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Separation anxiety in dogs

Separation anxiety can manifest for dogs in destructive behaviour and a whole lot of howling. Discover how to spot the signs and calm your canine down with our guide.

Dog separation anxiety signs 

Separation anxiety comes with some telltale signs. Spotting those anxious signals in advance can help to save your shoes and your friendship with the neighbours. Remember, some signals may not manifest until you’re out the house so you might not always be 100% sure whether your dog has separation anxiety or not – unless the neighbours let you know.

Here are some separation anxiety signs dogs’ commonly show:

  • Panting
  • Licking
  • Pacing
  • Whining
  • Drooling
  • Urinating
  • Defecating
  • Scratching, chewing, and destructive behaviour

If you come home to a mess on the floor, or chew marks in your favourite throw, telling your dog off probably won’t help. Dogs don’t understand guilt the same way humans do and won’t associate the telling off you give them with the destructive behaviour they did while you were out. They may just become anxious about you leaving and returning instead.  

If you’re worried about your dog having separation anxiety, try to set up a camera to help you monitor them. Once you’re sure, you can consider your next steps. 

Causes of separation anxiety in dogs

There are a range of triggers that can lead to separation anxiety in dogs. Sometimes, it’s as simple as them not being aware that it’s okay to be alone. But, there are some other reasons your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety that you can help with, including:


While boredom isn’t necessarily a sign of separation anxiety, it can come with many similar signals. For example, a bored dog can become destructive, whiny, and clingy. However, it could be a sign of distress too. It’s important to be sure your dog has plenty of toys so they can stay mentally stimulated whilst you’re out.


There are many incidents that can trigger separation anxiety in a dog, such as a storm, fireworks, or a break in. Once your dog feels reassured, things should get easier.


Your dog could feel frustrated which can cause them to be destructive and distressed. This could be due to a change in schedule, or them struggling in their environment. 


Many dogs aren’t used to being alone, especially if they’ve been rehomed or are a puppy. Think about it from their perspective – their favourite person in the whole world leaves suddenly, and they don’t know if you’re ever going to come back. But with proper training, dogs can learn to be happy and keep themselves entertained  when left to their own devices.

Even if your dog is comfortable, they can sometimes have an anxious personality. Some breeds are naturally clingier than others, meaning they don’t cope as well being left alone. 

Dog separation anxiety at night

Puppies often experience separation anxiety at night. If your dog has anxiety at night, you may hear them howling, or pawing at your door. 

There are a few ways to help a dog with anxiety at night, and it’s a common part of training a puppy. 

Here are some tips on how to avoid separation anxiety in dogs at night. 

  • Make sure basic needs are covered. Ever tried to sleep on an empty stomach or while needing a wee? It’s not easy. Just like us, dogs have basic needs. Make sure they’re fed, have access to water, and are comfortable where they sleep. If these needs aren’t met, they’ll let you know.
  • Encourage relaxation. You can use long lasting chew toys or exercises to calm your dog down and get them into a relaxed space before bedtime. 
  • Give them plenty of exercise. Throwing the ball or running around the garden with your dog can help them to wear themselves out before bed. If your pooch hasn’t had enough physical and mental stimulation, they can become restless.  

What to do if your dog has separation anxiety

Managing your dog’s separation anxiety can be stressful but there are many tips, tricks, and solutions that can help. If you’re struggling, it can be helpful to contact a dog behaviourist who could train your dog (and you) to tackle separation anxiety. 

Before speaking to a behaviourist, you may want to try dealing with dog anxiety yourself. Here are some tips recommended by the RSPCA that could make a huge difference:

Leave them their favourite toy

Always leaving your dog with a toy or a chew to keep them busy when you leave is the first step to take. Something long-lasting like a stuffed Kong  or a snuffle mat is great for keeping them busy. 

Introduce alone time

Slowly introducing alone time can increase your dog’s comfort and confidence. Sometimes, it’s as simple as them realising it’s okay to spend time alone by leaving them for short periods and building up to longer time frames.

Exercise them before leaving

Your dog is more likely to settle down for a nap when you leave if they’re tired out from walkies. Try to make sure they’ve had enough exercise so they’re ready for some quiet time when you leave.

Don’t punish your dog

If you get home to a mess or your dog has chewed your shoes or your furniture your first instinct may be to tell them off. This won’t help anything and may actually make your dog worse next time you leave so try to keep your cool. 

Look into medication

If you’ve tried everything above and your dog is still struggling when left alone, calming medication or professional behavioural training could help. Speak to your vet about your options. 

Frequently asked questions 

Can you train separation anxiety out of a dog?

Yes, you can train separation anxiety out of your dog. There are behavioural exercises you can use to help your dog feel more comfortable on their own.

Can dogs grow out of separation anxiety?

It’s rare that dogs simply grow out of separation anxiety, and they may need training or other forms of support. With the right help, your pup can make some real progress.

How do you stop separation anxiety in dogs?

There are several ways to tackle separation anxiety in dogs. Behaviour training programmes usually fix the issue but there are medical solutions in extreme cases. If you’re struggling, speak to your vet or a dog behaviourist.


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