Dogs live for their families, and as pack animals, they love to be around their owners as often as they can. Sometimes, this need crosses the line, and our dogs become anxious and hyper-reactive when they’re left alone. Learn more about the signs of separation anxiety in dogs and the dog breeds most prone to this stressful behavior.
Our dogs are incredibly social creatures the purpose of them is mainly loving, and being loved by their owners.
They’re also quite sensitive and adept at picking up any sign of potential threat - whether real or imagined (it all feels the same to them).
A dog that feels threatened can quickly become overly-attached to its owner, leading to the all too common anxious behavior - separation anxiety.
Certain breeds feel these threats a little more than others, especially those historically bred as guard and herding dogs. A naturally high level of alertness meant the difference between the cattle getting killed or noticing the coyotes in time to save the day.
Read below to learn more about the cause and solutions of a dog’s separation anxiety and the breeds more likely to develop this worrying behavior.
What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
Most dogs don’t love to be left alone too often as they’re pack animals that firmly attach to their owners. Separation anxiety happens when that attachment is extreme, and a dog becomes anxious and panicky when its owners leave the house.
Unfortunately, unless you address the problem, a nervous dog will likely become more and more anxious over time, resulting in a super-clingy and miserable pup.
Some dog anxiety can get so severe that a pup may become stressed even when an owner leaves them alone in a room or crates them.
Signs of Anxiety in Dogs
Anxious dogs feel unsafe and unsettled, putting their bodies on high alert. You’ll see plenty of signs of dog anxiety that can become more severe over time as that insecurity may grow.
Watch out for these stressed symptoms of anxiety in dogs:
- Excessive barking, whining, and howling;
- Destructive behavior including chewing furniture and scratching frantically at doors to get in/out;
- Bathroom accidents in house-broken pets;
- Excessive drooling or panting;
Causes of Dog Anxiety
According to the American Kennel Club, much is unknown about why some dogs develop separation anxiety more easily.
- Stressful situations and emotional loss can lead to anxious feelings, just like humans.
- Shelter dogs are more commonly tense - challenging life circumstances can understandably make a dog feel insecure.
- If you’re adopting a senior dog, get as much of their history as you can to learn the ways to best support any past trauma.
There is a genetic component to the likelihood of anxiety, too, it seems. Dog breeding shows us a ton of evidence that personality isn’t all learned, as certain breeds usually develop similar personality types.
The breeds below all seem to develop separation anxiety more often than others.
12 Dog Breeds Prone to Separation Anxiety
#1 Labrador Retriever
The Labrador Retriever dog is a lovable, mildly-tempered sweetie that makes an excellent family companion. They become strongly bonded to their owners and are incredibly social, leading to feelings of anxiety when they’re left alone for too long.
#2 German Shepherd
German Shepherds are the ultimate guard dog for your home - highly trainable, intelligent, and protective.
These protective traits can lead to hyper-awareness, mostly when left alone, bored and stimulated, that puts these guarding tendencies on high alert and causes anxiety.
#3 Border Collie
The Border Collie is a highly-intelligent sheep-herding breed that is whip-smart and considered to be one of the smartest dog breeds globally. All of that intelligence requires lots of mental and physical stimulation daily.
An under-exercised collie that’s left alone for too long will become bored and restless, leading to tendencies for separation anxiety and destructive behavior.
#4 Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
These sweet dogs are a royal favorite that is incredibly social, loyal, and attached to their owner - they don’t do well being away from their owners for long periods.
The Cavalier King Charles breed tends towards generalized anxiety, which can often present itself in an overly-attached pup leading to barking and problematic behaviors.
#5 Jack Russell Terrier
The Jack Russell Terrier seems to hold a bundle of energy in such a tiny body!
These pups are also brilliant, which means they get bored easily when left alone. Pent-up energy + boredom is the perfect recipe for anxious tendencies to surface.
When Jack Russells are bored, they will seek and destroy your favorite things (how do they know?) throughout the house.
#6 Australian Shepherd
These sheepherders are incredibly active and need to feel needed by their owners - they do well with plenty of direction and entertainment.
If an Australian Shepherd gets bored, it will quickly lead to serious separation anxiety.
#7 Bichon Frise
These small companion dogs live to sit in the lap of their family and will do so as much as they can.
The Bichon Frise needs a family home or a retired owner that won’t be away from the house for significant stretches each day, as they suffer some pretty severe distress and anxiety when away from their pack.
The Vizla is a hunting dog bred to spend much time with its humans, working together to track down prey.
This high-energy breed needs lots of exercise to release pent-up excitement, and they need time around their family - some people refer to the Vizla as the Velcro dog that can’t help but stick close to its favorite owner.
#9 Toy Poodle
These teeny-tiny balls of fluff are very gentle and a little emotionally fragile, too.
A highly-intelligent breed, these dogs need plenty of mental stimulation to remain well-adjusted and curb their boredom.
The Toy Poodle needs lots of quality time, love, and affection from its owner to feel secure.
#10 Cocker Spaniel
The Cocker Spaniel is a gun dog initially meant to follow its owners around the hunting field. It’s no wonder then that this dog has strong instincts to follow their owner around everywhere else they go, too.
These pups love to be in the great outdoors and don’t like being left alone for long, especially indoors.
These tiny dogs make convenient companions, especially in small apartment living. The energetic Chihuahua loves the sound of its own voice and is prone to become very yappy when left at home alone.
Luckily, their size also makes them easy to bring places that larger dogs can’t go, so most Chihuahuas aren’t left alone for long periods when they’re prone to destroy furniture and other important belongings.
#12 Italian Greyhound
Though we know Greyhounds for their incredible athleticism and speed, these dogs are pretty lazy when they’re at home - they love to play couch potato as much as possible.
Though they’re a pretty chill breed, they’d always rather be relaxing with their owners than alone and can become anxious when left at home by themselves for too long.
Helping Dogs That Suffer From Separation Anxiety
While separation anxiety can feel like a desperate situation for both you and your pup, there are a few simple ways to help your dog work through their feelings and improve the symptoms.
- Training. Start with graduated training, in which you practice making your dog remain alone in a room for increasing amounts of time. Remain calm when leaving and returning, and eventually work up to leaving the house altogether.
- Entertaining. Fill a toy with hard to access treats to give your dog something to work on while you’re gone and prevent lonely boredom that causes separation anxiety.
- Ensuring comfort. Try crate training your pup to give them a smaller space to mind, which can be particularly helpful for dogs with guarding tendencies. Grab a bed ramp for dogs to encourage your dog to lounge on the bed or couch and stay away from the door. They’ll be comforted by your smell when you’re away from the house.
- Regular exercising. Make sure your pup gets plenty of exercise when you’re home, as pent-up energy can quickly turn into separation anxiety.
- Medical treatment. Sometimes, you may want to try some dog anxiety medication, especially if your pup’s reactions have become very severe. Anxiety meds for dogs can help take the edge off as you work on other training techniques to reduce anxious tendencies.
- Herbal treatment. If you’re not into the idea of medication, you can try some herbal treatments first to see if they’re useful - some give their dogs L-theanine, passionflower, chamomile, St. John’s Wort, or valerian.
We hope one or more of these tools helps to improve your pup’s symptoms - don’t be afraid to reach out and consult your vet or a professional trainer who can provide even more in-depth help!