How Does Divorce Affect Dogs?

The loss of a marriage can be devastating. Not only are you losing a relationship, but your sense of every day normalcy. But it’s not only you that will be struggling to find a new routine – your furry best friend will be as well. According to recent studies, it’s estimated that up to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. “Going through a divorce can be an incredibly tumultuous, stressful ordeal’, says a San Diego divorce attorney. Unfortunately, in many cases, dogs end up being collateral damage. If you’re thinking about filing for divorce or in the process of separating from your partner, be mindful of these changes that your dog may exhibit.

While looking for a new home after separation or making different plans for the usually split holidays can be frustrating, imagine how stressful it can be for your family dog. Tense arguments filled with shouting aren’t easy for them to understand it isn’t directed at or about them. Or, the sudden absence of a beloved owner can be confusing and disorienting. 

Unlike humans, dogs aren’t able to directly communicate when they are upset, in pain or experiencing stress. Instead, they act it out through changes in their behavior. Stress in dogs can manifest in many different ways, including:

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is typically triggered when they witness their owner or loved one preparing to leave. In some cases, the dog will try to block the owner from physically leaving or start loudly barking and keep barking after the owner has left. According to the ASPCA, common symptoms of separation anxiety include chewing, digging, destruction, barking, howling, and using the bathroom in the house. Owners can work with a professional counter-conditioning program to teach their pets that they will be okay being alone. 


In less severe cases, depression in dogs can lessen over time with lots of love and a new routine. Unfortunately, some dogs may experience depression symptoms that are similar to those in people, such as avoidance/hiding, paw licking, changes in appetite, inability to find joy in the things they did before, and spending more time sleeping. 


As stated above, dogs are unable to communicate their feelings directly and may act out when they are distressed. This can manifest in many different ways such as snapping, biting, and growling. It’s important to talk with your veterinarian if these symptoms develop, as aggression can also mean illness is present.

Unfortunately, dogs can end up the casualty of a broken home. Many dogs end up at a shelter or an adoption agency after a divorce, due to the inability to care for the pet as an individual. If you’re planning on getting a divorce, be sure to consider your pets feelings as they are part of your family too.

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