Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Scruffy dog with head on back of sofa looking out window

How can I tell if my dog or puppy has separation anxiety?

Do you recognize these potential signs of separation anxiety?

  • You come home from work and find a note on your door from a neighbor. Bella has been barking on and on for weeks, and you had no idea.
  • Max starts to pace and pant when you get ready for work, or when you pick up your gym bag and keys.
  • Lucy pees in the house when you’re gone. She never pees inside when you’re home, even if you’re in a completely different part of the house.
  • You notice that Charlie scratched up the door and window while you were out.
  • Daisy gets a nicely stuffed Kong whenever you leave the house. You have a camera set up and notice that she works on the Kong for about 10 minutes, but as soon as the food runs out she begins whining and pacing between the window and the door.
  • Cooper gets a nicely stuffed Kong whenever you leave the house. But he doesn’t start to work on it until you get back home.

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is often used as a general term to mean a dog or puppy who is upset, anxious or panicking when alone or separated from their human(s). You may also hear separation related behaviors, separation related problems, separation distress, isolation distress or other terms.

Dogs suffering from separation anxiety are in a panic. They cannot help it, and they cannot control the behaviors resulting from that panic.

What does separation anxiety look like?

Here are some of the signs that may indicate a dog is suffering from separation anxiety. One or several of these could occur when the dog is left alone or separated from a certain person.

  • Vocalizing (barking, whining, howling)
  • Eliminating, house soiling (peeing or pooping in the house) in an otherwise potty trained dog
  • Chewing and destroying exit points like doors and windows, walls, floors or other items
  • Escape attempts
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Drooling, salivating
  • Not eating when alone
  • Self harm (licking self to point of injury, injured while trying to escape)
  • Anxiety when anticipates will be left alone (pre-departure anxiety)
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking, trembling
  • Freezing
  • Tucked tail
  • Pinned ears
  • Whale eyes (wide eyes, whites of eyes showing)
  • Other signs of anxiety

Do you suspect your dog or puppy might have separation anxiety? Set up a camera so you can watch your dog when they’re home alone.

Could there be another explanation?

Sometimes we may suspect separation anxiety, but discover it’s something else entirely. Here are some of the issues that could be mistaken for separation anxiety.

  • Confinement anxiety. In this case, the dog is not comfortable with confinement in a crate or other small area.
  • Incomplete potty training. Or the dog has learned it’s not safe to urinate in the house in front of humans, so waits until the people are gone.
  • A dog reacting to sounds or sights from outside. This could be a dog with noise phobia, thunder phobia, alarm barking or garden variety watchdog barking.
  • Boredom.
  • Incomplete chew training or counter surfing.

The good news is that we can help dogs learn that it’s safe to be alone. Visit our separation anxiety training page for more information.