Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety in dogs is triggered when dogs become upset because they are separated from their owners or people they’re attached to.

It’s sometimes hard to know if a dog is experiencing separation anxiety or if it just needs more dog training.

Why do some dogs develop separation anxiety?

Some dogs can develop separation anxiety over time due to changes in their life that unsettle them such as:

  • Change of owner/family – possibly being abandoned and then re- homed can trigger anxiety
  • Change in schedule – if a lot of time has been spent with the dog in the past then the situation has changed because of a new job or if  you’ve taken a holiday away from the dog
  • Change in the family – if a person who the dog was close to has moved home or passed away they can develop separation anxiety
Dog separation anxiety symptoms
  • Distress when leaving the house themselves and trying to stop the owners from leaving
  • Barking and howling when the owner is leaving or shortly after they have left
  • Urinating and defecating inside
  • Chewing and digging, destroying things in the house
  • Trying to get out of doors and windows
  • Over excitement when owners return home
Dog separation anxiety cures

When treating a dog with separation anxiety the goal is to try  to teach the dog to enjoy or at least tolerate being left alone. You can do this by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.

  • Providing stimulation to take their minds off the fact they are alone. A toy e.g. a Kong with food in to encourage them get the food out. This keeps them occupied for 20–30 minutes and they are getting a reward for their efforts.
  • A dog can sense when you’re about to leave and can tell by certain cues that you are leaving e.g. putting your shoes on or grabbing your keys. To reduce separation anxiety start performing these cues when you’re at home watching TV. Your dog will start to become used to you doing this and realise that when you do those things it doesn’t always mean you’re about to leave the house.
  • Start to go out for small bursts at a time and increase the length of time over a period until they become comfortable.
  • You can ease dog separation anxiety by leaving your scent in their bed, put an old top or blanket with your scent on, in there with them, it’ll make them feel more relaxed and give them a feeling that you’re not too far away.
  • Some dogs feel comforted by the sound of the radio playing in the background. A station that usually has gentle talking is ideal as opposed to one that plays loud raucous music or might have sudden bursts of sound.
  • Take your dog for a walk before you leave them for a period of time. Dog walking can help tire them out before you leave and they can sleep it off while you’re not at home.

If the separation anxiety persists seek professional help from a dog behaviourist.

Don’t punish your dog for any of the anxious behaviour as this will upset them and can make the problem worse.