Separation anxiety

 Separation related behaviours (SRBs) are unwanted behaviours when dogs are left alone. Most common are destruction, toileting, barking or howling. There are different reasons for dogs to show these behaviours when left alone, but the most common is where they have never learnt that being alone is a normal and OK part of life. For these dogs, the problem is known as separation anxiety.

 

What are the signs of separation anxiety?

As well as howling, barking, destruction, chewing or toileting, dogs with separation anxiety can sometimes injure themselves, for example by scrabbling at a door, or even drool excessively when alone. These are behaviours that owners may be aware of because they either see the evidence when they get home, or maybe neighbours tell them if their dog has been making a noise.

But because separation anxiety by definition only occurs when owners are out, many anxious dogs go unnoticed. The only way to really know if your dog reacts to being alone is to set up a video and spy on them! Research has used video recordings to better understand what dogs get up to when left home alone.

 

Dogs’ responses to owners leaving the house

How a dog behaves as owners leave also gives clues about separation anxiety. Dogs are great at learning about events which reliably predict when they are going to be left. Most of us are creatures of habit, and have a particular routine that we follow before going out, such as putting on a particular pair of shoes, or picking up keys before heading for the door.  The earliest indicator which differentiates between “my owner is going out without me – oh no!” and “my owner is taking me with them – yay!” might be quite subtle and early in the morning routine. Dogs will start to react as soon as they spot these signs – they might follow their owner around, pant, seek attention or even lie across the doorway to try and stop their owner leaving.

 

Response to owners coming home

An excited greeting when owners return home is not necessarily an indicator that a dog has separation anxiety. Most dogs love their owners and are pleased to see them, even if they are not worried about being left. Dogs with separation anxiety might only start to eat treats that were left when owners went out, once owners come home again. This might be an indication of a dog being too worried to eat when left alone, and that leaving a video recorded running to find out more would be a good idea.

 

Why do dogs get anxious home alone?

By Admin | dog, puppy, behaviour, home alone, separation, dog school, training, anxiety

Dogs are naturally sociable animals, so life beyond the litter can be a difficult adjustment. Often, puppies will whine and whimper in a bid to return to their mother, brothers and sisters. Unless your dog learns from a young age that it’s okay to be alone, their feelings of unease and distress can continue into adulthood. Read more to read about 'Frodo', a puppy with four different life chances, to understand how separation anxiety develop and can be prevented.

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How common is separation anxiety?

By Admin | dog, puppy, behaviour, separation, home alone, early, training, survey, research

Surveys have suggested that between 13% and18% of owners report that their dogs show problem behaviours when left alone. With an estimated 10 million dogs in the UK, this could mean as many as 1.8 million dogs are suffering separation issues. But actually this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg - because these behaviours occur when we are out, most of us don't even know that our dogs have a problem! Read more to find out about research which has helped identify the real hidden welfare issue of separation anxiety in our dogs.

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What do I do if my dog is anxious home alone?

By Admin | dog, behaviour, separation, home alone, training, dog school, behaviourist

Whilst your dog’s separation behaviour can be frustrating, try and stay patient with your furry friend. Telling your dog off will generally just make them anxious about you coming home as well as going out, and can often make their behaviour worse. Instead, use the advice in this article to help your dog form more positive associations with being alone.

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