un educador canino o terapeuta del comportamiento, para explicar dudas prácticas al guía respecto al trabajo de behavior modification y ayudar a ponerlo en marcha de la forma correcta, de esta forma tendríamos un equipo multidisciplinar que velaría mejor por nuestros intereses.

The behavior modification consiste en disminuir el apego del perro a los guías, enseñándole a quedarse solo (salidas programadas y graduales), a no anticipar la salida del guía (que no pueda saber si el guía va a salir o no), relajarse y seguir las indicaciones del guía.

Es importante tener en cuenta que una vez iniciada la behavior modification el problema no se puede volver a producir, sino tendremos picos de resultados y el proceso se alargaría excesivamente, por eso comentamos anteriormente que si el perro no demuestra los síntomas del problema en nuestro coche (asegurándonos que la temperatura sea correcta), es una de las opciones que tenemos para dejarlo cuando nos tengamos que marchar de casa. Si no tendremos que utilizar la agenda y pedir que alguien se quede con él mientras dura el proceso. Imaginen que están avanzando gradualmente y le dejan solo un minuto, cinco minutos, diez minutos… y todo va funcionando bien, pero de pronto nos marchamos y le dejamos ocho horas solo porque nos tenemos que marchar a trabajar. ¿Creen que lo asimilaría correctamente? Si no quedará más remedio porque no tuviéramos la posibilidad de dejarle con alguien durante el proceso, se podría utilizar una señal segura que indique al perro que se va a quedar solo más tiempo, para que pudiera ser consciente de lo que va a suceder, quitáramos el componente de imprevisibilidad, que es una de las cosas que le puede alterar más y separáramos esa salida de la modificación de conducta gradual.

El tratamiento contra la separation anxiety suele consistir en behavior modification y en ocasiones tratamiento farmacológico (según la gravedad del problema, aunque es muy frecuente que algunos profesionales mediquen en exceso, porque la anxiety impide al animal recoger datos del ambiente físico o social que le capaciten a desarrollar respuestas adecuadas y la medicación le ayuda a conseguirlo, haciendo que el problema se pueda resolver antes). Nosotros apostamos más por los tratamientos complementarios, para evitar tener que utilizar farmacología y consiguiendo los mismos resultados, solo la utilizamos en los casos que vemos totalmente imprescindible su uso, pero son la minoría). Nunca se medica sin hacer behavior modification (si se retira la medicación el problema volvería a aparecer).

Mejorar la relación con el guía a través del ejercicios de educación básica, siempre en líneas de adiestramiento en positivo para fomentar la relajación a través de las señales. Nos ayudará a mejorar determinadas situaciones como conseguir aumentar el control sobre la señal de quieto hasta poder dejarle solo fuera de nuestra vista y en otra habitación. Aquí entra en juego otra vez el educador canino.

No se debe permitir que el perro obtenga la atención con exigencia. Siempre que nuestro perro consigue lo que quiere cada vez que empuja o gimotea, es más probable que esté ansioso cuando está solo y no pueda conseguir atención social. Los guías deben saber que pueden prestar al perro la atención que deseen, pero esto debe ser siempre según un criterio marcado por el educador canino, para reforzar estados de calma y tranquilidad.

The separation anxiety, pese a ser un problema molesto, es uno de los behavioral problems que mejor se resuelve, incluso sin medicación, siempre y cuando la behavior modification se haga correctamente.

¿Qué puede empeorar la situación?

Al igual que podemos adoptar estrategias que pueden llegar a erradicar este problema, algunas reacciones o costumbres de los propios dueños que no harán más que empeorar la situación por tanto, hay que cambiarlas en beneficio de nuestra mascota. For example:

    No castigues. Si al llegar a casa encontramos destrozos o que se ha hecho pis y caca, no hay que castigarle porque no sabe qué está pasando. De hecho, aunque el animal adopte una postura de sumisión para intentar apaciguar al propietario y lo interpretemos como una señal de culpabil >Por lo tanto, las tendencias actuales recomiendan hacer todo lo contrario. "Se aconseja ser más predecibles y enviar señales o pistas que le permitan anticipar que nos vamos a ir, incluso incluir otras más claras. Se ha demostrado, que poder predecir una situación desagradable reduce los niveles de estrés", señala la experta. "Si sabes que algo malo va a ocurrir, es menos estresante saber al menos cuándo va a suceder, lo que permite, en cierta manera, adaptarte o anticiparte a la situación", añade.

Juguetes y complementos

La educación, la terapia y corregir algunos de nuestras costumbres puede ayudar al animal a reducir su nivel de estrés y, en definitiva, a sentirse mejor. Pero además, podemos servirnos de ayuda extra. En la actualidad, disponemos de juguetes y complementos que pueden ayudarnos a vencer la ansiedad por separación de nuestra mascota. Por ejemplo, podemos echar mano de "juguetes interactivos, es decir objetos que podemos rellenar con comida (tipo Kong), huesos para que mastique, o juegos de olfato de búsqueda de comida en los que el animal deba utilizar su ingenio para poder obtener el premio. Además estará un buen rato entretenido", aconseja la especialista.

Sin embargo, en muchas ocasiones "este tipo de actividades sirven más como prevención del desarrollo de ansiedad por separación y como parte de su enriquecimiento del entorno que como ayuda en el momento de quedarse solo, ya que según el grado de ansiedad, mucho animales dejan de comer en estas circunstancias", señala. Por ello, si el problema persiste y no conseguimos reducir su nivel de estrés con la pautas anteriore, lo más conveniente es que se acuda lo antes posible al veterinario para no agravar la situación.

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