Cockers Spaniels and Separation Anxiety

Cocker Spaniels and Separation Anxiety

Cocker spaniels are real people pleasers and love nothing more than to be around their important humans. 

But in our everyday lives, it’s not always possible to spend every minute of every day with our dog - it’s inevitable that we will have to leave them alone at some point. Cocker Spaniels as a breed can find separation difficult and start to misbehave or present strange behaviour as a result 

In this guide to cocker spaniel separation, anxiety will help you:

  • Understand what separation anxiety is
  • Explain how separation anxiety presents itself in your Cocker Spaniel
  • What can you do about separation anxiety?
  • And lots more…

What Is Separation Anxiety Disorder?

Separation anxiety is a disorder that presents itself when your Cocker Spaniel is upset at being left alone and separated from their important humans and family. 

It can be very problematic for a dog owner as your dog can start to misbehave or present some other strange behaviours. 

There are a number of causes of separation anxiety which we will go through in more detail, as well as suggest ways in which the disorder can be prevented.

What Are The Causes Of Separation Anxiety?

Change Of Family Structure

There is a likelihood that a Cocker Spaniel could suffer from separation anxiety if they are abandoned if they have a new owner as an older dog. Rescue dogs, or dogs that have been in a shelter can easily succumb to separation disorder.

Change Of Routine

Changes to a dog's routine can give them some form of separation disorder. As an example, if you have spent the majority of your time at home with your dog and then leave them for long periods of time they are likely to miss you and might misbehave.

Change Of Home

Moving to a new home can trigger separation anxiety in your Cocker Spaniel.

How Does Anxiety Present Itself In Your Dog?

There are a number of ways in which separation anxiety can present itself in your Cocker Spaniel. It might well be that your dog shows just one behaviour or multiple behaviours.


A dog that suffers from separation anxiety might bark when left alone or away from its important human companions. Barking as a result of separation anxiety can be persistent continue and doesn’t appear to be triggered by anything but being left alone.

Destructive Behaviour, Chewing And Digging

Some dogs that suffer from separation anxiety can become destructive at home. This might involve them chewing household items when left alone, such as door frames, windowsills, doors or doorways. In addition, this behaviour can adversely affect the dog by causing injuries such as broken teeth and damaged paws. It is unlikely if this behaviour is down to separation anxiety that the dog will present this type of behaviour when in the company of their important humans

Urinating And Defecating

Some dogs that are affected by separation anxiety will urinate or defecate in parts of their home when they are separated from their important human companions.

Eating Their Own Excrement

Some dogs with separation anxiety when left alone will defecate and then consume some or part of their own excrement. This is also known as Coprophagia.

If a dog presents this behaviour due to separation anxiety, it will probably not perform that behaviour in the presence of its important humans.


Some dogs with separation anxiety might attempt to escape the area where they have been left on their own and separated from their human companions. This might result in excessive chewing and or digging. Again, this can cause self-injury and damage to teeth or paws. 


A common presentation of separation anxiety in Cocker Spaniels is pacing. When a dog is left, alone or separated from their important humans they can walk or trot along a specific path. Some dogs pace in circular patterns, others pace along the same line in a back-and-forth motion. If a dog's pacing is a result of separation anxiety, they will not present this behaviour when in the company of their important human companions.

How To Prevent Or Treat Separation Anxiety Disorder?

It’s not easy to prevent or treat separation anxiety disorder in a Cocker Spaniel. There are, however, some things that you should rule out prior to embarking on a course or form of treatment. These being:

Puppy-orientated destruction: If you are unlucky, some young dogs can display destructive behaviour. This will negatively impact your household but can be prevented from occurring with specific training and will lessen as they get older.

Boredom: If your dog is not occupied, socialised, often or exercised they can become bored and may, in certain circumstances, show destructive behaviour.

Other non-related barking howling: It is inevitable that dogs bark and in many circumstances, it is not a result of separation anxiety. It might be that you live in a busy area where there are numerous passers-by or other dogs in the area, all of which are potential triggers for barking.

Marking my territory: Dogs will naturally want to mark their own territory. This is a natural behaviour and will not always be caused by separation anxiety

Poor house training: If your dog has not been properly housetrained when they are young, they will not urinate in their home. 

Urination caused by submissiveness or overexcitement: Some dogs when they meet other dogs, new humans or even just when their important humans arrive home, might urinate due to overexcitement and or submissiveness,

Expose Them To Being Alone When They Are Young

If you are lucky enough to have had your dog from when they were a puppy, one of the best ways of improving their behaviour, what does that be related to other dogs or playing or preventing boredom is to expose them when they are young.

One of the best ways to prevent separation anxiety is to expose your dog to be alone, and away from you when they are young. It is best to gradually leave them starting with short periods of time, and increasing periods of time as they get comfortable.

In the long run, this will be the best way to prevent your dog from suffering from separation anxiety.

Prior To Your Departure

Some dogs can pick up on some very subtle cues in advance of you, leaving your home and therefore leaving them on their own. It might be putting on your shoes, picking up your keys or grabbing your coat off it took. As a result, they might become anxious and bark or wine.

Obviously not all dogs present with this behaviour, and if yours doesn’t you can move on to the next potential treatment.

If your dog does show these behaviours, you might want to teach your dog to get used to these particular triggers. So as an example you can get your keys and put your shoes on and then not go anywhere. Your dog will become used to doing these and should stop barking and whining in the future.

Graduated Leaving

Graduated leaving is one of the best ways to train your dog to deal with separation anxiety.

The premise is to leave your dog on its own for a short period of time initially and increase the time they become more comfortable. It can start with as little as five minutes, increasing to a couple of hours or even longer as they become more comfortable.

With some older dogs or dogs that have come from a rescue home, even five minutes might be a challenge so start with just a few seconds if this is the case. You will need to persevere if this is the case as your dog is likely to have high levels of separation anxiety.

Provide Plenty Of Distractions

As your dog becomes comfortable being left for short periods of time, you should also ensure that they have plenty of distractions in the house to keep them from getting bored and presenting with bad or disruptive behaviour

Make sure they have plenty of plush and or interactive toys within the home for them to play with and to avoid destruction.

When To Involve A Professional

If once you’ve tried these various methods, your dog still suffers from continual separation anxiety disorder, you should consult a veterinary professional or a dog behaviourist. 

Final Thoughts

One thing you should not do is punish or scold your dog. Anxious behaviour as a result of separation anxiety is not a result of disobedience. It is simply a response to a dog being left alone for a period of time and is something that can be overcome with some prior planning and perseverance

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