Date of this Version
Yohe, McKenna. 2021. Predictors of Separation Anxiety in Dogs. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Understanding the potential causes and risk factors associated with separation anxiety in dogs is necessary to provide insight for possible prevention measures and to maintain the health and well-being of the animals affected by this condition. While a considerable amount of research has been done on this subject, it is still unclear what specific characteristics of dogs and their owners relate to the occurrence of separation anxiety and related behaviors. This study aimed to reexamine several dog and owner characteristics that have previously been evaluated in relation to the incidence of separation anxiety, as well as investigate how the frequency that dogs are left alone and the amount of time the owner spends with their dog, connects to the occurrence of separation-related behaviors. It was predicted that dogs who were acquired through adoption, fed table scraps, have one primary caregiver, and spend less time alone and more time with their owner, would display greater rates of separation-related behaviors. Other variables analyzed in relation to the occurrence of separation-related behaviors included the dogs’ sex, age, and weight, as well as the owners’ perception of whether their dog has separation anxiety. To assess these predictions, binary logistic analyses were conducted using 111 dog owners’ responses to a survey administered to owners whose dogs participated in a behavioral study for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Canine Cognition Laboratory. The results of these analyses did not reveal significant relationships between the occurrence of separation-related behaviors and the variables of interest, with the exception of the owners’ assessment of their dogs’ separation anxiety. It was found that owners who reported their dog as having separation anxiety also tended to report that their dog displayed separation-related behaviors (p=.042). Because this study did not result in conclusive findings, future research should continue to work on understanding the connections between separation anxiety and specific dog and owner traits.