Separation anxiety is a common problem with household pets, attributable to a sudden lessening of human contact, changes in routine or frequent or recent rehoming. Dogs with separation anxiety are a particular problem, as they exhibit their stress through incessant whining or barking, inappropriate elimination or destructive behavior.
Unfortunately for his owner, Benny has developed a destructive habit. In the incident captured in the video below, the recently adopted rescue dog pulled stuffing out of his owner's couch. When confronted by the owner, Benny is intimidated and seems to look "guilty" as he tries to appease the man by appearing submissive.
Separation anxiety may be an inherent personality trait, and a study mentioned in a Maddie's Fund article suggests that such traits may be becoming more common as humans breed for overly affectionate and juvenile behavior. That said, there is no question that shelter dogs, being kenneled while experiencing the loss of their "pack," are more likely to develop separation anxiety.
To help a dog with mild to moderate separation anxiety, there are a few things that can be done to relieve the dog's stress -- and the owner's.
Crate training provides your dog with a safe haven he can retreat to when you are not home. Begin training without leaving: Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer," advises feeding your dog in his crate and giving him his favorite chew toy. Include a soft comfort item that has your scent on it is also helpful; sleep with a towel in your bed for a night or two, then put it in the dog's "den."
Desensitizing the dog to certain stimuli is also helpful. If a certain action -- for example, picking up your keys -- triggers your dog's stress level, perform the action over and over again without actually leaving until it is no longer a trigger.
Make your departure and arrival a quiet affair. Leave calmly and arrive quietly, ignoring your dog for a minute or two. Greet him with a gentle pat when he is calm and well-behaved, then move on to something else. Save the rough-housing for later.
For severe separation anxiety, a professional dog trainer that specializes in behavior modification should be consulted.