August 23, 2014 :: Posted by - kittyluver :: Category - Behavior


Cats and dogs make wonderful pets. However, taking care of these pets can be quite challenging as well as rewarding. Dogs are social animals that prefer to live in groups. Like humans, dogs also undergo different kinds of emotions and express diverse behaviour patterns. Understanding these various aspects is crucial in bringing up your pet dog. Separation anxiety is a common behaviour problem in dogs that occurs when the dog is separated from its group represented by the owner or owners. This is the second most common reason that most dogs are given up or euthanized.

Although separation anxiety is common in all breeds of dogs, German Shepherds, Airedales, Springer Spaniels, Australian Shepherds and Weimaraners are more prone to this condition. This is not to say all of these dogs will not cope being left alone, as with all dogs it will vary greatly depending on the individual. The affected dog shows signs of distress on being separated from the family group or owner to which it is highly attached.

Separation anxiety is primarily triggered when the dog becomes irritated and upset because of separation from guardians. The dog being attached to the guardians displays such behavioural pattern. Dogs with separation anxiety display escape attempts that are often extreme and can result in excessive household destruction as well as self-injury. The dogs usually attempt the escape attempts near the doors and windows and may cause injury to themselves during this process.

When the owner prepares to leave the house, the dogs become anxious, tense, irritated, and agitated. They may also become depressed when the owner goes out of sight for considerable amount of time. The pet dog can also make attempts to prevent the owner from leaving the house in order to avoid solitude and isolation. The dog with separation anxiety starts behaving differently and starts barking only after a few minutes of the departure of the guardian. When the guardian returns back to the dog with separation anxiety, he starts to behave like it has been ages since their separation.


The possible causes for separation anxiety includes Genetics, lack of confidence, over bonding, lack of communication, mistreatment in the past, long confinement or even dogs that have been abandoned or rehomed.


It is very important to understand the symptoms of the separation anxiety in order to take remedial and timely action subsequently. The dogs become disruptive or destructive when left alone. They might resort to urination, defecation, barking, howling, chewing, digging, or trying to escape. These behavioural patterns are a clear indication that the dog is suffering from separation anxiety. It is very important to differentiate between separation anxiety and lack of polite house manners. A dog that is not trained in polite house manners can also misbehave. But the important distinction is that with separation anxiety, the dog displays marked and clear cut signs of distress including drooling and showing anxiety when it is left alone or when the pet parents leave home.

The following list of symptoms is a good and clear indicator of a dog with separation anxiety

  • Urinating and defecating: Some dogs urinate and defecate when separated from their guardian or owner. If the dog urinates or defecates in the presence of the owner, then separation anxiety is probably not the cause of this action, but a matter of proper home training.
  • Barking and Howling: A dog that has been separated from its owner begins to bark and howl in a persistent and continuous manner. The barking and howling clearly indicate that they have been triggered by separation anxiety.
  • Chewing, digging, and destruction: Dogs with separation anxiety begin to chew on different kinds of objects, dig near doors and windows, and destroy household objects when left alone by their guardians. This strange and unacceptable behaviour can result in serious self-injury to the dog including broken teeth, cuts, and scrapes. Such behaviour does not happen in the presence of the owner clearly indicating that it has been triggered by separation anxiety alone.
  • Some dogs also pace up and down or even try to escape when left alone by their owners indicating that they are stressed.

Do’s and Don’ts

Once the symptoms are properly understood, dogs with separation anxiety can then be treated accordingly. Once the causes are identified properly, treatments and medications can then be relied upon for the recovery of dogs with separation anxiety.

If you’re about to leave your home, ignore your dog at least five minutes prior to go. Don’t say “Good bye” to your dog before you leave.

The primary goal of treating dogs with separation anxiety is to teach the dog how to enjoy or even simply tolerate being left alone. This is done mainly to target the dog’s underlying anxiety and helping it cope with that and even overcomes it for the better. Things are set up in such a manner so that the dog experiences the situation which triggers its anxiety in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity thereby overcoming the experience of fear, anxiety, and tension.

Encourage your dog to sleep in his safe area over the next few days and weeks. Gradually increase the time of spending alone. Now your dog left alone regularly will become well adapted and ready to lead the life alone without any symptoms of separation anxiety.

Don’t punish your dog!!! Coercion, aversive training methods and punishing will not work! Some of the dog owners employ different punishing and adversary methods such as use of noise, spray or shock. This will aggravate the dog issues than curing.

As bottom line, I would like to say, “Spend time on training your dog to happily accept alone time will save you, your dog and you neighbours a lot of stress in the long run!”.

Thanks to Creature Companions!!!

(This article was authored by Dr.K.Senthilkumar*, Dr.N.Kumaravel** and Dr.M.G.Jayathangaraj***)

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