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Separation Anxiety in Dogs: A Simple Guide | Pupford

March 29th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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If it were up to our dogs, we’d spend every moment together. While that sounds like a dream come true (for us too!), unfortunately, it’s not realistic.

For many dogs, separation is really tough. We get a lot of people asking for advice about how to tell if their dog has separation anxiety and what to do about it.

With many people soon returning to school and work following the coronavirus pandemic, we thought it would be a good time to address separation anxiety in dogs as it’s a growing concern in our community.

So snuggle up close with your dog (no need for separation now) and let’s get into it.

Here are all the things we’ll be covering today!

  • Can dogs have separation anxiety?
  • What causes separation anxiety in dogs
  • Signs of separation anxiety
  • Separation anxiety vs. boredom: how to tell the difference
  • How to confirm if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety
  • How to keep your dog calm when you leave

Let’s start by answering a common question new dog parents ask us…


The short answer? Absolutely.

Some people make the assumption that their dog acts up when they’re alone out of spite (that's not the case). However, there can be a legitimate condition causing it.

Unfortunately, our dogs can become quite upset when the people they’re attached to (like you, their guardian) leave them.

That’s because dogs can struggle to understand why you’re leaving or that you will be coming back. More on that in the next section…


Dog looking outside | Pupford

While opinions vary, here are some theories that experts say can lead to separation anxiety:

  • A loss of an important person in a dog’s life, like being abandoned or surrendered.
  • A change in guardianship or family.
  • A change in schedule.
  • Sometimes, hereditary traits from their parents.
  • A change in environment, like moving to a new house.
  • A change in household dynamics, like if a family member passes away or moves out.

These factors create a sense of uncertainty that can make your dog anxious or even fear that they’re in danger or won’t be able to access food and water.

In some cases, there can be other factors completely that lead to your dog's separation anxiety!


dog destroying things | Pupford

Keeping your eye out for the signs of separation anxiety will help you catch it sooner, so you can help your dog overcome it.

Here are some key signs that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety:

  • Pacing, whining, or shaking
  • Barking or howling
  • Destructive behaviors like chewing or digging
  • Having accidents in the house
  • Attempting to escape confinement

A dog suffering from separation anxiety can display these behaviors once you’ve left or when they sense you’re about to leave, like when you put your shoes on or pack up a bag.


Cute dog looking happy | Pupford

A common challenge a lot of our pup parents face is trying to tell the difference between legitimate separation anxiety and boredom. As we’ve mentioned before, boredom is one of the most common causes of destructive behaviors.

So how do you know when it’s boredom vs. when it’s a more serious anxiety issue?

Typically in the case of boredom, destructive behavior like chewing, scratching, etc. is the only thing occurring. You won’t typically see a dog crying, barking, trembling, or trying to escape their crate or room just out of boredom.

If your dog doesn’t get much engagement before being left alone, or doesn’t have an engaging toy with them while you’re gone, there’s a chance they just might be bored.

Try adding playtime, exercise, or training sessions on the days they will be left alone, as well as leaving them with an engaging toy.

If that’s not helping to improve behavior, read on to the next section for how to confirm that your dog has separation anxiety.


The tricky thing about separation anxiety is that it happens when you’re not there.

It can be really hard to tell if your dog is exhibiting any symptoms other than destructive behaviors if you’re not there to see it.

The most effective way to confirm if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety is to install a camera in the room where their crate is, or where they stay when you’re not home.

That way, you can see their movements, behavior, and demeanor from the moment you leave to when you come back.

If you see your dog display any of the symptoms we mentioned before, it’s likely they’re suffering from separation anxiety and action should be taken.

Still not sure? It is a great idea to get the help of a certified dog trainer or board-certified behaviorist!


black-dog-learning-to-use-potty-bell | Pupford

The good news is that there are ways to overcome separation anxiety and keep your dog calm when you leave.

First, you’ll want to make sure you are setting your dog up in a relaxing environment.

We’re not talking candles and spa music, we’re just talking about a few small, but impactful changes, including:

  • Making sure your dog’s crate is the proper size (although if your dog truly has separation anxiety, crates can have a negative effect)
  • Putting a plush toy or blanket in the area where they stay, to give them a source of comfort and a familiar scent
  • Giving them an engaging toy like a dog chew, Kong, snuffle mat, or lick mat. These kinds of toys are not only engaging, but they offer an exciting treat to your dog too, making them associate home alone time with something positive

Additionally (and MOST importantly) you’ll want to provide specific training designed to ease separation anxiety and help prevent destructive behaviors when left alone.

Separation Anxiety is a real phobia for many dogs, and should be treated that way!

You can't just expect your dog to "get over it" without proper training and behavior modification.

We recently partnered with Amber Aquart CPDT-KA to help creat the Separation Anxiety Course for this exact situation.

This course will help your dog enjoy being home alone, make leaving your dog alone a calmer experience, and help you understand more about separation anxiety and how you can help your dog!

This in-depth video course is a must-have if your dog is struggling with Separation Anxiety.

Learn more about the Separation Anxiety Course with Amber Aquart CPDT-KA here.


white-and-brown-puppy-starting-to-teeth | Pupford

Separation Anxiety can be a very difficult challenge for any pup parent.

Although we believe the tips in this article can help you on the right path, the Separation Anxiety Course is the most in-depth way to find solutions for your dog's Separation Anxiety.

You can learn more and get access here!


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