Table of Contents
1.    What is dog separation anxiety? 
2.    Signs of separation anxiety in dogs

  • Behavioural signs
  • Physical symptoms
  • Is it separation anxiety, dog boredom or something else? 
  • Dog separation anxiety at night

3.    How to diagnose dog separation anxiety and other issues

  • Step 1: Learn your dog’s behaviour
  • Step 2: Use a camera
  • Step 3: Speak to your vet

4.    Causes of dog separation anxiety
5.    How to stop separation anxiety in dogs

  • Top 10 tips for leaving your dog alone

6.    How to prevent separation anxiety in dogs
7.    How to deal with separation anxiety in dogs

  • When to contact the vet

8.    Taking care of yourself during dog separation anxiety
9.    Top 10 dog separation anxiety dos and don’ts
10.    Dog separation anxiety FAQs 

  • How can I be sure of what my dog is doing when I leave them alone?
  • How long can I leave my dog alone? 
  • What dog separation anxiety symptoms should I be aware of to know if my dog is stressed out being left alone?
  • How do I know if my dog is happy to be left alone?

To sum it all up…


Being away from your dog can leave them (and you) feeling anxious, especially in the beginning. But if your dog’s struggling to settle at home alone, don’t worry! There are plenty of things you can do to make sure they’re happy and secure by themselves. In this blog, we have lots of tips to help you set your dog up for success when staying home alone. 

It’s not unusual for dogs to have some separation issues, and it’s often a major source of worry for pet parents. First off, we don’t like knowing our dogs are unhappy and secondly, it takes time and patience to resolve. If you’re going through separation issues with your dog, try to remember they’re quite common, many people have successfully worked through them and there’s plenty of help out there.

This blog will help you spot the signs of dog separation anxiety and understand the difference between true separation anxiety and other issues, like boredom and isolation distress. We’ll walk you through how to stop separation anxiety in dogs, including training, monitoring and when to ask for expert help.  Let’s get started…

Separation anxiety in dogs1. What is dog separation anxiety?

Strictly speaking, separation anxiety refers to dogs who feel distress when they’re away from their main caretaker – usually a specific person. However, the term is often used as shorthand for a range of unwanted behaviours dogs display when they’re left alone. It’s possibly more accurate to call this separation-related behaviour (SRB). 

Signs of separation anxiety in dogs can include destructive chewing and digging, your dog barking and howling, toilet accidents, and more. Separation anxiety in dogs can range from mild to severe, and dealing with it can be very difficult for pups and pet parents alike, requiring plenty of time and patience. That said, don’t be discouraged. Regular separation anxiety dog training and confidence-boosting exercises will almost always help your dog overcome their fear of being alone.

First things first, it’s important to know what’s causing your dog’s behaviour before jumping to the conclusion that they have separation anxiety. Many dogs don’t like being alone but might not actually have separation anxiety. 

For example, if your dog calms down in the presence of other people, even if they’re not you, they could have isolation distress. And dogs might act up when you’re away out of boredom, not anxiety. If you believe your dog has true separation anxiety, it’s important to talk to a professional behaviourist so you can put a separation anxiety dog training programme in place that will stop the problem from getting worse.

Understanding the root cause of your dog’s behaviour is the first step to finding a solution and the good news is that we’ve put together lots of practical tips designed to help with all types of separation-related behaviour – from boredom to dog separation anxiety and everything in between.

2. Signs of dog separation anxiety in dogs

Behavioural signs

Most signs of separation anxiety in dogs you’ll see are behavioural. These include:

  • Noise: excessive howling, dog barking and whimpering. 
  • Destructive chewing: of household items, furniture and even doors.
  • Excessive digging and scratching.
  • Pacing: not being able to settle and constantly checking areas, for example going to the top of the stairs or looking out of windows.
  • Going to the toilet in the house.
  • Over-reacting when you leave the house or return.
  • Not eating or drinking while you’re out. 
  • Increased reactivity or aggression. 

If your dog behaves this way when you’re out of the house, it’s a sign that something isn’t right. 

Physical symptoms

Other dog separation anxiety symptoms can be physical. Keep an eye out for: 

  • Unusual drooling, panting and shaking, particularly right before you leave, while you’re away and for a short while after you come back. 
  • Self-harm: broken teeth, scratched paws or damaged nails from excessive scratching, digging or chewing. 

These can all be signs of an underlying health condition or severe separation anxiety in dogs. If it’s separation anxiety, they should subside soon after you return. Even so, if you spot them, it’s important to speak to your vet. 

Is it separation anxiety, dog boredom or something else?

It’s important to realise that other issues can cause behaviour that looks like separation anxiety in dogs. Some of these are: 

  • Noise sensitivity: for example, shaking or hiding in response to the sound of bins being taken out. We have this helpful blog on helping your dog feel safe and calm when things get loud.
  • Confinement anxiety: for example, pacing or whining after being restricted to a small space. 
  • Frustration: for example, scratching at the garden door after seeing a squirrel in the garden. 
  • Dog boredom: for example, destructive chewing like tearing up a pillow or their dog bed.
  • Dog reactivity: for example, being territorial or having leash reactivity
  • General anxiety

Before assuming your dog has separation anxiety, we recommend first ruling out all other possible causes of their stressed behaviour.

Dog separation anxiety at night

Some dogs really don’t like being left alone at night. This is normal and particularly common with puppies! We recommend getting your dog used to it gradually, by sleeping near them at first, then further and further away. If you provide a soft bed and regular night-time routine for your dog, they should be happy sleeping by themselves eventually. In fact, it’s a great first step to teaching them that alone time is good!

3. How to diagnose dog separation anxiety and other issues

To figure out if your dog has separation anxiety or something else, we recommend you follow these three steps: 

Step 1: Learn your dog’s behaviour

Each pup is unique, and you know yours best. Brush up on your dog body language and note how they react to your comings and goings.  Write down anything unusual so you can share it with your vet. 

Step 2: Use a camera

Many dog owners find this very useful. For example, if your dog naps while you’re away, then wakes up and chews up their bed, they’re unlikely to have separation anxiety. This would more likely be a case of dog boredom. 

Step 3: Speak to your vet

To properly diagnose and treat separation anxiety, you’ll need to speak to your vet, who'll recommend a course of action and possibly a behaviourist. 

4. Causes of dog separation anxiety

If you and your vet believe your dog has true separation anxiety, remember it’s not your fault. The truth is, we don’t always know why some dogs have separation-related behaviour and others don’t. Various factors can play a part, including:

  • Personality, genetics and age. Smaller breeds, puppies and older dogs tend to be more at risk. 
  • Early life. If a pup was separated from their litter at a very young age or not socialised properly within the first 16 weeks, this could impact their anxiety and stress levels. 
  • Multiple rehomings. Rescue dogs can also be at risk of separation anxiety, particularly after multiple rehomings or a long time spent in kennels. 
  • Minor life events. Relatively harmless changes, like family members having a new schedule, can set off separation anxiety in dogs. So can traumatic standalone events like big storms or fireworks. 
  • Major life events. Happy events (welcoming a new family member, buying a house), as well as unhappy ones (divorce, burglary or the passing of a loved one) can all trigger separation anxiety. 
  • Injury and illness. If your pup is recovering from an injury or illness, they can feel more needy and grow anxious when you leave the house. 

Things that don’t cause separation anxiety:

  • Loving your dog too much. Happy confident dogs are the most resilient. You can never give them too much affection or positive reinforcement.
  • A lack of discipline. Punishment is the last thing you want to give a dog with separation anxiety. This will make them more distressed. Your dog forms a bond out of trust, not fear.

Ultimately, no matter how well you care for your dog, you can’t shield them from everything life throws at them. That’s why building their resilience and confidence is the first and best line of defense against dog separation anxiety. And if, despite your love, attention and best efforts, they still develop separation anxiety, what matters isn’t where it came from- it’s how you manage it.

How to stop separation anxity in dogs5. How to stop separation anxiety in dogs

Successfully leaving our dogs alone doesn’t start the moment we leave the house. It starts with exercise, communication, training, and even proper nutrition. These foundations are key to stopping separation issues from forming in the first place or developing into full-blown separation anxiety. They also may also help dogs who are already struggling with it. 

When we leave our dogs alone, we want to set them up for success. They need time to adjust to being left by themselves. If yours hasn’t spent much time alone or isn’t used to being in a different room to you, even for a short period of time, you can’t expect them to thrive on their own right away. They’ll need to build up to it. 

Top 10 tips for leaving your dog alone

  • Make sure they’ve had exercise. A tired dog is less likely to be stressed, so if you can, take them for a walk or play with them before you leave, and make sure they’re getting plenty of regular exercise. 
  • Take them to toilet before you go. Always take your dog outside, so they’ve got an opportunity to go to the toilet before you leave. Otherwise, if they have an urgent need to go while you’re away, they might become anxious or have no choice but to go in the house. 
  • Provide entertainment. Direct your dog’s attention to high-value toys and puzzles for dogs like lickmats or stuffed Kongs. This will give them positive reinforcement and tire them out so they’re ready for a nap. 
  • Set up a comfy space. Make sure your pup’s space is dry and well lit, warm in winter and cool in summer. They should have access to food, water and something soft to nap on.
  • Close blinds and curtains. From passers-by to squirrels, the outside world can be distracting and worrying to your dog. Restrict their view so they can settle and feel safe.  You can also try leaving the radio or TV on to block out noise. 
  • Limit access to the house. Many dogs think they’re in charge of home security and having to ‘patrol’ over several floors can be stressful. It can be helpful to use baby gates or doors to restrict them to one or two rooms. Some dogs enjoy the safety of a crate, but only do this if you’ve already done crate training
  • Don’t make a fuss. If you give your dog a cuddle or attention every time you leave, you’re telling them there’s something to be anxious about. Leave without drawing attention to yourself.
  • Remove dangers. Puppies especially like to chew things, but so do bored adult dogs. Check for and remove access to electrical cables, toxic house plants, human snacks or beloved items that smell like you, such as shoes or teddy bears. 
  • Set a time limit. Lots of pet parents wonder – how long can I leave my dog alone? Even the most relaxed dogs shouldn’t be left all day. Six hours is the very maximum. Any longer and it’s best to ask someone to check in on them. 
  • Reward them. When you return home, grab a small number of treats, like these Natures Menu Lamb and Chicken training treats, and scatter them over the floor. This will help your dog relax on your return by sniffing, help prevent them from jumping up in their excitement and provide some tasty rewards.

6. How to prevent separation anxiety in dogs

Treating dog separation anxiety is one thing, but preventing it before it starts is even better. Here are some activities you can try to help develop your dog’s resilience. 

  • Get them used to being alone. If your dog hasn’t been left alone before, we recommend starting with short periods of 10 or 15 minutes and slowly increasing the time and frequency. If you have a ‘velcro’ dog who constantly sticks by your side, start by leaving them in a different room and gradually build up to leaving the house: stepping out for a few seconds, then minutes, before building up to larger amounts of time. Work within your dog’s limits and if they're struggling, slow things down. 
  • Train consistently and often. Reward them for being quiet and playing with a toy or treat on their own. Practise picking up your coat or keys at different times of day, so they don’t associate this with going out. 
  • Socialise them. Train your dog to be comfortable in situations without you. That could be by having a friend watch them, regular days at doggy daycare, or a dog walker taking them on solo or group walks. The more your dog associates being away from you with pleasant experiences, the better.
  • Build their confidence. Confident, happy dogs are more resilient. Build communication and trust with your dog through bonding activities like training, walks and playtime together. Take them to new places, from parks to city streets, so they can confidently handle whatever life throws at them. 
  • Exercise and nutrition. Exercise is really important for your dog’s wellbeing and helps to counter any restlessness they might feel while you're away – they’ll be far more likely to take a nap if they’re tired out! Proper nutrition also plays a pivotal role in managing a dog's wellbeing, which in turn may help with mental conditions like hyperactivity, stress and separation issues. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, contribute to cognitive function, while good hydration and avoiding excessive sugars can help steady energy levels and keep your dog calm. You can read more about the benefits of a raw Natures Menu diet here, and this blog covers the best dog food for doggy behaviour problems.

7. How to deal with separation anxiety in dogs

Unfortunately, there’s no magic way of curing dog separation anxiety quickly. It’s a condition that’s all about consistent, gentle training over time. That journey can range from easy to very challenging, and sometimes requires expert help from a dog behaviourist. In the short-term, you may need to put a pause on leaving your dog alone, for their safety and your neighbours’ sanity at least until you’re confident their destructive and noisy behaviours are under control. 

At the same time, it’s important to have time away from your dog as you reduce their anxiety. Many pet parents stop doing normal day-to-day tasks and don’t feel they can leave the house at all. This isn't healthy for you or your dog. If you can, we’d recommend asking your friends and family to support you by watching them. You could also use the services of an experienced dog walker or doggy daycare service (always check they're insured first).  At home, carefully observe your dog and note any triggers that seem to set them off: time of day, actions like picking up your coat, or noises like the sound of your wake-up alarm, etc. This will allow you to target areas for training. 

Then, slowly train them to reduce the severity of their reactions to triggers and being left alone. Follow the tips we’ve already shared, remembering that every dog’s response to training is different. You may need to start with a few seconds at a time, working up to minutes and then hours. Progress may seem slow at first, but eventually it will improve more quickly. Some dog owners find it really helpful to keep a diary so they can keep track of the gains their dog makes. The important thing is to train every day consistently, and if needed ask for help from your vet and possibly a behaviourist. 

Realise that, no matter what you do, some dogs might always have some degree of separation anxiety. Make it your aim to reduce their anxiety and separation-related behaviours to a manageable level, so both you and your dog can lead healthy, happy lives and spend time apart. 

When to contact the vet

Severe separation anxiety in dogs can present risks to their health. If your dog is showing high levels of stress, such as causing themselves harm like self-chewing or over-grooming, then it’s time to consult a professional. Again, investing in a pet-camera can really help you to understand if there are any potential triggers causing your dog’s behaviour. For example, did your dog destroy a cushion because your neighbour started drilling into the wall next to where their dog bed is? Capturing video examples can also be really helpful if you feel you do need the help of a behaviourist as they will then be able to assess your dog straight away and help provide a tailored training plan. 

8. Taking care of yourself during dog separation anxiety

Many dog parents say that separation-related behaviour is one of the hardest things they’ve had to tackle with their dogs. While it’s very common, it can still feel overwhelming. Remember you’re not alone and acknowledge the hard work you’re doing. Dogs are also very intuitive, so it’s important for you to stay as calm and stress-free as possible, so they can be too.  
Remember: dog separation anxiety isn’t your fault. As we’ve outlined above, many dogs experience separation anxiety, for a variety of reasons. In fact, the RSPCA estimates that up to 8 out of 10 dogs have some difficulty being alone. As you work through separation anxiety with your dog, try to get support from other people. Consider extra help, like a dog walker or behaviourist, and keep in touch with your vet. 

Happy dogs need happy owners, so schedule in time for yourself so you get a break. Tracking the progress you’ve made allows you to look back on where you started. Sometimes the hardest part is the very start- most pet parents find if they start small and build up, over time their dogs come on in leaps and bounds. 

9. Top 10 dog separation anxiety dos and don’ts



  • Train your dog gradually over time. Healthy patterns of behaviour may take a while to become established. 
  • Use positive reinforcement. This is always the best way to help your dog become confident, happy and trusting!
  • Keep going. Separation anxiety is a condition that is improved over a time of weeks or months, not hours or days.
  • Discuss options with your vet. They might recommend the use of calming aids such as plug ins, collars or sprays or, in some cases, dog separation anxiety medication.



  • Always train your dog at the same time. Leaving the house and room at random intervals will build their resilience better. 
  • Punish your dog. This will only make things worse. Praise and rewards are the best way to achieve long-term results.
  • Use shock collars or vibration/spray collars dog barking is how your dog speaks These methods can be very traumatic for your dog.
  • Use a crate without training first. Crates can be safe spaces, but only if your dog has had crate training already and loves being in theirs. Don’t confine an already anxious dog.
  • Get a second pet to help. While dogs often love a furry friend to keep near them, you’re running the risk of having two pets with the same behaviour.
  • Expect overnight change. Your dog will make progress with your support, love and consistent training. Change will happen gradually, but it will happen. 

10. Dog separation anxiety FAQs

How can I be sure of what my dog is doing when I leave them alone?

Invest in a pet camera which you can monitor on your mobile phone. You don’t have to go too fancy and get a treat-releasing one, just a basic camera is fine to start. Try not to use the speaker option to talk to your dog as this may cause unnecessary stress.

Speak with neighbours and ask them to let you know about any vocalisation they may hear – explain that you’re training your dog and their input can really help.

How long can I leave my dog alone?

Only leave them for very short periods at first, to make sure they’re comfortable being left. Even stepping out of the front door and counting to 10 is enough to begin with for some dogs. If you go out to the garden for a short period, make sure you don’t always allow them to come with you. This reinforces that even if they are alone everything is fine.

What dog separation anxiety symptoms should I be aware of to know if my dog is stressed out being left alone?

There can be many symptoms of dogs not being comfortable when left alone but here are some more common ones: 

  • Destructive behaviour. Ripping up toys, beds, blankets, cushions, furniture or shoes.
  • Signs of distress when you’re preparing to leave. This might be closely following you, whining or unsettled behaviour. 
  • Vocalisation. Barking, crying or howling.
  • Seeming unsettled. Not being able to stay still for a period of time, pacing or running from room to room.
  • Excessive salivation.
  • Not eating treats or food you’ve left out.
  • Going to the toilet in the house.
  • Over-excitement or obsessive behaviour when you get home.
  • Taking a prolonged period to calm down when you get home.

 How do I know if my dog is happy to be left alone?


  • They appear settled and will sleep or rest comfortably without you being there.
  • They stay in a familiar place, like their own bed, sofa or mat, as they usually do.
  • They'll happily tuck into food and/or treats (if they usually do when you're there).
  • They’re quiet. It’s ok if they occasionally bark or whine at things like the postman, if that’s normal behaviour for them.
  • They don’t show signs of distress when you’re preparing to leave.
  • They seem rested when you get home.
  • They quickly calm down soon after you’ve come through the door.

To sum it all up…

It's always a good idea to talk to your vet about stressed behaviour, first to rule out an underlying health issue, but also to make sure you’re taking the right steps for your dog. If your dog’s behaviour escalates in such a way that presents a danger to themselves, contact your vet straight away. They may be able to recommend a behaviourist or, in severe cases, dog separation anxiety medication