Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Many dogs show signs of anxiety when left alone, symptoms such as toileting in the house, destructive behaviour, barking, howling, pacing and restlessness. In owner surveys up to 25% of dog owners recognize symptoms of anxiety in their pets however in a pilot study where cameras were placed in homes over 85% of dogs exhibited signs of anxiety, sometimes these symptoms were subtle and wouldn’t be obvious without the hidden cameras such as whining, trembling, panting or drooling.
Dogs are very bonded to us, being separated from us can cause varying degrees of anxiety. Some dogs may be more likely to suffer from separation anixety, dogs that have come rescue shelters and have suffered an experience of separation already. A major house move or change in the family can sometimes trigger a period of anxiety. Genetics can be a factor as certain breeds seem to more prone to feelings of abandonment; Labradors, German Shepherds, Pointers, Vizslas, Poodles and Bichon Frises have all been suggested to be more prone, although in reality any dog can suffer.    
Mild cases may be treated with giving dogs toys and treats to play with while on their own. A dog toy like a Kong that can be stuffed with something tasty and sticky like penaut butter is ideal, they can be frozen to make it take even longer for your pet to work their way through the treat. More severe cases may need medical intervention or desensitisation and counter-conditioning with the help of a behaviourist. Counter-conditioning trains the dog to associate being on their own as a positive experience by being rewarded with for staying calm and relaxed. Desensitisation tries to break the link between leaving and anxiety. Often dogs get anxious before we even leave the house so mixing up the cues that trigger anxiety (like picking up keys or putting coats on) can start to desensitise a dog to us leaving. In recent years pet cameras have become increasingly popular. You can even get cameras that allow you to not only see if your pet is anxious but allow you to talk to them, give them treats and send you alerts if they start barking!
It’s clear that many dogs suffer from some level of anxiety when they are on their own. If you are worried about your pet then speak to your vet or a behaviourist about what can be done to ease an anxious dog.