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What is separation anxiety?

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What is separation anxiety?

  • A problem that is part of a larger group of behavioural issues related to being separated from the ‘pack’/people who are part of the social group for the dog
  • Whilst commonly linked to the house being empty, it can occur when the dog is alone in a certain situation or location, or separated from a specific member of the household
  • It is a problem where the incidence increases with the age of the animal and is the reason for as much as 40% of cases that are referred to a specialist for behavioural problems

Signs to look out for?

  • Initial signs may be seen as the pet notices the owner getting ready to leave the home – restlessness signs. This is in response to seeing or hearing activities that the dog associates with the owner leaving such as putting on a coat, or the sound of car keys. We all know that a dog can seem to get very excited when they see their lead being picked up in readiness to go for a walk, the inverse is true with some of the ‘departure cues’ mentioned above
  • Within about 30 minutes of being left alone, the dog shows behaviours related to fear such as an increase in activity with possible circling or pacing, an increase in the breathing and heart rate of the dog, salivation, and attempting to escape with scratching at doors or windows. The dog may also urinate or defecate in the house
  • As howling or barking is the way in which young animals may call to members of their pack, a dog with separation anxiety may increase their vocalisation
  • The dog may chew an item into many pieces and lie in the middle of them. This is likely to be something with the owner’s scent on it and by doing this they sit inside a little barrier of the owner’s scent
  • Sometimes, the dog may actually harm itself quite severely, or cause considerable damage to the environment they are in
  • Another sign of separation anxiety is excessive excitement on the owner’s return and wanting to be close to them

Some questions to ask yourself about your dog

  • How does your dog behave as they see you getting ready to leave the house? Does their behaviour change from normal?
  • Does your dog seem to try and stop you from leaving the house?
  • How does your dog react when a particular member of the house is not present and when they return? Is that different to other members of the household?
  • Are there signs of restless behaviour when you return to the empty house such as moved or knocked over furniture or disturbed items near doors or window ledges?



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