Separation anxiety in dogs

Separation anxiety happens when a dog is separated from his or her owner, and it's often because they're feeling distressed. There are several reasons that dogs find it difficult to cope when left alone. Some dogs will be looking for things to do to entertain themselves while their owner is away, while others will be very upset when separated from their owner.

Research suggests that 8 out of 10 dogs will find it hard to cope when left on their own, but half of these won't show any obvious signs, so it can be very easy for owners to miss. The good news is that separation anxiety is preventable. Here's how to spot it and what to do.

Signs your dog has separation anxiety

Returning to a dog who's really happy to see you doesn't mean that he or she hasn't been suffering silently while you've been out. You may know the obvious signs of separation anxiety in dogs, such as destroying furniture or barking, but did you know that there are other signs that you may be missing?

The most common signs of separation anxiety in dogs are:

  • Destructive behaviour - often targeted at the door you left the house from, as well as chewing and destroying furniture
  • Noise - such as howling and barking
  • Toileting - weeing or pooing in the house

Other less frequent signs (that can be more easily missed) include:

  • Trembling, whining or pacing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Self-mutilation
  • Repetitive behaviour
  • Vomiting

Taking the time to check for these signs by filming your dog when they're home alone will help you spot potential issues, even if you don't believe there are any.

Is it separation anxiety or something else?

One of the main ways of distinguishing between separation-related behaviour and other behavioural disorders with similar signs is that the behaviour is in response to you leaving the house and is displayed soon after you leave. It normally starts within 30 minutes, and often, within the first few minutes.

Even if you think your dog is happy to be left alone, check every once in a while for 'hidden' signs that your dog may be distressed by filming your pet while you're out.

If you believe your dog may have separation anxiety, read our advice on how to teach your dog that it's ok to be left alone.

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