Understanding Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Causes & Prevention

dog's separation anxiety

As a pet owner, you might have encountered instances where your dog gets visibly agitated when you leave the room or the house. This kind of behavior is known as Separation Anxiety. Separation anxiety in dogs is a complex condition that requires understanding and patience. This article aims to provide pet owners with a guide to understanding dog separation anxiety, its causes, and prevention measures.

What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a condition that occurs when a dog is separated from its owner, family, or home. It is usually characterized by excessive distress, panic, and destructive behavior. The behavioral manifestations of this condition can be wide-ranging, depending on the dog. Some dogs bark incessantly when left alone, and others whine, howl, or pace around the house. In contrast, others may urinate, defecate in inappropriate locations, or destroy household items in desperation.

Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety

This is a list of symptoms indicative of dogs with separation anxiety. Usually, a pet’s urination may not be due to separation fears. Dogs suffering separation anxiety might cling or bark in isolation and if their guardians have withdrawn. It’s sporadic barking that doesn’t appear when left alone.

What are the signs of separation anxiety in dogs?

-Dogs with separation anxiety or fears often are close to the exits and other areas of the house

-Bark or whine, and toileting/pooing

-Show anger at your departure 

-Destructive behavior – chewing furniture near a window, exit, or doorway. 

Causes of Separation Anxiety

There can be several reasons why your furry friend develops separation anxiety. Some of the common causes of separation anxiety include:

Early Separation:

Suppose you adopt a puppy taken away from its mother and siblings too early. In that case, this can lead to puppy separation anxiety. The mother provides constant care and attention when the puppy is too young. Early removal can leave the puppy lonely and anxious because it misses the TLC received from its mother.

Traumatic Experience:

Dogs with traumatic experiences like being abandoned, losing a family member, being rehomed, or moving to a new location can develop separation anxiety as a coping mechanism.


Some dogs can develop an unhealthy attachment to their owners. They follow their owners everywhere, display excessive affection, and become restless when they are not around.

Change in Routine:

Dogs thrive on routine and consistency. Any significant changes in their schedule, like a change in owners, feeding time, or daily activity, can trigger separation anxiety.

Lack of Exercise or Mental Stimulation:

Yoour canine friend requires daily exercise and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. Suppose they are not provided with enough physical or mental activity. In that case, they can become bored or show anxious behaviors, leading to separation anxiety.

Preventive Measures for Dog’s Separation Anxiety

Gradual Desensitization:

Gradual desensitization is one of the most effective techniques to help dogs overcome separation anxiety. You can start by leaving your dog alone for short periods and gradually increasing the separation duration each day. This technique allows the anxious dog acclimate and become comfortable with your absence.

Positive Reinforcement:

Positive reinforcement is a reward-based training technique proven to help dogs overcome negative behavior. You can reward your canine friend with treats or praise when they remain calm during your absence. The reward serves as a motivator, encouraging the dog to repeat the behavior.

Establish Routine:

As mentioned earlier, dogs thrive on routine and consistency. Establish a daily routine and stick to it. Feed your dog simultaneously every day, take them for a walk simultaneously, and create a regular playtime. This helps the dog to know what to expect each day, which reduces anxiety.

Provide Adequate Exercise and Stimulation:

Exercise and mental stimulation help to keep dogs healthy and happy. Take your furry friend for daily walks or runs, play fetch, provide toys, or engage them in training sessions. This helps to reduce boredom and anxiety.

Don’t Encourage Over-Attachment:

While it is important to bond with your dog, it is also essential to establish healthy boundaries. Don’t encourage over-attachment behavior like excessive affection, following you everywhere, or allowing your dog to sleep in your bed. This can trigger separation anxiety, leading to destructive behavior and negatively impacting your dog’s mental health.

Management of Separation Anxiety

Crate Training:

Crate training involves training your dog to stay in a crate for short periods while you are away. A crate provides a safe space for your canine pet, which can help reduce anxiety. It can also prevent destructive behavior and promote good behavior.

Calming Aids:

Calming aids such as pheromones or medication can help to calm anxious dogs. Pheromone sprays mimic natural calming hormones in dogs, helping them to feel more relaxed. Medication can be prescribed by a vet and should only be used if nothing else works.

Behavioral Modification:

Behavioral modification is a long-term management strategy for dogs with severe separation anxiety. It involves a veterinary behaviorist identifying the underlying behavioral triggers and modifying the dog’s behavior through training and therapy.

Rule Out Medical Problems With Your Vet

Your veterinarian can diagnose health complications that may lead to distress — so your puppy will no longer have separation anxiety. Arthritis and autoimmune diseases can cause a variety of symptoms

Read More: 7 Myths Surrounding Separation Anxiety in Dogs?.


Separation anxiety is a condition that can negatively impact your dog’s mental and physical health. Understanding the underlying causes and prevention measures to help your dog overcome the condition. The best approach is gradual desensitization and positive reinforcement to help your dog feel comfortable with your absence. Additionally, providing regular exercise and mental stimulation, establishing a routine, and avoiding over-attachment behavior can prevent separation anxiety from developing. Suppose your dog shows signs of separation anxiety. In that case, it is best to consult a vet or a local professional dog trainer for advice and treatment options. Remember, with patience and consistency; you can help your dog overcome separation anxiety and maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle.


Which dog breed has the most separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a behavioral issue many dogs face, which can result in destructive behavior, excessive barking, and other undesirable habits. Although any breed can develop separation anxiety, some breeds are more prone to this issue. One of the dog breeds that is well-known for its separation anxiety is the Labrador Retriever. These loyal and loving dogs quickly get attached to their owners and can show signs of severe anxiety when separated for even a short period. Another dog breed known to have separation anxiety is the Bichon Frise. These dogs love being around their owners and are prone to developing anxiety when left alone for a long time. Other breeds that can develop separation anxiety include German Shepherds, Border Collies, and Cocker Spaniels. It’s important to take note that many dogs develop separation anxiety that can be managed with proper training and behavior modification techniques.

What should be done before departures?

Ensure you have enough exercise time to enjoy the game before the long departure. Using these methods helps reduce energy and irritate your pet and provides some attention. Training sessions can help you interact with your dog. Your dog’s anxiety will have to be ignored at the last minute. You could take a puppy to his “rest or relaxation” area with a television or audio system to enjoy. You may prepare to go on vacation when your animal can no longer hear you. Give your dog an excellent motivating toy that keeps you occupied during the time of your arrival.

My dog starts to get anxious even before I leave. What can I do?

Various activities are carried out on most dogs regularly before leaving our premises. The puppy will quickly recognize these warnings and signals as signals of a potential exit. Some dogs also know other signals to warn them, not if they want to leave (inhibition signals), thus helping them relax a little. If you’re not giving a dog these anxiety-provoking warnings about departure, you can reduce their anxiety significantly. Some dogs will recognize the warning signals the owner is sending.

Do dogs eventually get over separation anxiety?

Usually, separation anxiety does not fade, and you should try to control the symptoms to keep the dog happy in your home. Your efforts to treat separation anxiety can make his life easier and more successful as you provide the best treatment given to him.

Should I punish my dog for separation anxiety?

The admonition can help alleviate separation. Having a cat punish his owner may increase his feelings of separation. Get an alternative companion dog.