Canine Separation Anxiety
Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Separation Anxiety Causes
one fully understands all the factors that allow one dog from a litter
to function in a healthy and safe fashion when left alone, while a
littermate with the same genetics feels extreme anxiety when left
Animal behaviorists believe that in many cases dogs
with separation anxiety are exhibiting behaviors that are a mixture of
nature and nurture. Nurture—meaning the dog has learned
reinforced by the dog’s owner. Nature—meaning the dog may have a
possible predisposition towards dependency on the owner.
most dog owners will never fully know the exact combination of nature
and nurture that makes their dog dread any kind of separation, some
understanding of what causes the anxiety can be very helpful in putting
an end to it.
The best solution to the negative behavior depends, in part, on the
reason for the behavior.
Common factors for dogs with separation anxiety include:
A dog that has become accustomed to constant human companionship and
then is left alone for the first time and often thereafter.
A dog is left alone following a long interval, such as a
vacation, during which time the owner and dog are constantly
The dog has endured a traumatic or violent experience such as a period
of time spent at an animal shelter, a time with violent abusive owners,
or a frightening event such as a fire in the home.
A change is made in the owner’s lifestyle or routine: a change in work
schedule, a move to a new home, or a new pet or person in the home.
The dog believes he is the pack leader, and panics when his owner is
out from under his watchful eye. The dog actually feels responsible for
watching his owner at all times.
A dog is removed from his mother or littermates at too young of an age
and is emotionally under-developed.
common factor among dogs with separation anxiety is learned
helplessness or dependency reinforced by the dog’s owner. As
mentioned above, some dogs go long periods of time being in constant
contact with their owner. These owners may work from home, be retired,
or have families with members that remain in the home during the day,
so that there is always someone at home with the dog. This set up may
passively reinforce certain dogs’ fear of separation.
owners unintentionally go even further in teaching their dog to be
afraid and anxious by never socializing their dog with other dogs or
people. Ironically, this lack of socialization outside the home can
render some dogs incapable of being left alone in the home for any
period of time.
As well-intentioned as over protective owners
are, overly indulgent pet owners may sometimes humanize dogs in an
unhealthy way. Examples of this behavior include attaching human-like
emotion to leaving or reuniting with the dog. Prolonged sorrowful
goodbyes when leaving, and overly exuberant greetings upon returning,
do more to ease the owners mind than calm or console the dog. These
interactions are purely kind and empathetic on the owner’s part, but
may reinforce negative behavior in some dogs that are prone to