Causes of Puppy Separation Anxiety and
Symptoms of an Anxious Dog

If your puppy experiences mental anguish each time you leave him alone, puppy separation anxiety may be the culprit. It's a fairly common condition that affects many puppies. But while majority grow out if it, some don't...

While puppies are clingy by nature, separation anxiety can affect any dog of any breed, size or age.

Did you know that separation anxiety is among one of the most common causes for dogs to be surrendered in shelters or put to sleep?

There are a variety of telltale signs suggesting separation anxiety in dogs.

Understanding dog and puppy separation anxiety, and recognizing its signs, is important for dog owners who wish to improve the lives of their canine companions. Fortunately, this condition is fairly easy to treat. Often, it's as simple as modifying our own behavior.

Understanding Puppy Separation Anxiety

Because dogs are pack animals, they are naturally inclined to form strong social bonds with human beings.

The experience of being left alone for several hours at a time may be quite distressing for certain dogs with a predisposition for developing an over-attachment with their owners. Upon being left alone, affected dogs may develop high levels of anxiety, which ultimately leads to the buildup of tension.

Destructiveness and anxiety-based behaviors are often the end result. It is not uncommon for dog owners to believe their dogs are shredding pillows and soiling carpets out of spite. However, the modus operandi of a dog suffering from separation anxiety is far from being caused by human emotions such as revenge, spite or anger.

Affected dogs, in reality, are truly suffering from a panic disorder; therefore, the damage found by owners upon returning home is simply the display of their dog's distress.

Puppy Separation Anxiety

The Typical Separation Anxiety Candidate

Not all dogs develop puppy separation anxiety; indeed, it takes a certain predisposition for this condition to develop.

While some dogs may be genetically predisposed to develop anxiety, many develop this condition as a result of a dysfunctional background or an inadequate amount of early puppy socialization. Shelter dogs, puppies from puppy stores and puppy mills, along with dogs with a history of abuse and neglect are common puppy separation anxiety victims. The way dog owners raise their dogs may also play a contributing role in the development of this disorder.

Separation anxiety in dogs may affect any dog. Puppies, adult dogs and senior dogs may become victims of this disorder.


According to the American Animal Hospital Association, it is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of all dogs experience some form of separation anxiety.

Some dogs may become anxious after life-changing events which disrupt the dog's social bond such ownership changes, relocation or the fact of being suddenly left alone for extended periods of time. Senior dogs, at times, become particularly clingy as a result of impaired vision, hearing loss or some other type of age-related physical discomfort.

Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Dogs affected by puppy separation anxiety develop a vast array of signs and symptoms which take place only when the owner is absent or at a distance.

As a result of being in distress from being left alone, affected dogs typically develop barrier frustration which causes scratching, digging and chewing mainly aimed at doors, windows and other barriers that keep the dog from being near its owner. Affected dogs may also destroy items that have the owner's scent on them.


Dogs just love the taste of leather! When anxious, they often resort to things that are comforting and make them feel good. Hide your shoes before you leave the house!

Distress barking, whining and howling are common vocalizations heard from affected dogs. From a dog's perspective, these distress calls are attempts of reuniting the pack. Aimless pacing, urinating, defecating, panting, salivating, and excessive grooming and loss of appetite are other puppy separation anxiety signs.

Affected dogs also often exhibit signs of excessive dependence with the presence of the owner. For instance, upon greeting the owner after an absence, the dog may engage in a very exuberant welcoming display. Another example of over-attachment is the tendency to continuously follow the owner from one room to another.

How Owners May Create or Exacerbate Separation Anxiety

Some dog owners inadvertently create fertile grounds for dog separation anxiety to put roots. For example, overly indulgent dog owners often may unintentionally encourage over-dependency by allowing their dogs to never leave their side. As much as this seems like the ultimate display of canine loyalty, this behavior can really bring several problems.

Another big mistake is to make a big deal out of departures by engaging in lots of talking and petting. Some dog owners even act apologetic, almost as if they were abandoning their dogs for a very long time! Other owners, on the other hand, cannot even bear the thought of leaving their furry friends alone for a minute and decide to take them along to run errands.

At the other end of the spectrum are dog owners who make a great deal upon returning home. Their almost theatrical homecomings can almost match the emotional reunions seen on television sets. These behaviors, even though carried out with good intent, may ultimately stimulate insecurity and create the ideal grounds for the onset of dog and puppy separation anxiety.

Finally, yelling, hitting, and generally punishing a dog suffering from canine separation anxiety may have detrimental effects and significantly exacerbate the problem.

Once you understand the symptoms and causes of separation anxiety, treating separation anxiety in dogs and puppies will be a lot easier.

Here is a brief video that talks about some of the things we just covered in this article...

Final Thoughts...

Canine separation anxiety is a serious panic response that can have a negative impact on the dog and owner's life.

While canine companions evolved into pack animals that enjoy the companionship of people, it is imperative for owners to find the ideal balance between providing a healthy level of attention and trust, while allowing the puppy to become more independent so to prevent the onset of debilitating puppy separation anxiety.

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Want to learn more?

Puppy Training

Another good resource is the Secrets to Dog Training guide. In addition to thorough discussion of puppy separation anxiety, it covers every behavioral problem you can imagine in a dog.


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