If your dog shows these 8 signs, it likely has separation anxiety and shouldn’t be left alone for too long

There’s a vast difference between a dog being merely clingy and suffering from separation anxiety.

The distinction boils down to behavior.

A clingy dog might follow you around the house, while a dog with separation anxiety exhibits more extreme behaviors when you’re not around.

Separation anxiety in dogs is serious and often misunderstood.

It’s not about your dog missing your company; it’s about them being in a state of panic when they’re left alone.

And as a responsible pet parent, it’s essential to recognize the signs.

So, I’m going to share with you eight signs that could mean your dog has separation anxiety and shouldn’t be left alone for prolonged periods.

1. Excessive barking or howling

When it comes to signs of separation anxiety, one of the most common indicators is excessive barking or howling when you’re not at home.

Now, it’s important to understand that all dogs bark.

It’s their way of communicating, after all.

But when the barking becomes persistent and is accompanied by a high-pitched howl, it could be a sign of distress.

Think about it.

Dogs are social animals.

They’re used to being part of a pack.

When you leave them alone, they might feel abandoned and start calling out for you – or for anyone who can help.

So if your neighbors have been complaining about your dog’s constant noise when you’re away, it might be time to consider if your furry friend is dealing with separation anxiety.

2. Destructive behavior

Another sign that your dog might be suffering from separation anxiety is destructive behavior, especially when you’re not around.

I’ll share a personal example.

My Labrador, Fred, was always well-behaved.

But one day after coming home from work, I found my living room in a complete mess.

Fred had chewed up the couch cushions, knocked over plants and even scratched the door.

At first, I thought he was just being naughty.

But when this behavior continued every time I left him alone, I realized it was more than just mischief.

The clincher was that Fred would never behave this way when I was at home.

Destructive behavior in dogs can often be a result of anxiety and panic.

In my case, Fred was trying to communicate his distress the only way he knew how.

3. Escaping or attempting to escape

When a dog is trying to escape from the house or yard when you’re not around, it is often a sign of separation anxiety.

Dogs with separation anxiety view their surroundings as unsafe without their owners.

They believe that by escaping, they can reunite with their owners and feel safe again.

Interestingly, in their panic-driven state, dogs can go to extreme lengths.

Some have been known to chew through doors or even jump out of windows causing themselves harm.

This phenomenon is so prevalent that it has a term in veterinary behavior science: ‘separation-related escape behavior’.

But not every dog that tries to escape suffers from separation anxiety.

It’s one piece of the puzzle and should be considered alongside other signs.

4. Pacing

Here’s another sign to look out for: pacing.

A dog suffering from separation anxiety may walk or trot along a specific path in a fixed pattern when left alone.

This could be in a circular manner around the room, back and forth between two specific points, or even in a straight line.

They might do this for hours on end.

Once again, this behavior is usually only exhibited when the dog is alone or believes it’s alone.

If you’ve noticed your dog pacing like this through a home security camera or from a window when you’re outside, it could be a sign of separation anxiety.

However, pacing can also be a sign of other health issues, so it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet if you notice this behavior.

5. Changes in appetite

When your best friend’s normal behavior changes, it tugs at your heartstrings.

One such change to watch out for in dogs with separation anxiety is a change in their eating habits.

Dogs love their food.

It’s one of the joys they look forward to each day.

So when a dog that usually gobbles up its meals suddenly starts to ignore its food, especially when left alone, it’s a cause for concern.

In severe cases of separation anxiety, some dogs may completely stop eating unless their owner is present.

This isn’t just a sign of separation anxiety; it can also lead to health problems if not addressed.

6. Inappropriate elimination

One sign that is difficult to deal with, both emotionally and practically, is inappropriate elimination.

Essentially, this means your dog starts to pee or poop inside the house when you’re not there, even though they’re house trained.

I’ve experienced this with my own dog.

Despite being perfectly trained, Max started having ‘accidents’ inside the house whenever I was away.

It was confusing and frustrating at first, but then I realized it was another sign of his separation anxiety.

This behavior can occur in various spots around the house, but dogs suffering from separation anxiety often choose locations that carry their owner’s scent – like a bed or a sofa.

It’s important to remember that this behavior is not a form of rebellion or spite.

It’s a cry for help from a pet who’s feeling scared and anxious.

7. Excessive drooling or panting

Excessive drooling or panting can be another sign of separation anxiety in dogs.

This is their physiological response to the stress and anxiety they’re experiencing when left alone.

You might come home to find your pet’s chin and chest area wet from drool, or their favorite resting spot damp.

Or you might notice heavy panting when you return home, even though it’s not particularly warm and your dog hasn’t been physically active.

Like all the other signs, it’s crucial to rule out medical conditions that could also cause excessive drooling or panting.

8. Changes in behavior before you leave

Dogs are incredibly perceptive and can pick up on our routines.

They might start showing signs of distress when they sense you’re about to leave.

This could include pacing, whining, or becoming overly clingy.

Recognizing these changes can help you provide comfort and reassurance to your pet before you step out, reducing their anxiety levels.

It’s not just about identifying the problem; it’s about being proactive in alleviating the stress your pet feels when they’re alone.

It’s about empathy

Understanding your dog’s behavior is the first step towards addressing the issue of separation anxiety.

Remember that your pet isn’t trying to be difficult or stubborn; they’re expressing their distress the only way they know how.

A dog’s bond with its human is profound and powerful.

They see us as their pack, their family. So when we’re away, it can be incredibly stressful for them.

The key to managing separation anxiety lies in empathy and patience.

While it can be challenging to deal with, remember that your pet is suffering too.

They’re not trying to annoy you; they’re simply scared and anxious.

In the end, our pets rely on us for their well-being.

It’s our responsibility to understand their needs and do all we can to make them feel safe, loved, and comfortable, even when we can’t be right there with them.

Clifton Kopp

Clifton Kopp

I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

The latest articles and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.

Scroll to Top