Picture of German Shepherd Dog

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.

Separation related behaviour or separation anxiety?

If you read about ‘home alone’ problems in dogs, you are likely to have come across a range of terms used to describe these behaviours. As with any 'behaviour problems', separation behaviours are signs rather than diagnoses. In other words, not all dogs who chew or are destructive when left home alone do so for the same reason – see 'How Do Separation Related Behaviours Develop?' for more information.  SRB is therefore just a descriptive term – it tells you that a dog shows a problem behaviour when left alone – but doesn’t attempt to explain why it occurs. It is not a diagnostic category. In contrast, using the term separation anxiety suggests that the dog is showing separation behaviours because it is anxious. This term is therefore best used when enough information is available about an individual case to determine that the behaviour is likely to be occurring because of anxiety.

To see further information about separation related behaviour (SRB) in dogs, use the "Next" button at the bottom of the screen, or jump directly to one of the pages on the list below:

Other sources of information about separation related behaviour include:

You can find out about the Channel 4 programme "Dogs: Their Secret Lives", that features some of the SRB research carried out by myself and colleagues at the University of Bristol, at http://dogs.channel4.com, and read a blog entry about the original research at "Left home alone: a welfare issue for dogs".

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