Preventing separation-related behaviour

Separation-related behaviour problems in dogs are categorised as unwanted behaviour that only occurs when the dog is separated from his/her owner. There are various signs that your dog is displaying separation-related behaviour, but some of the most common are:

  • destructive behaviour
  • various types of vocalisation
  • inappropriate elimination (toileting)

If your dog is showing these signs, you need to seek advice from your vet who should refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist.

It is possible to prevent separation-related behaviours from happening. One of the most effective ways of preventing dogs from becoming anxious when they’re left alone is to teach them that being alone is fun!

Download our leaflet ‘Learning to be left alone (PDF 4.92MB)’ for more advice on preventing separation-related behaviours. It contains a step-by-step guide to teach your dog that it’s all right to be alone by gradually increasing the time you are apart and showing them that they shouldn’t be frightened when you’re away.

The leaflet also has helpful tips on:

  • preventing your dog from becoming bored in your absence
  • information on feeding and exercising them before you leave
  • the importance of avoiding punishment. Although it’s not easy if your dog misbehaves when you’re out don’t react badly. Separation-related problems worsen when owners punish their dogs when they return because dogs link the punishment with your return rather than the bad behaviour.

See our leaflet ‘Learning to be left alone (PDF 4.92MB)’ for more information about why it’s vital you never punish your dog.

The RSPCA only recommends using positive, reward-based training.

Acknowledgement for this information is made to Dr Rachel Casey, Dr Emily Blackwell and Dr John Bradshaw.

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