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Volume 24(3), Autumn 2014

Commissioned paper

Home alone

Diagnosis and treatment of separation anxiety

by Clara Palestrini

Stress marks

Destructive behaviour (chewing, digging and scratching) is usually directed at exit points such as doors, windows and gates. Specific objects in the apartment or the house are scratched, chewed or torn apart. Occasionally, this behaviour may even lead to extensive destruction of furniture.

The many forms

of anxiety

It is important to note that dogs with separation-related problems do not all exhibit the same signs and these signs can vary in intensity.

The most common complaints are shown in these videos.


mixed vocalisation


destructive behaviour


Test your knowledge: Drug therapy


Click here to test your knowledge of drugs commonly used for separation-related anxiety.

Separation anxiety is described as problematic behaviour motivated by anxiety that occurs exclusively in the owner’s absence or virtual absence.

Anxiety-related disorders and separation anxiety are among the most common behavioural problems in domestic dogs with separation anxiety being diagnosed in 20–40% of dogs referred to animal behaviour practices in North America.

In the literature, undesirable behaviour problems that occur during owner absence are listed as separation anxiety, separation-related problems, isolation anxiety, separation reactions, separation-related distress and separation anxiety syndrome.

Independent from the classification of the disorder, problems that occur when the owner is absent represent one of the principal causes for the breakdown of the human–companion animal bond and can lead to surrender of numerous dogs to shelters.