Signs and Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Signs and Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs by Deborah Y. Strauss, D.V.M.

As humans, we have our jobs, family, friends and other responsibilities to tend to during the day. For our furry companions, that isn’t the case. As their owner, their world revolves around us. Because of this, some dogs suffer from anxiety when separated from their owner.

Signs of Separation Anxiety

Common signs of separation anxiety are:

  • having accidents in the house
  • barking or howling
  • Pacing
  • Escaping
  • chewing or digging

When a dog owner comes home to find this kind of destruction, it’s not uncommon for them to become upset and reprimand their dog. However, the problem can be resolved more effectively by addressing the underlying problem: separation anxiety.

What Causes Separation Anxiety?

There is no exact formula for why some dogs develop separation anxiety and others don’t, but there are some factors that are known to play a part.

The biggest factor is change. If a dog was surrendered to a shelter, abandoned or given to a new guardian, that could trigger anxiety in a previously happy dog. The same is true for moving to a new residence, even if it is with their lifelong guardians. Dogs can also become anxious because of a change in schedule. If they’re alone for longer than normal, that could trigger anxiety. Furthermore, death is a normal part of life, but dog’s don’t understand that. If a family member or fellow pet is suddenly absent from the dog’s life, he or she may develop separation anxiety.

Before assuming any behavioral problems (such as urination) is due to anxiety, go to your veterinarian to rule out other medical problems. Your vet could also provide you and your pup with a treatment plan to manage any separation anxiety.