Dog Separation Anxiety is Actually Frustration: New Study

Many adults across the globe following recommendations for limiting the Corona virus spread are starting to understand firsthand what dogs experience when they are locked up by themselves in the house: it can be really frustrating.   What sorts of things frustrate dogs when their owners leave them alone, trapped in the house?  The study, involving 2,700 dogs representing over 100 breeds, identified four key areas of frustration:

(1) An inability to leave the house;

(2) An inability to be outside or get to something outside;

(3) External noises or events (like package or mail delivery);

(4) Boredom.

Study findings overview

While treatment plans for dogs labeled as having “separation anxiety” tend to focus on helping the dog overcome the ‘pain of separation’, the results of the current research study indicate that dealing with various forms of frustration is a much more important element of the problem.

“Labeling the problem of the dog who is being destructive, urinating or defecating indoors or vocalizing when left alone as separation anxiety is not very helpful. It is the start of the diagnostic process, not the end. Our new research suggests that frustration in its various forms is very much at the heart of the problem and we need to understand this variety if we hope to offer better treatments for dogs.

-Dr. Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioral Medicine, School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln



Journal Reference: de Assis, L., et al. Developing Diagnostic Frameworks in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine: Disambiguating Separation Related Problems in Dogs, Frontiers in Veterinary Science Journal, 17 January 2020.

Also see: McPeake, K.J., et al. The Canine Frustration Questionnaire—Development of a New Psychometric Tool for Measuring Frustration in Domestic Dogs (Canis familiaris), Frontiers in Veterinary Science Journal, 17 May 2019 |