Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Learn about causes and corrective actions for separation anxiety.

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Signs of Separation Anxiety

  • Whining, barking, acting nervous as you leave the house
  • Destructive chewing, tearing things apart or scratching up walls or doors when alone
  • Repeated escape attempts from crate, house or yard when left alone
  • Relentless pacing when alone (trampled pattern in carpet)
  • Frantic greeting every time you return home
  • Housetrained dog urinating or defecating indoors when alone even for short periods

Causes and Corrective Actions for Separation Anxiety

Note: The listed behaviors can likewise stem from boredom, lack of attention, inadequate exercise, too much freedom, housetraining or other issues, which makes it very important to diagnose and treat problems correctly.


The passing of a beloved human family member, a companion dog or possibly even a long befriended kitty creates stress that can cause separation anxiety symptoms in some dogs.

LOSS Corrective Actions: Help fill the void by spending extra time walking or playing with the dog, activities that also provide calming exercise and fresh air. A dog who loses a canine playmate or kitty companion sometimes responds well to a new dog or cat but prepare a back-up plan in case the animals do not get along. Avoid sad goodbyes or excited hellos as both reinforce separation anxiety, maintain a casual tone and demeanor when leaving or arriving home to keep dog on an even emotional keel. Provide and alternate treat-stuffed rubber toys, chew bones and other safe toys to give the dog a pleasant focus when you can't be home.


Trainers agree that shelter dogs, rescue dogs and other re-homed dogs represent a large percentage of the dogs who develop separation anxiety.


The owner's obvious stress along with all the packing going on in preparation for a move can upset even the most stable dog, prompting separation anxiety at his current home or more likely in the new unfamiliar house.

Routine Change

Major changes in your dog's normal routine, such as an owner who formerly worked at home taking on a fulltime job elsewhere or the kids starting school, can trigger separation anxiety.

New Family Member

Bringing home a newborn baby, adopting a child, a significant other moving in, an ill parent coming to stay with you or other household additions can cause insecurity in the family dog that lead to separation anxiety behaviors.

Sudden Isolation

Sometimes a new family addition doesn't cause anxiety behaviors, but suddenly being relegated to an isolated part of the house or to the garage due to someone else moving in often results in severe separation anxiety.

ABANDONMENT, MOVING, ROUTINE CHANGE, NEW FAMILY MEMBER, SUDDEN ISOLATION Corrective Actions: If behaviors prove serious enough to destroy household furnishings or possibly harm your dog, seek help from a professional trainer who can pinpoint and address the cause. Whatever changes occur in your life, remember your dog's life revolves around you — help him adapt by adhering as much as possible to his normal feeding, walks, play and training times. Never isolate your dog away from the family, but if you know he must soon sleep in a different area, place another bed in that location and regularly offer him a favorite chewy there before the change occurs. Don't indulge in sad goodbyes since your dog will pick up on your tone, instead maintain a casual attitude as you leave and arrive home to set a calm example. Prepare a treat-stuffed rubber toy prior to leaving and give it to your dog as you walk out the door to change his focus from worrying about you leaving to something pleasant. Work positive obedience training to build dog's confidence. Don't respond to your dog's whining, barking or other anxious and demanding behaviors when home, consistently reward calm behaviors.

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John   Boca Raton, Florida

8/11/2015 1:58:39 AM

I loved this article! It speaks well about all the symptoms and the causes of Separation Anxiety. My neighbor was traveling abroad and wanted someone to take care of his dog. This is when I welcomed the cute little lab into my home. He refused to eat and was not as active as I had seen him before. This is when I realized that he was actually sad and felt left alone. I made it a point to give him enough time every day. Took him out for long walks, played with him and even gave him his favorite food. Along with this, I tried EcoBalance Calming & Anti Anxiety Liquid Concentrate for Dogs from Vet Organics. And it really worked! This solution supported the efforts I put in to make Snoopy a happy Dog again!

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skiw9748   Hartford, AL

11/24/2012 9:51:52 AM

2458881 - Thanks !

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joy - 222669   columbia, SC

10/12/2012 8:28:52 PM

Ive found that the game-treats help out alot to occupy their time, like the ones where a treat is inside an object and they have to figure out how to get the treat out of the holder.

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