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Recognising separation-related behaviour in dogs

Separation-related behaviour (SRB) occurs when a dog is left alone. In many cases, the behaviour is a result of distress.

Research suggests that eight out of 10 dogs find it hard to cope when left alone. Yet, half won't show any obvious signs and so it can be easy for owners to miss. The good news is that separation anxiety (SRB) is preventable and treatable.

8 out of 10 dogs don't cope when left alone graphic image with dog

Identifying separation anxiety

You may know the obvious signs of SRB in dogs, such as destroying furniture or barking. Yet, did you know that there are other signs that may go unnoticed?

The most common signs of separation-related behaviours in dogs are:

  • Destructive behaviour, including chewing and destroying furniture, (often near exits, doors or windows) 
  • Howling, barking, whining
  • Toileting (weeing or pooing)
  • Excessive excitement upon your return
  • Signs of anxiety before you leave

Other less common (and easy to miss) signs include:

  • Trembling, panting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Self-injury (e.g. signs of excessive paw licking or tail biting) 
  • Repetitive behaviour (circling, pacing, barking)
  • Vomiting
  • Not eating (meals, treats or engaging with food toys) when you're out

How separation anxiety differs from other health issues

One of the main differences between SRB and other disorders is that it's caused by being left alone. Behaviour shows before or after the owner leaves, starting within a few to 30 minutes.

Underlying health issues can cause or contribute to the development or worsening of SRB. If you're concerned, visit your vet.

Even if you think your dog is happy, every once in a while check for 'hidden' signs of distress. You can do this by installing a camera to monitor your pet while you're out.

Why your dog finds it difficult to cope when left alone

There are several reasons that dogs find it difficult to cope when left alone. Some dogs will look to entertain themselves while their owner is out. Others will simply be distressed when on their own.

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