Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Signs, Causes and Treatment

We love our dogs for many reasons, including their loyalty and devotion to us. They are often happiest when standing faithfully by our side, and least happy when separated from us.

But some dogs can suffer from stress and panic when you leave the house – or even when you leave the room. This condition is called separation anxiety.

West Highland White Terrier looks out the window.


What to look for:

It’s important to identify the signs of anxiety that some dogs may display when they are separated from their owners. These signs occur with social isolation from their owners and not with isolation alone. The signs are usually most intense for the first 15 minutes after departure, but can continue during the entire period of separation.

Some of these behaviors are common in other situations, such as boredom, physical illness or excessive energy in young puppies. Signs related to separation anxiety are exhibited only in the physical absence of the owner.


Certain types of dogs may be more prone to developing this condition, including:

Keep in mind social behaviors in dogs reflect their descent from wolves, which have a very structured society. The cohesion of the group or “pack” is critical to survival. Social attachments in dogs are what predispose them to experience separation-related emotions and behaviors.


Behavioral training and changes in the home are two essential components in effectively treating separation anxiety.


There is no proven method of preventing separation anxiety from forming in pets. However, it is always a good idea to encourage your dog to develop independent behavior – such as playing with a toy in another room, or relaxing in a crate by himself.

If you notice your pet displaying signs of anxiety or stress when you’re about to leave the house, it’s important to talk to your veterinarian and try to fix it as early as possible to prevent it from worsening.

For more information about separation anxiety and behavioral health, contact your primary care vet or a veterinary behaviorist.