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Common Dog Behaviors Mistaken for Separation Anxiety


If you believe your dog might have separation anxiety, it’s important to rule out other reasons your dog might be engaging in unwanted or dangerous behaviors. To help you determine whether your dog might be suffering from separation anxiety, take our free quiz here

We recommend sharing your dog’s quiz results with your veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, dog trainer, or behavior consultant to receive a conclusive diagnosis, as well as working with them during any treatment needed.

While you can always begin treatment for possible separation anxiety, if your dog is barking, destructively chewing, or acting out for other reasons, treatment will not fully resolve the issue. It is especially crucial to rule out any medical conditions that could be contributing to your dog’s behavior.

Below is a list of common dog behaviors that are often assumed to be due to separation anxiety but might have other causes.

Barking and Howling

  • Boredom
  • Alerting to people approaching/Protecting their territory
  • Excitement or play
  • Demanding attention or other wanted interaction
  • Canine cognitive dysfunction (a.k.a. “doggy dementia”)

Attempts to Escape or Succeeding in Escaping

  • Boredom
  • Lack of exercise
  • Noise anxiety
  • Foraging for food
  • Doesn’t like being crated

Potty Accidents

  • Incomplete housetraining
  • Regression of housetraining due to:
    • New environment
    • New routine
    • Other life change (loss of family member, move, etc.)
    • Canine cognitive dysfunction (a.k.a. “doggy dementia”)
  • Medical conditions, including:
    • Diabetes (either mellitus or insipidus)
    • Cushing’s disease
    • Bladder inflammation or infection
    • Abnormal urinary anatomy (e.g. patent urachus, ectopic ureter)
    • Intestinal worms or parasites
    • Liver failure
    • Kidney infection
    • Certain medications (e.g. Lasix, steroids)
  • Noise anxiety
  • Territorial marking

Pacing and Restlessness

  • Underlying medical condition (pain, obsessive-compulsive disorder, canine cognitive dysfunction)
  • Boredom
  • Lack of exercise
  • Noise anxiety

Shadowing

  • Learned behavior with a positive reinforcement history
  • Imprinted on a certain person when young
  • Missed socialization as a young puppy
  • Fear of new things
  • Noise anxiety

Destructive Chewing or Scratching of Household Items

  • Boredom
  • Lack of exercise
  • Teething (puppies)

Medical Conditions That Can Cause Other Anxiety Symptoms

  • Allergies, arthritis, parasites, or infections can cause obsessive licking or chewing on self and other self-harm activities
  • Pain
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Canine cognitive dysfunction


For puppies and dogs under one year of age, common puppy and “teenage” behaviors are often mistaken for canine separation anxiety.  If you think your puppy or young dog has separation anxiety, connect with a certified professional dog trainer, behavior consultant, or your veterinarian to rule out other reasons for their behavior. Read more about puppy behavior that’s commonly mistaken for separation anxiety here.