There are a number of reasons why dogs may develop SRBs. The most common reason is that many dogs never learn that it OK to be on their own. That may sound strange, but dogs are a naturally social species, and it is ‘normal’ for them to retain contact with their social group. They need to specifically learn that being alone is an OK part of their daily routine.

When a puppy is first separated from its mother and littermates, his or her normal response will be to whine, whimper or bark to try and make contact again. They may also scrabble about and try to physically get back to its family. Unless the puppy specifically learns to be calm when alone, these responses can be retained right into adulthood. See my WordPress blog entry "How puppies become anxious 'home-alone' dogs" for more information describing how a puppy’s first response to separation can easily develop into an SRB or an inactive but stressed response to being alone.

SRBs can also develop for a number of other reasons. For example, dogs can associate being left alone with other events that they are frightened of. If a dog that is scared of thunder is left alone during a storm, he or she may associate the scary noise with the context of being alone. This can result in them becoming worried whenever they are alone in the house.

In some cases where dogs show undesired behaviours when they are left alone, they are not actually anxious. Some dogs use the time that their owners are out of the house to get on with some fun things, like chewing on a tasty shoe! This particularly happens in situations where dogs don’t have enough to occupy them during the day, perhaps not having chewy toys of their own to work their teeth on, or insufficient exercise and mental stimulation. Often dogs particularly chew things when their owners are out because they are told off for doing so when people are present.

Once SRBs occur they can worsen over time due to other factors. For example if owners tell their pet off when they come home to find a mess, this can result in increased anxiety – the dog will often be anxious about their owner returning as well as being alone.

SRBs can develop for a number of reasons. It is therefore important to seek help from a qualified behaviourist if your dog has SRB, as they will be able to establish the important factors in each case and tailor a specific treatment programme for each dog.

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