Separation distress or anxiety

Is my dog suffering from separation distress or anxiety?

A dog's persistent barking is the result of an issue; therefore, it is very important to find out why a dog barks. Dogs that bark persistently are often trying to alert someone that their needs are not being met.

The barking will be resolved when the cause is addressed. Managing the environment that a dog lives in will assist in resolving the barking issue. To assist in identifying why your dog is barking, firstly consider what your dog is doing when he/she is barking?

Reasons why my dog might be barking

  • Being left alone i.e. owner/family away from home
  • loss of companion, human or animal
  • unable to settle
  • refusing to go outside.

Further signs of this behaviour may include:

  • looking sad, depressed or displaying a fearful nature
  • inappropriate toilet behaviours
  • attempting to escape
  • excessive pacing, salivation
  • displaying compulsive behaviours such as tail chasing, shadow chasing excessive licking flanks or paws
  • following/shadowing you or a family member around
  • not eating or drinking when home alone/only eating when owner arrives home
  • destructive behaviour.

Actions to try to resolve the barking

Immediate action:

  • visit a vet for diagnosis and treatment including a suggested modification plan
  • administer medication as prescribed or recommended by a vet. 

Other actions to trial:

  • reduce anxiety by administering over the counter medications
  • film your dog when you are away from home to see his/her behaviour
  • advise council/neighbours that medication is being trialled and may take up to six weeks to take effect.

Monitoring my dog's progress

Seek feedback from neighbours through weekly check ins. Sometimes neighbours have a good idea of how your dog is behaving, especially if the barking occurs while you are away from home. Download the “Dear Neighbour”(PDF, 211KB) feedback card to place in your neighbour’s letter box(es) or hand it to them personally to complete and return to you. Other ways to monitor progress include use of recording equipment such as phones, tablets, CCTV or noise monitor recording devices.

If the actions I am trialling work

Continue to monitor your progress and:

  • provide consistency to your dog’s daily life – stick to your agreed plan of approach to manage the barking
  • reward your dog with treats, praise or play for quiet behaviour 
  • keep a diary of your dog’s behaviour.

If there is no improvement within two weeks

Seek further professional advice from your vet.