Preventing Separation Anxiety in Puppies

How Can I Stop My Puppy from Having Separation Anxiety When I’m Out?

Separation anxiety occurs when your puppy becomes distressed when they are left at home alone. Separation anxiety can cause your puppy to bark, howl, scratch at the door, and chew things.

What Causes Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety occurs most often in puppies which have not learned to be at home alone. Dogs are pack animals, and puppies will naturally grow up very closely with their littermates. As a result, leaving your puppy alone for the first time can cause them to become quite distressed. By not exposing your puppy to periods alone early in their development, you predispose them to developing separation anxiety. While not a big issue in the short-term, separation anxiety can become a real issue if it continues.

 How Can I Stop My Puppy From Having Separation Anxiety?

Separation Anxiety is primarily caused by a failure to accustom your puppy to time alone. We recommend using crate training to effectively provide your puppy with a quiet, den space. By using the crate, you can assure your puppy that you will return at some point if they remain calm. This can reduce stress for your puppy and discourage destructive behaviour.

The process of crate training is fairly simple and we discuss it in depth in an article located here. In terms of separation anxiety this process can be as simple as:

  1. Introducing your puppy to their crate

Your puppy may be reluctant to enter its crate on its own accord. Begin by placing treats near the mouth of the crate. As your puppy becomes more accustomed to the crate, you can slowly begin moving them further and further into the crate until they are comfortable resting inside for some time. Once your puppy is comfortable sitting in the crate, you can move onto the next step.

  • Rewarding your puppy for calm and quiet behaviour in the crate

In the early stages, it’s a good idea to sit or lay near the crate with the door closed. When your puppy is quiet or calm, you should treat them through the grate. If your puppy exhibits unwanted behaviour such as whining, clawing, or chewing, ignore them until they are quiet. Once they have been quiet for some time, treat them for their behaviour. As your puppy becomes increasingly relaxed and at home in the crate, you can begin to move onto the final step.

  • Leaving your puppy alone in the crate for extended periods

Once your puppy is comfortable being in the crate, begin spending sometime outside of the room. If your puppy is calm when you return, treat them. Extend the time between visits as you see appropriate until your puppy is able to sit in its crate for the desired time.

Remember that crate training takes time. Move at your puppy’s pace to avoid negative associations with the crate; the goal is to make your puppy feel comfortable after all.

If you decide not to crate train your puppy, you can still prevent separation anxiety. You can train your puppy to be accustomed to separation by treating them when they display independent behaviour. This includes things such as sitting on its own or laying quietly away from you. In addition, to this, as your puppy starts to become more comfortable in your home, leave it alone for short periods and gradually increase this time. That way, it isn’t such a shock when you leave the house.

What Should I Do When I Leave and Arrive?

Leaving and arriving is one of the most crucial times for a puppy with separation anxiety. If you make a big deal out of leaving, your puppy will think it’s a big deal. If you leave quietly, your puppy will begin to associate you leaving with part of its routine. Likewise, if you make a big deal out of arriving, you will validate your puppy’s concerns about being alone. Instead, you should aim to not check on your puppy immediately. Take some time to move around the home and check on your puppy once they are calm and relaxed. Note that if your puppy is very young and has been left alone for an extended period, they may need to use the bathroom so you may need to go to them straight away.

What Should I Do If My Puppy Has Serious Separation Anxiety?

Almost all puppies will whine and sulk when left alone in their early development. This is normal and can be trained out with a little routine and patience. Serious separation anxiety occurs when your puppy’s behaviour is consistently destructive. This includes scratching, chewing, and digging to a significant degree when you are out. If your puppy is displaying these behaviours, it may be advisable to visit a veterinarian, dog trainer, or behaviour professional.

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