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May 15, 2020

New research identifies root causes of separation anxiety in dogs

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New research suggests that separation anxiety in dogs should be seen as a sign of underlying frustrations rather than a diagnosis, and understanding these root causes could be key to effective treatment.

A team led by scientists from the University of Lincoln in Lincoln, England, identified four main forms of distress for dogs when separated from their owners. These include a focus on getting away from something in the house, wanting to get to something outside, reacting to external noises or events, and a form of boredom. More than 2,700 dogs representing over 100 breeds were included in the study.

The study highlights how different emotional states combine to produce problem behaviors in dogs. Although the unwanted behavior is first triggered by the owner’s departure, it arises because of a combination of risk factors that may include elements of the dog’s temperament, the type of relationship it has with the owner, and how the two of them interact.

The study, “Developing diagnostic frameworks in veterinary behavioural medicine: Disambiguating separation related problems in dogs,” was published Jan. 17 in the online journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science and is available at jav.ma/separation.

Dog on its hind legs looking out a window