Separation-related behaviours (SRBs) are unwanted behaviours which are only shown when dogs are left alone by their owners. Common SRBs are barking, howling, destruction or chewing and toileting. Our previous research has suggested that SRBs are common in dogs - for example in surveys, between 13 and 20 per cent of dog owners reported that their dog showed these behaviours. However, this is likely to under-represent the problem, because by their very nature these behaviours occur when their owner is out of the house. This means that, unless owners hear their dog barking or howling as they leave, come back to find that their dog has damaged their house, or are told by a neighbour that their dog was making a noise, they are unlikely to know if there was a problem.
What are the signs?
Our recent research, shown in the Channel 4 docmentary 'Dogs: Their Secret Lives', has highlighted that the dogs which show more 'obvious' signs of SRB, such as howling, barking, destruction or chewing and toileting in the house, are actually the tip of the iceberg. Many dogs show more subtle indicators that they are not happy about being on their own, but do not show behaviours that result in a problem for owners.