First, I'm no expert. I have not been trained in dealing with separation anxiety in dogs. What I have is a Greyhound, Twiggy, who has/had separation anxiety. I say both has and had because I believe separation anxiety is something you manage, not necessarily cure. It can definitely be minimized, but if not always managed it will probably rear it's ugly head over and over.
I get asked a lot about what I did to help Twiggy (and myself) with her separation anxiety, so I'll be sharing a few tips that worked for me over the upcoming weeks. I can't promise they will work for everyone. This is just what I did to help, and for me, it did work.
My first tip to share is to remove the triggers. Triggers are the events that occur which set off a dog's separation anxiety (my definition, not Webster's). Twiggy had several triggers and I chose to work on each one individually. Her biggest one was keys. Whenever she heard keys she would start to get nervous. To her, the sound of keys signaled that we were leaving. She was going to be alone. Grabbing my purse and coat were also triggers, but we worked on keys first.
How did I remove the keys trigger? First, I set aside real time to address it. I started on a weekend where I could devote an extended period of time to re-programming her reaction to keys. I spent about a half hour period a couple times a day for several days in a row. Then, when the week got busy, I supplemented with 10 - 15 minutes a day, and I did that for a while. Re-programming a behavior is not like training a dog to sit. It will take immense patience. (Sometimes I questioned whether I had the patience with Twiggy so I recommend having a friend or other dog lover to talk to. It just helps you feel better about slow progress.)
How did I re-program her? With repetitiveness. I would go get my keys and move them. If I was sitting in the family room I would stand up, go in the kitchen, grab the keys, take them to the living room and put them on a table and then go sit back down in the family room. After a couple minutes I would do it again, only this time I would go get the keys where I left them and bring them back to where they hung in the kitchen, and then go sit down again. I did this over and over and over, always moving the keys around and also moving around where I would sit. All of this was to stop her brain from associating the noise of keys to me leaving.
Once it seemed like she was no longer paying close attention to me moving they keys around, which took many days. I don't even remember how many. More than 2 weeks but less than 10. In other words, every dog is different and if you try this don't have an expectation for how long it will take. Just do it over and over and hopefully you start to see results. So, once the keys noise didn't seem to trigger her anxiety, I started getting the keys and leaving the house. Not completely. I would go out the front door and then walk in the garage door. Or go out the garage door and then walk in the front door. My total time "away" from the house was probably 20 seconds...at first. I worked myself up to about 5 minutes before I implemented my next phase of re-programming. Come back to hear more tips and how I implemented them.
My suggestion to anyone dealing with separation anxiety is to set small goals. Take one trigger and focus on it for an extended period of time. When you think you've made great progress, focus on it for another 2 weeks. Don't be upset by set backs and don't give up.