Separation Anxiety: Getting the Best of Your Dog

Separation Anxiety: Getting the Best of Your Dog

  • Kirsten Thornhill - 23.01.2020

Continuous crying, pacing, whining, and howling. It’s the absolute worst knowing that your four-legged fur child is losing their mind as soon as you close the door behind you. But as a dog parent, what can you do? We totally understand that you have to go to work or run out to pick up groceries (or maybe have a social life too). However, it can become constantly stressful when dealing with the thoughts and agony of leaving behind your pup with separation anxiety. 



But, don’t worry too much, we’re here to share with you that there is hope for easing your pup’s separation anxiety. Let’s start with fully understanding the anxiety manner itself and what ignites it. 



1, 2, 3, bark!


The largest complaint, give or take, of pet parents is their pup misbehaving in a destroy-everything type of destruction when their owner leaves. This behavior can be anything from chewing, whining, digging, peeing, trying to escape, etc. This can cause major problems for dog parents who live in close proximity to other neighbors (apartments, condos, etc.),



These behaviors are often signs that your pup may benefit from obedience training. This may also be a telltale sign that your doggo is in discomfort/distress.



When your pup’s whining, chewing, digging, and escaping behavior is accompanied by anxious behavior or drooling when you’re getting ready to head to work, it’s likely that your pup may be suffering from…..separation anxiety. 



Just like us humans, dogs too experience anxiety. Separation anxiety is an anxiety disorder. In fact, 1 of 6 dogs may suffer from this disorder at one time or another. Pets with single parent owners are also 2.5 times more likely to have separation anxiety than a pet living with several people. Older pets are more likely to develop separation anxiety too because of cognitive changes occurring with getting older. 



 Separation anxiety in dogs can occur when pet owners leave for any length of time. Dogs are innately part of a pack. Therefore, many don’t do what to do when they’re alone, given their instinctual nature. Thus, this induces anxiety-driven behaviors. While saddening and heart-wrenching, it can also leave pet owners feeling extremely frustrated.



Well, we’re here to share with you that you’re not alone in this separation anxiety battle. There are sooooo many paw parents dealing with pups who have separation anxiety that there are now behaviorist experts who are hired to solely help you handle your pup’s issue. There are also pharmaceutical medications for anxiety that your veterinarian may recommend for severe instances.  Dog with little to mild cases may benefit from more natural, holistic options. 



In addition, there are several ways to help manage separation anxiety in dogs, but first and foremost, paw parents need to understand the root of the cause.



There are multiple underlying causes linked to separation anxiety in dogs. If your pup begins to have a nervous breakdown when they sense that you’ll be leaving soon, consider whether certain changes have recently happened in your living space.



Changes in the household.

If you are a dog owner, then you know just how sensitive your fur baby can be. They bond with each and every member of your household and love seeing them on a regular basis. Therefore, a death in the family or divorce can devastate your pup and lead them to have symptoms of separation anxiety. 



Paw parents may not realize the extent that their “people problems” may have on their dog’s life. The pet owner to animal bond is extremely strong, most of the time. Even something small, like a roommate moving out, can cause your pup distress, wondering if you’re going to leave and not come back. *queue heart breaking a little*

Change in schedules.

Dogs are creatures of habit, like us. We like our schedules and we stick to them! It keeps us in line and productive on a daily basis. Dogs aren’t much different here. So, when there are changes in their typical daily schedule, this can lead to symptoms of separation anxiety. 

Being abandoned.

Separation anxiety is commonly seen with abandonment. As you can picture, a dog that has been in and out of shelters and homes will likely have separation anxiety due to their fear of their paw parent not returning. Whether the parents absence is short-term or long-term, this can initiate full panic mode in your dog.


Lack of household integration.

When a new dog is brought home for the very first time, pet owners may think it’s best to separate the dogs into certain parts of the house or to leave them in a crate. We understand that you don’t want your house to be chewed up by your new puppy, do understand that the lack of integrating your new puppy with your other dogs may lead to separation anxiety.


Moving places ties into a change in your pup’s schedule as well as lack of proper integration. We understand how stressful moving can be for us humans. We want you to note though, it’s super stressful for your pups too. Dogs are super sensitive beings. If you’re in the process of packing and moving, it’s very likely that your dog is sensing your stress and anxiety, as well as experiencing their own. Doubling the amount of stress your dog may be experiencing, doubles to separation anxiety.


There are behavioral issues and other various conditions that share similar symptoms to separation anxiety so it is important to be able to tell them apart.

1) Urinating & Defecating

Peeing or pooping in the house may be signs that your dog is experiencing separation anxiety. But not to get confused with peeing and pooping while you are home, chances are your pup could benefit from obedience school and their actions may not necessarily be separation anxiety-related. 

2) Howling & Barking

Barking, yapping, howling, speaking, etc. are signs of separation anxiety. If you live in an apartment or condo complex, you may hear about your pup from a not-so-chipper neighbor when you arrive home. The barking and howling are persistent and aren’t really provoked from anything in particular (other than being left alone).


3) Chewing, Biting, Destruction

Seeing chew marks on the door frames? Tears in the carpet? Couch pillows destroyed? This anxious behavior can also result in scraped paws, chipped teeth, and even broken nails. Again, when you’re home, these behaviors do not occur. Therefore, if your dog is acting like a crazy, hyper creature when you’re home, it’s most likely not due to the separation anxiety.

4) Escaping

There escape attempts often result in broken nails, injured paws, and damaged teeth. Your pup may be attempting to escape a small area (if they’re confined), like being created or in shut in a room. Regardless, the behavior doesn’t occur when you’re home.

5) Pacing Back and Forth

Whether it’s walking from one side of the room to the other, the pacing is a common sign of separation anxiety in dogs. Note, the way to tell if it’s a symptom of separation anxiety is the fact that this occurs when you aren’t home.

6) Eating Feces

When dogs eat their own poop, called coprophagia, this is a sign that your dog may be having separation anxiety. Don’t confuse this with puppies who eat their poop (totally different story there). 


7) Excessive Licking and Salivating

If you arrive home and find your doggo is wet in certain areas, chances are they have been licking obsessively. 



Dogs love attention! However, paw parents may not realize how smart their four-legged four child is. Some dogs will go to extended lengths to get your attention, even if that means doing something bad. 

Simulated separation anxiety has all of the same symptoms of separation anxiety. The major difference though: motivation. Simulated separation anxiety is a learned behavior. It develops from a lack of leadership,  self-control, and a constant need for attention. Ultimately, your dog is acting out and behaving badly because they know it will grab your attention.


Isolation anxiety closely resembles separation anxiety, but with one distinctive difference. With separation anxiety, the anxiety occurs when the owner is away. However, with isolation anxiety, the distress occurs when the pup is left alone and the owner is still home. This can be fixed more easily by exploring ideas like hiring a dog walker or taking your pup to doggy daycare for the day.



Before assuming your pup is having separation anxiety, be sure to consider any and all medications they are taking because they might behind the “accidents” that your pup is leaving you around the house, in hidden places. 



In addition, you’ll want to rule out other behavioral problems before concluding that your pup has separation anxiety. We recommend talking with your veterinarian, so they will be able to proceed accordingly. 



Whether your pup urinates because they are overly excited or just being submissive, this is due to overstimulation. This can occur when you get home from a long day at the office or even when your pup is getting in trouble. This urination is typically not a sign of separation anxiety as it usually occurs when you are present. 


If your pup hasn’t been properly potty trained, then it shouldn’t come as a total surprise that your fur baby is leaving you not-so-wanted potty presents in the house. In these cases, soiling is not caused by separation anxiety but may simply be due to incomplete house training. 


Dogs “mark their territory” on what’s theirs…..or they “mark their scent”. You can recognize territorial markings because it will only be a small amount of urine, in several areas of the house. Again, this is not symptoms of separation anxiety but rather your pup marking what belongs to them.



Doggos, like their awesome owners, crave mental stimulation. If your dog is left on their own for any period of time, they will find a way to entertain themselves (usually in very original ways with undog-like things). Whether it's a barking competition between the next-door neighbor’s dog or a contest to see how quickly they can chew through your new Steven Madden leather boots. Your pup may be acting out due to being bored, not necessarily an underlying condition like separation anxiety. Luckily for you paw parents, a bored pup can easily be fixed!


It’s very common for puppies to engage in destructive, terrorizing activities and behaviors while their paw parents are away. To avoid this, pet parents may want to consider kennel or crate training. Crate or kennel training should be done very specifically to your pup (this can succeed or super fail with your pup). The crate should be looked at as a place of safety, not a glutten for punishment. Furthermore, puppy behavioral problems are much easier to change than trying to teach an old dog new tricks. If you see any signs of misbehavior, it’s best to approach it right away with obedience training. 


Now that we’ve covered the anxious parts of the article, you’re probably wondering now how to help them cope with anxiety (more so, how to come home to a spotless and undestroyed home).




Positive reinforcement 

Calming actions 

Dog anxiety medication



When it’s all said and over with, we know that you want what’s best for your furry friend. We understand completely! We know how difficult it can be when you know something is wrong with your pup. Whether it be acting out for attention, marking their territory on your new couch pillows, or having separation anxiety, we’re here to tell you it’s fixable and you aren’t alone!

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