Understanding and preventing separation anxiety in your dog.

Understanding and preventing separation anxiety in your dog. - PetBuddy

Since the Covid pandemic, many of us were spending much more time at home which was music to our dog's ears. It's not all good though, now people are returning to work we've seen a huge increase in separation anxiety. 

What is separation anxiety and what can we do to prevent it?

Separation anxiety happens when a dog doesn’t have the coping mechanisms to be alone or without their owner. Their instincts tell them that being alone is a source of anxiety or fear. This is because if they have never been taught that it is ok and safe to be alone or without their owner so it becomes a scary thing for them. 

Teaching a dog to be alone is such an important part of their training, it's as important as getting them used to new sounds, other dogs, scents and so on. It's actually one of the hardest things to train as we as humans like to feel needed. Often, inadvertently we create the issue of separation anxiety in our dogs by feeling guilty for leaving them alone and convincing ourselves they need us all the time. 

Signs of separation anxiety in dogs.

There are a number of signs that may show that your dog is distressed when alone, which include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Tail between legs
  • Lip licking
  • Ears pinned back
  • Excessive yawning
  • Pacing
  • Destruction
  • Toileting in the house
  • Not eating
  • Howling and barking

It can be so upsetting to see our dogs so distressed and not having the right techniques to help them and manage this.  But here at PetBuddy, we're here to help.  

Here's our three steps to manage and prevent separation anxiety. 


Identifying triggers for, and understanding the extent of, separation related behaviours can be difficult, as the majority of behaviour happens while your dog is on their own. Why not set up a camera that allows you to see what your dog is doing when you’re not with them. You will then be able to spot any triggers and see how their anxiety manifests and presents.  


Dogs need both mental and physical stimulation in order to stay happy and healthy. If your dog isn’t getting enough physical or mental exercise, they can get bored and this might be contributing to their behaviour. If your dog has lots of energy left to use up, then being left alone could increase the chances of them having anxiety. As your dog runs out of things to do, you may see that their energy is directed to destructive behaviours. 


Frustration in dogs can be tricky to spot but is often triggered by a dog’s inability to get at something they want or need. To see if this might be the cause, keep an eye out for things that may be causing your dog to become frustrated. It might be if they feel like they suddenly don’t have your attention and comfort, they might frantically try to find and recreate that comfort in some other way.


Previous negative experiences can have a big impact on how dogs behave. For some dogs, if they've had a negative experience when left alone before, this can cause fear and anxiety in the future when spending time by themselves.

You may notice their behaviour changes when you are getting ready to leave the house without them  All your usual routines of getting your keys or your shoes, grabbing your coat, all can come to act as signals to your dog and may trigger a fear or anxiety reduced response.


If your dog is fearful and anxious when left alone, it could be that they are lacking in confidence, so the more we work on making them a happy and confident dog the more likely they'll be comfortable when left alone.

Training is amazing for increasing their self-confidence. Try teaching some new tricks and always reward any independent behaviour. The ability to self settle is so important so some gentle praise if they choose to settle themselves down somewhere away from you is perfect.


Work our how long your dog can be left alone for before they start showing signs of anxiety.  Have a camera set up and leave the room, watch for any signs that they aren't happy and content in their own company.  

Before beginning your separation training, there are a few things you can do to help set your dog up for success:

  • Ensure your dog is getting enough mental stimulation and exercise. Regular walks and social interaction will help reduce your dog’s energy levels and fulfil some of their needs. 
  • Provide your dog with plenty of opportunities to forage for food and play throughout the day. Food toys such as our snuffle mats and snuffle balls are a great way to do this. 
  • All dogs should have a safe space where they can settle and relax. Think about things that might trigger your dog when creating this area. Your dog should always have free access in and out of their safe area, so if you’re using a crate always remember to keep the door open. 


  • Start slow and simple and don't do more than your dog can handle. It may be that you leave the room rather than the house so your dog knows you are still there.
  • When you leave your dog, make sure they have something, or a few different things to keep them occupied and provide them with mental stimulation. Try long lasting natural treats which should keep them busy and tire them out. 
  • Once your dog is settled, leave the room. Just do it with no fuss. Make it seem like a normal everyday occurrence and show your dog that it’s not something they need to be concerned or stressed about.
  • When you return do it calmly, so fuss but some gentle praise is perfect.
  • Start to increase the time your dog is left alone, slowly if you have to. Sometimes it really is minute by minute. 
  • Once your dog is happy with you being in a different room for longer periods of time, you can begin to leave the house. At this point you can also start to introduce the process of putting on your shoes and picking up keys.


Some dog's are especially anxious and really struggle to be left alone to teaching them to self settle is really important. 

You can try using a feeding tool such as a Lickimat. Top it with your dog's favourite things like banana, one of our delicious paste's, choose from Liver Paste, Salmon Paste or Turkey Paste.  Whilst your dog is busy, go about your business as usual, leave the room and come back. You could also leave some of your dog's food scattered around the room when you leave. Try your best to leave your dog either sleepy from a long walk, a play or training session or occupied so they are more likely to be calmer. 

This can all take time, dog's who have had issues for a while will take some time to unlearn these behaviours be ok having alone time, be understanding and patient. 

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