Managing Separation Anxiety – Part One

As I sit, helplessly listening to a poor pup howling his heart out from one of the nearby blocks of flats, I am reminded of all the poor pups out there that might not cope well alone.

So, I thought, why don’t we work on this together!

Separation Anxiety is Actually Normal

First, it’s important to know that separation anxiety is perfectly normal in all social creatures – including us. If it wasn’t for a need to be sociable we wouldn’t care a jot for all the new lockdown measures, in fact we’d hardly even notice them! Our dogs are no different, and that’s how it should be.

Not all dogs cope well being left alone

Also, just like us, separation affects us all differently. Just because your dog is suffering terribly, it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, it just means your dogs need are different to other dogs. Some love their “me time,” others can barely cope for an hour.

So, the idea is not to cure separation anxiety, instead, let’s help them cope better.

Before we do this though, we should check that your dog actually does have separation anxiety! Very often its confused with boredom, hyperactivity, or an attachment issue. If that’s the case, you’ll work your ass off and get no where, or in some cases, make things worse!

I go into more detail about assessing behaviour here!

So how do you know…?

*It could be separation anxiety if he does any of the following… drooling, crying, chewing, pacing, barking, window watching, over reaction to your return. If he tries to prevent you leaving, gets anxious when you do “leaving” type behaviour such as lifting keys, shoes etc

*A dog with separation anxiety will not usually be appeased with distractions such as toys or food – that’s boredom.

*A dog which only pines for one person has an attachment issue.

*Very smelly farts/poop when left alone could indicate anxiety.

*A “busy” dog that has trouble settling at the best of times is more likely to have a hyperactive behaviour problem.

*Does he only attack doors and boundaries? He might be frustrated.

*Dogs that have experienced trauma may not have separation problem and may need a very different approach.

*A dog that is generally naughty might just be enjoying a lack of supervision!

*It might not be separation anxiety if he is old or sick – check with a vet first.

So, this weekend, watch them carefully to see if their anxiety could actually be something else!

Any questions? Pop them in the comments


I have more than 15 years experience solving all kinds of canine behaviour problems, at home and in rescue. A bad experience with a old fashioned dog trainer inspired me to learn more about dog behaviour, and it is because of him, that I wall never use harsh methods when training and rehabilitating dogs.

I work privately with clients in Dundee and the surrounding area with dogs of all ages, breeds and issues including anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity.

In 2009 I was proud to publish a book about dog behaviour and training. How to be the Perfect Pack Leader (by Caroline Jenkins) remains popular today and a follow up is expected very shortly.

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