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How Do You Help Puppies With Separation Anxiety?

Dog looking out the window for owner

Puppy separation anxiety is a very real thing and can cause emotional stress for both pet and owner, especially early in a dog’s life. When you leave your dog or puppy alone in the house, they may not know if or when you’re coming back, which can cause them to experience separation anxiety.

Being sensitive to your dog or puppy's emotions is key. Younger pets or pets that are experiencing new surroundings can be dealing with a lot already. New puppies are likely to have been recently separated from their mother and siblings so we advise taking things really slow and gentle here. 

For advice that is specific to your pet please always consult with your veterinarian. We’ve put together this general guide on how to help dogs and puppies with separation anxiety, along with including some additional background information so you can understand the concept better.

How do I know if my dog has separation anxiety?

When it comes to spotting an anxious puppy there are various tell-tale signs that you can look out for, and noticing them quickly is the first step in resolving them. We’ve put together this simple list so you can diagnose separation anxiety in your puppy early on.

  • Trembling, or pacing when you’re gone or when you’re about to leave
  • Being destructive by chewing or biting your possessions/furniture
  • Taking potty breaks inside the house
  • Barking, whining, or howling more than usual
  • Attempting to escape your home
  • Excessive drooling or salivation

If you can notice these symptoms early, you’ll have a better idea of whether your puppy is suffering from separation anxiety, meaning you can start the repair process sooner.

Here are some ways you can help your puppy.

Solution 1: Calming practices

One thing that can cause separation anxiety to be exacerbated is the energy that surrounds you leaving or coming back home. If you spend time playing with your dog vigorously prior to leaving and as soon as you arrive home, you’re creating an association between high-energy activity and the dog being left alone.

Try to leave and come home quietly, rather than drawing your pup’s attention to your presence or lack thereof. Hearing a puppy crying when left alone can make it hard to not smother them in attention before leaving or when coming back, but really this will just make each time you exit the house more of a big deal to your pet.

Solution 2: Desensitizing your puppy to leaving cues

Along with not drawing attention to your comings and goings, you can help your dog become accustomed to the signs that you might be leaving the house, which will make them less sensitive to the real thing. The way to do this is by simulating the leaving process and then staying in the house, so the dog doesn’t always associate those signs with being alone.

Maybe practice by grabbing your keys and putting on your shoes or opening the door, and then staying with the dog for longer. This will show them that these signs aren’t necessarily a cause for panic and make them more comfortable with the times that you do actually have to leave.

Solution 3: Creating a comfortable space

It’s vital that your pup feels that the home is comfortable even without you there. Do this by creating a positive environment for them, whether using crate training or otherwise. Leave toys and activities for them in their spaces and crates, so they can stay occupied by themselves rather than simply waiting for you to come back.

Background noise can be highly beneficial in this practice as well, such as leaving on the radio or the TV as a means of “keeping your puppy company”. Especially if you live alone with your dog, the simulated presence of someone else in the home can help to ease their stress.

Solution 4: Leave for shorter periods

The amount of time that you spend away from home when you leave will influence your puppy’s reactions to you not being there. If you only leave the house for a full day of work, the dog will know that every time you leave they’ll have to be alone for hours, which can make your comings and goings more triggering to a puppy with separation anxiety.

Go for a 15-minute walk on your own, complete errands out of the house one by one rather than packing them in, or go for a coffee in the middle of the day. These short trips out will teach your dog that your leaving will always lead to you coming back, regardless of the time spent out. You can steadily increase the time (or just vary the periods of time) so your puppy doesn't associate your departure with a certain period of absence.

Golden retriever with head out window of yellow house looking for owner

Solution 5: Routine, exercise, and training

While this isn’t a direct preventer or cure for separation anxiety, having times in place for giving your dog more specific attention will help to create a sense of structure for them while also strengthening your bond.

By giving your dog some time to exercise before you leave, you might wear them out a little bit, influencing them to relax and lay down for longer when you’re gone. Along with this, if they’re crate trained properly, you could suggest that they “go to bed” and play with their toys while you’re gone. A well-trained, well-exercised dog with a strong routine is much less likely to suffer from serious separation anxiety.

Finally, be patient

Remember, these tips may not work immediately and some of them may not work at all, but dogs are complicated animals and sometimes they need time to adjust. If your dog is exhibiting signs of anxiety then remember that they're scared to be apart from you - never punish your dog for this. With some practice and some trial and error you’ll be able to create a sense of comfort in most dogs to conquer separation anxiety.

For even more puppy training tips from the PHI Direct blog take a look at these:

Budgeting for unexpected expenses like large veterinary medical bills can help bring predictability to household budgets and, most importantly, keep your dog or cat happy and healthy! Get a quote from PHI Direct here to protect your pet with pet insurance. 

Featured image by Berkay Gumusteki on Upslash