For some dogs being home alone can be scary – which might come out as destructive behavior. So if you’ve found yourself coming home to a mess, claw marks on your furniture or window sills, or your buddy peeing all over the place…you might be dealing with a case of separation anxiety.

But how does separation anxiety in dogs develop? And how is it connected to your dog running away from home?

Now you do want to ensure you can safely leave your dog home alone without worrying about them barking down the house. (And disturbing your neighbors.) So while the solution isn’t always simple, here are a couple of steps you can take to better understand your dog’s separation anxiety – and how to manage it like a pro.

What is separation anxiety in dogs?

Separation anxiety is a feeling some dogs get when they get separated from their owner, the people they’re attached to. It’s a pet’s exaggerated fear of separation.

This condition commonly results in destructive and inappropriate behaviors when you leave your dog at home alone. Including:

  • Upturned or destroyed furniture
  • Digging around your house, including indoors
  • Chewed up slippers or other household items
  • Peeing or pooing indoors
  • Pacing up and down
  • Excessive shaking and/or panting
  • Scratched furniture, doors, or window sills
  • …or a ton of messages from your neighbors, complaining about their barking, whining, and howling.
Two small dogs looking out of a window

Besides, once you’re home, you might find your dog excessively clingy – following you around everywhere (even to the bathroom!)

Typically, separation anxiety and distress behaviors occur during the first hour of being alone or when their owner prepares to leave. Some dogs might even try to prevent you from leaving the house – or seem depressed right before you leave.

⚠️ Other dogs with separation anxiety may even attempt to escape home (likely to find you!)

Where there’s no end to the dangers they might run into – from passing cars, other more aggressive pets or predators, or even pet thieves.

A small dog running down the road

“A dog with separation anxiety might try to escape from an area where he’s confined when he’s left alone or separated from his guardian.

The dog might attempt to dig and chew through doors or windows, which could result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped front paws and damaged nails.”

– ASPCA.org1

And rather than finding this out the hard way, it’s always better to plan ahead for an emergency.

After all, there’s no end to the reasons why dogs run away from home!

A dog running in a field

💡 Which is why dog parents around the world – just like you – are investing in GPS trackers for their buddies. Tracking them in real-time, over an unlimited range, and with just a glance at your phone.

With a Tractive GPS tracker strapped to your buddy’s collar, you can relax while it monitors your dog’s location 24/7 – like if they’ve just escaped a “safe zone” you set up around your home or backyard.

Tractive GPS virtual fence

Meaning you’ll now get an instant escape alert on your phone the minute your buddy tries sneaking past your fence.

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Set Up A Virtual Fence

What may cause separation anxiety in dogs?

It’s not completely understood why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and others don’t. Rather, a whole bunch of factors may cause this condition. Here are some of them:

Traumatic past experiences


  • Being separated too early from Mama dog (so they don’t learn to develop a secure attachment)
  • Being lost in unfamiliar surroundings
  • Losing a family member or a fellow pet (not only to passing away – but also if, say, your kids move out of home to go to college out of state)
  • Experiencing a big, stressful change – like moving houses, states, or even countries
A scared dog hiding under a couch

In other cases, like if you’ve just adopted a dog, their separation anxiety may stem from negative experiences from the past – maybe at their shelter or boarding kennel or with a previous owner. (Including the experience of violence and abuse.) Much like humans, dogs can also develop conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.

Your dog’s breed

It’s not clear why, but some dog breeds may be more likely to develop separation anxiety. These breeds tend to have stronger “people pleasing” traits than others and don’t do well being left alone for long periods of time:

  • Golden Labs and Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Chihuahuas
  • Border Collies
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Viszlas
  • German Shorthaired Pointers
  • Poodles
  • Bichon Frises
A Golden Lab standing in a field

Now when you think about it, many of these breeds make sense. Shepherds, Retrievers, Collies, Terriers, and Pointers were all once raised to work alongside humans and accomplish specific tasks, like hunting down prey or herding around cattle. So if they’re left alone for too long, the boredom and restless might turn up as separation anxiety instead.

Your dog’s growing older

As your dog grows older, they’re at risk of cognitive decline if you don’t keep them mentally active. Besides these changes, your buddy might also be at risk for:

  • A loss of senses, including their hearing, vision, or balance
  • Mobility-affecting conditions, like arthritis
  • Other age- and weight-related health conditions, including heart disease

All these changes can be scary to experience – both for you and your dog. So they might grow more clingy with age as they look to you for comfort and support.

Read more: Senior Dogs: Helping Your Buddy Age Gracefully

A senior dog reaches out a paw to a man

How to handle separation anxiety in dogs

Now the whole point of preventing separation anxiety in dogs is to help them understand: it’s okay if you leave home, you’re going to come back! Which begins with training them to associate you leaving home = something good. (And not the end of the world.)

So you could:

  • Practice gradual departures. Start by leaving home for a few minutes and (very) gradually increasing the length of time. Give your dog a ton of pets and praise once you do return.
  • Make sure your dog’s home environment is an enriched one, with plenty of toys, treats, food puzzles, and other tools to keep them occupied.
  • Invest in chew toys. Chewing is a great stress reliever for dogs and provides your pup with a strategy for calming down.
  • Hide small treats around the house or in the crate to keep your dog busy and out of boredom.
  • Tire out your dog before you leave. Give them plenty of physical and mental exercise, and quality time with you. When you then leave, they’ll be more content to sleep or just take it easy.
A young woman playing with a dog indoors

If your dog’s anxious behavior has gotten worse over time, get in touch with your vet. They can help you best understand whether your dog might need medication to cope with their anxiety or try some other treatment method.

Besides, we’d always recommend you plan ahead for an emergency.

  • If they’re old enough, getting your dog microchipped is always a good idea. A microchip works like a permanent ID tag for your pets – and a vet or local shelter can scan it to find your contact details and inform you they’ve found your lost dog.
  • Inform your neighbors and loved ones well in advance, so they can keep an eye out for any escape attempts.

And most importantly…

  • Consider strapping a GPS tracker to your dog’s collar. A microchip can’t help you track down your missing pet in real-time. (And neither can your neighbors.)
Tractive GPS live tracking

But in an emergency, a GPS tracker means you can follow your dog’s every step – with just a glance at your phone and with a whole sky full of satellites guiding your way.

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Other ways to keep your dog occupied when you’re not around

If your dog still feels uncomfortable by being alone, there are a few options you could try:

  • Invest in a dog sitter, maybe a family member or neighbor to come sit with your dog while you are away.
  • Check out your local boarding facilities, kennels, or doggy daycares near you.
  • Arrange a play-date. Maybe one of your dog-friends from the local park wants to bring your dog for a walk as well.
  • Consider getting another pet. If you’ve thought about adopting a new family member, it’s a great way to see if a second dog could help the situation.
A pair of dog day care workers playing with puppies

Wrapping up, separation anxiety has little to do with training or discipline. Your dog’s behaviors are part of a strong emotional response to being left alone.

So practice gradual departures, leave your buddy a home full of toys and treats to keep them occupied – and plan ahead for an emergency, in case they end up escaping home to find you. (And bring you back home.)

Because with everything you do to keep them safe, your choice might just end up saving your buddy’s life.

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packaging of the Tractive GPS DOG tracker

Always know where your dog is

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your dog too.

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Want a pro’s take on managing separation anxiety in dogs? Here’s expert trainer, Victoria Stilwell, working with Scooby, who’s hyper-attached to his parents!

And if you’ve liked this post, share it with a friend or a loved one – and let’s help build a safer, kinder world for our furry friends together.