What Is Dog Separation Anxiety

April 12, 2023

How To Recognize Dog Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety describes dogs as usually overly attached or dependent on their owners. When separated from owners, they spend all their time following owners from room to room while rarely spending time outdoors and alone. The anxiety begins to display when cues of the owner’s departure appear. Once the owner departs, they would exhibit distress and destructive behaviors.

Dogs in the wild have continually been operating as a pack. There would always be another dog to follow or be close to. We spend most of our time away from our family members; our lives contradict the dog’s natural programming. A dog has separation anxiety when it fails to transition from a wild pack impression to a human life impression. Although that is not the sole cause of dog separation anxiety, it is still a significant contributor.

It is essential to detect signs of separation anxiety in dogs early on. These can go unnoticed because they occur while the owner is not around and stop when they return. A video camera is the best solution for this; make sure it also has audio recording as vocalization is one of the symptoms. Review your recording and do not jump to conclusions; you are looking for behaviors that occur while away but stop when you are around.

Separation Anxiety Dog Symptoms

Not all dogs will develop separation anxiety, but the common symptoms have shown to be very consistent across dogs of all breeds and ages. Remember that these symptoms happen when the owner is NOT AROUND and would stop when they are around.

Urinating and Defecating – If this happens while the owner is around, then improper house training is at fault. Urination and defecation usually occur at the spot where the separation happens or where the owners were seen last by the dog.

Vocalization – Untriggered barking and howling for extended periods is an unmistakable sign of separation anxiety in dogs. Sometimes, the dog would vocalize continuously until the owner’s return cues were detected.

Destructive Behaviors – The dog aggressively chews on household objects and furniture. This can be dangerous to the dog as they can self-injure via broken teeth or laceration to the mouth.

Escaping – The dog desperately attempts to dig and chew through windows, doors, and other things perceived as possible exits. This is also potentially dangerous as the dog can self-injure causing teeth damage, lacerations to the exterior and interior of the mouth as the desire to leave the environment gets more intense.

Pacing – This can happen in circular or back-and-forth patterns over long periods of time. If this stops as soon as your dog receives the slightest cues of your return, your dog most likely has separation anxiety.

Dealing with Dog Separation Anxiety Post COVID-19

The need to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic brought us all closer to our dogs. The upside is that our dogs enjoyed our company all through that time. The downside is when we must return to work and our regular daily routine. Dog separation anxiety is bound to increase with that sudden change, and you should prepare your pooch properly to set them up for success.

Learn to detect signs of separation anxiety in dogs and set up the necessary equipment to monitor your pooch while you are away. If you have good neighbors, you can save money by asking them for a favor and setting things up for them to observe your dog while you are not around. You could even observe them together, do make sure your dog doesn’t know you’re there.

Get Professional Help

Resolving separation anxiety dog symptoms can be very complex. First off, contact your Vet and talk to them about your dog’s condition and behavior. He or she will be able to put you in contact with certified professionals that can help.  You can also consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB). There is a small directory for CAAB here at the Animal Behavior Society but a “caab near me” or “acaab near me” Google search will go a long way. The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) has a directory that you can filter by radius, address, city + state, or zip code.

If you can’t find a behaviorist, you can seek help from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), but be sure that the trainer is qualified to help you. Since this kind of expertise isn’t required for CPDT certification, you must determine whether they have education and experience treating fear with desensitization and counterconditioning. These are treatment programs designed to help with moderate to severe separation anxiety dog symptoms. Their directory can be found here.



Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB)

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB)

Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT)



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