Of course, no one wants his puppy to be afraid while he is alone. This is an awful feeling for both the owner and the dog.
Unlike the old days, when canines used to be outside helping their owners on their farms and whatnot, today most dogs spend much of their time inside the house, while their owners are away.
Therefore, it is no wonder that questions about separation anxiety in puppies and even adult dogs have become more popular than ever before.
It should not come as a surprise that preventing separation anxiety is easier than fixing it. In fact, there are a few simple things you can do, starting today, to avoid having to deal with this problem later on.
In this post, I will guide you on how to prevent separation anxiety in puppies. I will also talk about what the symptoms of separation anxiety look like in puppies, and what you should (and shouldn’t) do to avoid encouraging this behavior.
Separation Anxiety Symptoms In Puppies
Although these are the major signs you need to watch for, be aware that some of these symptoms may display themselves and have nothing to do with separation anxiety.
- Excessive barking, howling, whimpering or whining
- Destructive behavior, expressed in biting/chewing the furniture or scratching doors
- Repeated potty “accidents” (urinating in inappropriate locations, etc.)
- Attempts to escape confined places, such as a crate or playpen, and even a room
- Other signs may include:
- Lip licking
Do Puppies Grow Out Of Separation Anxiety?
The simple answer is, normally not.
While some breeds are more prone to suffering from anxiety than others, all dogs are born with the instinct to stay in a group or a pack. It is because of this pack mentality they become frustrated and insecure when we leave them alone.
Since this response is encoded deep within our canine’s DNA, the best way to deal with this is to start practicing what is called behavioral modification. This is a training method that entails teaching your dog to replace unwanted behaviors with appropriate ones by using positive reinforcement.
This means that in order to teach your puppy to stay calm when you go out, you need to divert his attention to something he finds more exciting. I will explain this more in the following tips.
How To Prevent Separation Anxiety In Puppies?
Above all else, you want to start as early as possible. It is very important that you begin to implement these tips while your dog is still in his puppyhood, as it is much harder to break old habits than to teach new ones. With that being said, adult dogs can benefit from these tips as well.
1. Practice Leaving And Returning
Make it a point to leave the house for about thirty seconds a couple of times a day and ignore your puppy’s reaction. The point is to get him used to you being gone while you can still monitor the situation from outside.
Keep on doing it until he is less nervous when you walk out the door. Then, gradually, increase the time that your puppy is expected to stay alone quietly. This way you can also determine the intensity of your puppy’s reaction, so you know the amount of anxiety you are dealing with.
2. Plan A Daily Routine
Just like children, dogs and puppies both do well with having an established daily routine. For example, my dog knows exactly when it’s time to go into his crate and wait for his treat because he always gets it before I leave.
You can do the same thing by leaving your house at certain times each day until your puppy learns to associate you leaving with that time of day. As he begins to expect you to leave and builds your absence into a part of his daily routine, he will, as a result, become less anxious when it happens.
3. Use A Good Crate
Puppies are instinctively drawn towards small and enclosed spaces that can offer them warmth and protection. In other words, your puppy needs to feel safe and comfortable until you return home, and providing him with a crate is a perfect way to do so.
Crates are excellent for separation anxiety, as they can serve as your puppy’s go-to place for privacy and can also keep him safe while you are away. Just make sure to make the crate a fun place to be by putting toys and tasty treats inside, so he is happy to spend time there rather than looking at crating as a punishment.
Some puppies will try to escape from enclosed spaces like a kennel. In this case, look for a crate that will be strong enough for your dog’s escaping attempts.
4. Offer A Distraction
Building off of the previous tip, you will want to find something that your puppy loves and put it in his crate before you leave the house. This can be a favorite toy, blanket or another comfort object, or by offering something delicious to occupy his time alone.
For example, I like to take a Kong (check this one is specifically for puppies) and fill it with canned dog food or peanut butter. Then I freeze the toy with the stuffing inside so it will be harder to get out and keep my dog busy for a while. Not only is he entertained and positively rewarded, but he also tires himself out so that he falls asleep in his kennel immediately afterward.
What can I say? This thing works!
5. Try A Pet Calming Solution
Smart Pet’s Love Snuggle is a soft plush toy designed to ease separation anxiety in puppies by providing your pup with feelings of intimacy and physical warmth. When you cannot be home, this toy will fill your puppy need for a companion.
Along with the snuggle toy itself, the Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy also comes with a pulsing heartbeat device and a non-toxic heat source to mimic other littermates. This makes for a great gift for dog lovers and for welcoming a new puppy home.
6. Leave the TV/Radio On
Odds are, your puppy associates the background noise from the TV as well as music with your presence. This can work to your advantage as having that same noise available while you are gone can produce a comforting environment for him.
Not only does the background noise give your puppy the feeling as if you were home, but it also helps to mask noises of cars, people, thunders, and such, which can make things even more stressful.
7. Hire a Petsitter/Dogwalker
Dogs are social animals and it is not natural for them to be alone. Even the best-trained puppy should not be expected to stay home for more than 8 hours, even if he is potty trained.
If you know you are going to be away for an extended time, you need to ask for help. Your puppy will certainly be happy for some company in the meantime, especially if you are not using dog pee pads and he has to go outside every three to four hours.
Puppies also need to release a ton of energy and eat several times a day so make sure you have a plan when you are running late.
How To Keep Dog Separation Anxiety At Bay?
8. Don’t Skip Regular Exercise
Remember this golden rule – a tired puppy is far less likely to show signs of separation anxiety, as he would rather sleep instead of making trouble.
Be sure to take your puppy for a brisk walk or play with him for a while to release some of his energy before you go out. Mental exercise is very important too, so be sure to give your puppy toys that build patience, self-control, and focus.
9. Don’t Over Spoil
Spoiling your puppy is the number one way to raise a dog with behavioral issues. Though I understand how cute a small pup can be, you do not want to pick him up or carry him around all the time, as this will result in a puppy (and eventually, a larger dog) that will cry for your attention nonstop.
Yes, you want your dog to know you love them. But you also need to be sure he develop enough independence to be able to function if you are not around.
10. Don’t Create Excitement
To your dog, your body language says a lot. Even if you want to, do not go out of your way to comfort your puppy before you head out, as this could worsen his reaction. Same goes for when you return home.
Instead, as you walk in, ignore him until he sits quietly. Once this happens, reinforce the positive behavior by showering your puppy with attention. If he is barking and jumping, you will have to wait until he cools down.
11. Don’t Allow Dependency
If your puppy starts to follow you to the bathroom, it means he has become overly dependent on you, and this could lead to an insecure puppy when you are not around. As cute as the behavior may seem, you need to take steps to break the habit.
Here is where you can start:
12. Don’t Give Hints Or Cues
Instead of interacting with your puppy, leave the house as if you are the only one in it. Do not talk to him or give him any attention before you go. Truth is, if you gave your dog a treat (like I talked about earlier), then he should be busy anyway.
13. Don’t Do Punishments
You can be sure that your puppy does not misbehave just to spite you. On the contrary, your pup wants nothing more than to please you and receive praise.
Accidents will happen, and you have to remember that separation anxiety is upsetting to your dog as well, so try to handle it gently. Punishing will only make him more anxious than he already is and it probably will not solve anything. If it will get worse.
Besides, now that you know how to prevent separation anxiety in puppies, you can treat the problem rather than the symptoms.