Separation Related Behaviour

Separation related behaviours

Separation related behaviours (SRBs) are behaviours shown by dogs when they are left at home by their owners. The most commonly reported SRBs are destruction, toileting, barking or howling. These are behaviours that owners may be aware of because they either see the evidence when they get home, or neighbours tell them if their dog has been making a noise. However, research suggests that many other dogs may be worried about being home alone – but they are a hidden welfare issue because their owners have no idea of the problem. This may be because there are no close neighbours to hear any barking or howling. More often, it is because they show more subtle signs of anxiety which, by the nature of the problem, owners are not there to see.

Read more: Separation Related Behaviours - Overview

Separation related behaviours (SRBs) are a serious welfare issue for dogs.

The evaluation of how individual conditions or situations may be a welfare problem for animals is generally based on two factors:

  1. The number of animals that are affected
  2. The extent to which each individual animal is affected by the condition or situation

Read more: Is Separation Related Behaviour a Welfare Problem?

A number of surveys of owners have been carried out at the University of Bristol to identify how many dogs show signs of SRB. In these surveys, we asked owners a range of questions to find out if their dogs destroyed or chewed items, barked, howled, whined or soiled the house when they went out. We also asked them whether any of these behaviours occurred when they were in the house, and only scored cases as having SRB if these signs ONLY happened when dogs we left home alone.

Read more: How Common Is Separation Related Behaviour?

As with many 'behaviour problems' the signs of SRB are usually defined by those behaviours which are a problem for owners. These include behaviours such as howling and barking which owners might hear as they leave or return, or which neighbours could complain about. Destruction, chewing or toileting are also common signs of SRBs that owners find on returning home. In some cases SRB is apparent because the dog has damaged itself, for example by scrabbling at a door or indoor kennel and injuring his or her paws. Owners might also sometimes notice if their dog has drooled excessively whilst they were out.

Read more: What Are the Signs of Separation Related Behaviour?

The first thing to do is to find out for sure what your dog does when left alone. You can do this by setting up a video camera pointing towards where you think the dog is likely to spend time while you are out. For example if you normally come home and your dog is in his bed, then try setting up the camera pointing at the dog bed. Some dogs with separation related behaviour (SRB) spend a lot of time at or near the door that you leave through, so it you could also try setting up a camera pointing towards the door. Set the camera to record before you start preparing to go out, so this doesn’t influence your normal leaving routine. You may need to try a few times before you find the best place to record what your dog gets up to.

Read more: What Should I Do If I Suspect Separation Related Behaviour in My Dog?

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