Separation Anxiety: A View from Both Sides

Canine behavior specialists know that separation anxiety can be a challenging behavior problem to “fix” due to the level of owner compliance and commitment required, and because of the nature of the problem itself. I’ve worked with a large number of dogs with separation issues over the years, and have been able to help in the majority of cases. But never did I truly understand what owners are living with until I adopted Sierra.

Sierra, as some of you already know, came to us from the Lancaster shelter in southern California, an overcrowded shelter in the middle of the desert. Sierra (as we named her), a young husky mix, had been brought in as a stray; this was her fourth time being impounded. Once we brought her home it quickly became apparent why she’d been in the shelter so often—she had an unfortunate combination of severe separation distress and Houdini-like escape skills. I spent the next six months working on the separation issue, and let me tell you, there is no teacher like personal experience. Sure, I had a list of techniques and ideas for my clients, and had always tried to be as supportive as possible. But the day-to-day challenges of living with a dog who has a separation issue was something else entirely. It gave me a whole new empathy for owners.

When the problem had first become apparent, my husband turned to me and said, “You know what this is, don’t you? It’s your next book.” Having enjoyed a brief respite from writing, I said something along the lines of, “Hah!” and dismissed the idea. But the more deeply I delved into working with Sierra’s issues, and the more creative I had to be, the more strongly I felt that owners would benefit from more in-depth help than what was currently available in print. And so I finally wrote, “Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety.” If you’d like to view the Table of Contents, full Introduction, and lovely testimonials from Dr. Ian Dunbar and Suzanne Clothier, go to

By the way, that’s Sierra on the cover. I was lucky enough to capture that shot of her looking out the window. I love the longing expression in her eyes, although it’s almost painful to see. But hey, going from four-time shelter dog to cover girl, not bad! I sincerely hope the book will be helpful to dog owners and trainers alike, as it’s an issue that’s close to my heart. Oh, and the book is now available for pre-order, with books expected to arrive at Phantom Publishing late next week! Hope you’ll enjoy it and find it useful.

Products from Nicole Wilde



Nicole your timing with this book couldn't be better! I have several books on separation anxiety but when it came down to dealing with my own case I needed more solutions than slow desensitization and dog daycare/sitters! I will be sure to order a copy. This issue seems to be becoming more prevalent in my area.

Jade Robertson

Owner & Trainer, Where's Your Sit?

I think, too often, as trainers we teach from a bit of a distance. Experience changes that.

I love that you willingly state "Hey, yikes, it's a very different thing when you have to live with this stuff on a daily basis"

I learned a ton of lessons from my shelter pooch who spent two years in a cage after being picked up as a stray.

Well done..I am  truly looking forward to reading your latest book.




When I was a kid we had a beagle with SA and 'good' ideas on how to solve it. To start with she would try to tunnel through doors, but she soon worked out it was more efficient to open doors, or windows, or gates, or tunnel out of the garden, and then just go for a stroll until she found some nice people. The back of the school kitchens perhaps, or a fairground with lots of discarded fast food. Perhaps the worst shock we got was when we came home to find her balancing on an upstairs windowsill!

In her old age she would still tunnel through to next door's garden, but go no further. Our tortoise would share her escape tunnels.

Sometimes I say my own labs have contributed more to my training skills than books and seminars lol. Yes, nothing like having to work through a complex issue to give empathy and understanding to clients. Any person who commits to a dog with severe separation anxiety needs to be blessed. We are often only called after a dog has routinely been destroying a house for months. Can`t wait to read a fresh look at a complex issue.

Leslie Fisher PMCT CPDT-KA Look What I Can Do! Dog Training Where There Are No BAD Dogs, Just Dogs That Don`t Know WHAT To Do.

Adopted a great mellow JRT 2 weeks before I went to APDT in Atlanta.  I supected some seperation issues.  Now we are back together again and getting into a routine and yes, he has separation anxiety.  Yikes.  Working on the protocol that I have recommended to clients.   Sure looking forward to your new book Nicole, I would love some fresh ideas.  


Juliet Whitfield Durango Dogs Durango, Colorado


I have fostered just over 20 dogs and each has come with their own unique issues.  Many have been puppy mill rescues and many have been abused pit bulls.  In October of 2008 I got a five year old pit bull foster that had severe seperation anxiety.  He had chewed through sheet rock and drywall in his last home ripping out his own teeth in the process and he had also climbed an eight-foot chainlink fence with a hot wire around the top.  I knew what I was getting into with this guy (or so I thought) and since I am a trainer, the rescue thought I could "fix him".  I had had several clients with dogs with SA and had advised on how to work with it but none of that prepared me for Mr. Enzo.  I got a crate that looked like a lion's cage so he would be safe if I ever had to leave him and worked every day with him for at least four months.  He started into his crying/whining/Wookie-sounds/pacing/drooling routine when I would put on my socks (socks led to shoes led to coat led to keys which led to HUMAN LEAVING?!?!?!?)  It was a slow process but in January of 2009 I adopted him and today when I leave for work he rarely gets out of his recliner.

I can't wait to read your new book Nicole!  Thank you!!!

Kendra Coatney Dempster

Uploaded with <a target='_blank' href=''></a>

I am really looking forward to the new book, any ideas when it will e available in Europe?




Bettina Alfaro