5 Dog Breeds That Suffer the Most from Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety in dogs creates stress and fear. It’s important to pay attention to the signs if you suspect that your fur friend is affected by anxiety.

May 11, 2024By Lisa Szymanski
dog breeds that suffer the most from separation anxiety

Dealing with an anxious dog is challenging. That’s because anxious pets are nervous, fearful, and reactive, which are made worse when they’re left alone or placed in unfamiliar environments. While all dogs experience nervousness at some stage, pining, trembling, and destruction in your absence are major problems. If you can’t understand why your pooch is affected by anxiety, it could be part of their genetics. The best way to help them is to look at the dog breeds that experience the most separation anxiety.

1. Border Collies

white and black border collie
The energetic sheep-herding breed can suffer from long-term anxiety.

You might be thinking that border collies are such intelligent and energetic dogs that they simply don’t have the time to be anxious. But their energetic nature is possibly their biggest downfall. This sheep-herding breed has the instinct to work, so if you don’t give them a job to do, they become bored and anxious.

The drive to herd could be a major reason that these collies suffer from ongoing separation anxiety. For generations, collies working on farms were always on duty and stuck to their owner’s side. But today, our sheepdogs at home have no livestock to guard, and without stimulation, including your presence, they pine or start behaving badly. Anxious border collies that are triggered by loud noises jump fences, while others bark or whine to the point of annoying the neighbors. You can try to change their daily routine with activities such as running or a game of fetch. Scheduled playtime and walks are important, but curious collies do best with agility training and herding games to help them fulfil their ancestral needs.

2. Cocker Spaniels

cocker spaniel standing on grass
Cocker spaniels are known to develop attachment issues.

The goldilocks of all breeds, cocker spaniels, are gorgeous long-eared dogs that make the best family pets. But whether you’re interested in a purebred or a mix such as the cockapoo, separation anxiety is the one thing they’re known for. Cocker spaniels get very attached to their families very quickly. They’re not considered independent dogs, so they get up to some questionable behaviors when they’re left alone for long periods.

A panicked spaniel might tear and chew shoes, scratch doors, and damage furniture. To help them cope with anxiety, you can leave dog toys in their company when you’re out. If you prefer to leave your pets inside your house when you’re at work, turn the TV or radio on for some soothing sounds. As cocker spaniels are known for their attachment issues, it is a good idea to speak to a vet if their behavior worsens.

3. German Shepherds

long haired german shepherd lying on grass
German shepherds are fierce dogs, but even they can experience severe anxiety.

German shepherds are known as fierce guard dogs, but without training and socialization from puppyhood, these burly dogs can become stressed and nervous. Despite their fearsome reputation, these shepherds are people pleasers. They’re always looking to their owners for direction, and they become lost and frustrated without guidance. You’ll be shocked after arriving home to a dug-up garden, chewed items, and extreme whining before you’ve even opened the door.

The last thing you want is a large, fearful dog that you can’t handle because of chronic separation anxiety. To help your German shepherd deal with stress, they need healthy and stimulating things to do while you are away. Daily walks are a must, including playtime. Take the time to teach your dog tricks to prevent boredom and improve their confidence.

4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

cavalier king charles spaniel lying on paws
Who can resist the big, beautiful eyes of a King Charles Spaniel?

The history of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel tells us that these small dogs were bred as companion animals. Their name is derived from Britain’s King Charles II, and they have always been associated with royalty and wealth. Being somewhat of a lap dog and loyal companion, they form a very special connection with their handlers and families. While many people enjoy the loving companionship of the King Charles Spaniel, their anxiety can get in the way of their well-being.

But how do you know if your dog is dealing with separation anxiety? The King Charles Spaniel gets very vocal, and, in your absence, they may howl and bark to no end. You might even find that your trained spaniel starts urinating in the house, which they haven’t done before. You don’t want your dog to experience such severe fear and stress, so the next step is to invest in obedience training. In addition to obedience, encourage independent behavior by leaving them in one room with a toy while you keep busy in a separate room. These little spaniels should know that they’re safe, even if they aren’t always around you.

5. Labrador Retrievers

chocolate labrador retriever lying on black bench
A chocolate labrador retriever shying away when meeting new people.

You might be surprised to see the Labrador retriever mentioned here! They are, after all, America’s canine sweethearts, but they tend to suffer from anxiety more than other breeds. One of the reasons could be that they’re very social and loving dogs. Labradors form very close bonds with their people, and if they aren’t stimulated or properly trained, they find it challenging to be alone.

Despite the friendly and curious nature of most labs, if they aren’t socialized, they can become skittish. This nervousness includes shying away from strangers or trembling when introduced to new environments or objects. If your labrador is suffering from separation anxiety, it’s a good idea to keep their energy levels under control. Introduce toys, and socialize them with other pets to improve your dog’s confidence.

Anxiety Signs and Managing Stress in Your Dog

white boxer sad lying on carpet
Stressed pets can benefit from walks and socialization.

Anxious pets will cry and bark when you aren’t around, but they may also become destructive by chewing and scratching your valuables. Some dogs can become temperamental and aggressive when they experience separation anxiety. You certainly don’t want to deal with anxiety in a big dog like a German shepherd! For most dogs affected by nervousness, regular exercise and exposure to new environments can ease the stress they experience. My advice is to keep their energy levels in check through walks, consistent play, and ongoing socialization. This should help them overcome shyness and fear.

Lisa Szymanski
By Lisa Szymanski

Lisa is a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys hiking and gardening and has four years of experience volunteering at pet shelters. She is the proud mom of two dogs, a Pitbull named Ragnar, a Boerboel named Blueberry, and four feisty chickens, or as she calls them, the "queens of the yard," Goldie, Gray, Peaches, and Brownie.