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How do I know if my dog is suffering from separation anxiety?

Often referred to as separation anxiety, separation related behaviour (SRB) is behaviour that only occurs when the dog is separated from their owner and in many cases is because they are feeling distressed. Telltale indicators include destructive behaviour, unwanted toileting or reports of howling/barking.

Other signs may not always be obvious (you won't be there to hear whining or see pacing). Taking the time to check for these signs by filming your dog when home alone will help you reveal any potential issues (even if you don't believe there to be any).

In fact, research suggests that 8 out of 10 of dogs will find it hard to cope when left alone, but half of these won't show any obvious signs, so it can be very easy for owners to miss. The good news though is that SRB is preventable.

What are the signs of separation anxiety?

You may know the obvious signs of separation anxiety in dogs, such as destroying furniture or barking, but did you know that there are other signs that you may be missing? Returning to a dog who is really happy to see you doesn't mean that he or she hasn't been suffering silently while you've been out...

The most common behavioural signs of separation anxiety in dogs are:

Destructive behaviour (targeted at the door you left the house from), chewing and destroying furnitureVarious types of vocalisation (howling and barkingToileting (weeing or pooing)

Other less frequent signs (that can be more easily missed) include:

  • Trembling

  • whining

  • Pacing

  • Excessive salivation

  • Self-mutilation

  • Repetitive behaviour 

  • Vomiting

How do I tell if my your dog is suffering from separation anxiety?

One of the main differentiating features between separation-related behaviour and other behavioural disorders with similar signs is that the behaviour is in response to the owner leaving and is displayed soon after their departure. Normally starting within 30 minutes, and often, within the first few minutes.

Even if you think your dog is happy left alone, every once in a while check for 'hidden' signs that your dog may be distressed by filming your pet whilst you're out.

For more information visit the RSPCA website: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/dogs/behaviour/separationrelatedbehaviour