| Kelsie Shields

How to Recognize Separation Anxiety in Your Canine

You have probably heard the phrase “separation anxiety” before, especially if you own a dog. Perhaps you or someone you know has come into contact with a dog who becomes extremely distressed when left alone. Maybe you know of a dog that becomes anxious when their owner leaves them, even if there are other individuals in the room.  

Separation anxiety has become a broad term for a large spectrum of behavior, but school is just around the corner. As you and your family’s schedules are changing its important to know that these changes affect your dog too. Chances are your dog will be left alone more in the coming months and with all that time alone, it is important to know what separation anxiety can look like in your pet and the many possible causes.  

Symptoms of Separation Anxiety 

The severity of separation anxiety can range drastically within the confines of its definition—from torn curtains to other damage to surroundings, separation anxiety is nothing to take lightly. Symptoms can be similar to other behavioral or physical problems so it is important to rule out other possible causes before treating separation anxiety. One way to decide whether your pet suffers from separation anxiety is to ask whether or not the symptoms exist in the instances an owner or other human is present. If they do, chances are they are a symptom of some other underlying issue.  The safest way to decide whether Fido suffers from separation anxiety or not is by speaking to your veterinarian and/or trainer. That being said, here is a list of common symptoms seen in canine’s with separation anxiety.  

Before you leave 

Before you leave, your dog may appear anxious or distressed. If you have a specific routine, such as showering, eating, and then grabbing your keys, these actions may trigger your dog’s response.  

While you are away[i]  
Urination or Defecation: Urination may also be caused by incontinence, specific medication, or lofty expectations by owners (such as expecting a pup to hold it for over 8 hours). Speak to a veterinarian to rule out these possibilities.  
Barking or Howling: Some of the most noticeable signs of separation anxiety are barking and howling. An individual may attempt to use a bark collar to stop the noise, and while this may work to some extent, it does not address the true issue nor does it stop your dog’s anxiety. Barking may also be caused by common outdoor stimuli such as passing cars or other nearby dogs--if this is the cause, the barking is most likely not a symptom of separation anxiety.[ii] 
Pacing: A dog may anxiously pace in a circular or back-and-forth fashion when owner leaves.  
Chewing, Digging, or Destroying: Dogs left alone with separation anxiety often become so anxious that they may devolve into a full blown panic attack. They may attempt to escape, dig, or destroy their surroundings—specifically near windows and doors. Chewing behavior can result in destruction of home and even harm to self, and it is one of the reasons separation anxiety is such a serious condition in dogs. In less severe situations, boredom needs to be ruled out as a causative factor.[iii]

Causes of Separation Anxiety  

Dogs are naturally pack animals, and for puppies, certain reactions to being left alone such as barking and howling are instinctive ways to be reunited with their mother and siblings.[iv] Separation anxiety is more prevalent in shelter dogs and also exists in any other dog as well. There is no one underlying reason dogs develop separation anxiety and some do not, but over the years potential reasons have been compiled by dog behaviorists and dog owners alike.  

Puppyhood trauma 
Breeding or genetic factors 
Perceived abandonment
Changing families  
Moving residence 
Change in schedule[vi] 

How you can help  

Luckily, many resources are available to help you and your dog overcome separation anxiety. From training tips to exercises to medication the prevalence of the problem has created a plethora of information on how to cope with the issue. Stay tuned to read our post on how to overcome separation anxiety. Until then, keep your time away from your dog short and try our calming dog treats or perhaps even our calming spray to make your time away from each other a little less stressful. 



[i] Separation Anxiety. (n.d.). Retrieved August 20,2019, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/separation-anxiety

[ii] Miller, P. (2019, June 18). How to Help A Dog With Separation Anxiety. Retrieved August 20, 2019, from https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/behavior/how-to-help-a-dog-with-separation-anxiety/

[iii] Separation Anxiety. (n.d.). Retrieved August 20,2019, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/separation-anxiety

[iv] Miller, P. (2019, June 18). How to Help A Dog With Separation Anxiety. Retireved August 20, 2019, from https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/behavior/how-to-help-a-dog-with-separation-anxiety/arks

[v] Parks, S. (2019, July 11). The Real Story Behind Dog Separation Anxiety and Why It’s So Scary. Retrieved August 20, 2019, from https://www.rover.com/blog/separation-anxiety-dogs-happen/

[vi] Separation Anxiety. (n.d.). Retrieved August 20,2019, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/separation-anxiety