Puppy separation anxiety is a major problem.
Your puppy been might be engaging in destructive behaviours when you leave him home alone?
That’s one of the biggest signs of puppy separation anxiety: when your pooch gets extremely stressed when you’re going out of the door.
Some puppies even engage in destructive behaviours–like crying, excessive barking, going to the bathroom in the house, or chewing on anything and everything, as soon as you leave.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict whether your puppy will develop separation anxiety. But there are some techniques you can use to build up their tolerance of being alone in the house.
In this blog post, we will go through some signs of puppy separation anxiety, and some fail-proof techniques you can use to prevent it.
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What is separation anxiety in puppies?
Dog separation anxiety is an overwhelming fear your dog has about being left alone–either home alone, or anywhere away from their owner.
Dogs develop strong attachments to their owners.
They’re the people they depend on for survival, and act as their best friend. It can be terrifying for them to be apart.
Why do dogs get separation anxiety?
Some breeds are know to be “velcro dogs” because they cling to their owner like velcro. They want to be with their person all the time, and can get worried when they’re not around… Hence why some dog breeds are more likely to get separation anxiety than others, such as:
- Cocker Spaniels
- Labrador Retrievers
The breeding purpose and history of your dog also impacts their chances of developing separation anxiety. For example: The job of companion breeds like the Bichon Frise and Pug is to be a friend to their owner. They’re not sure–and could feel anxious–when they’re not around.
Finally, dogs are more likely to develop separation anxiety if their routine revolves around you. Owners that work from home, for example, are with their puppy day-in, day-out.
And, just like anything, if the puppy doesn’t experience being alone in the socialisation period, it’s likely they’ll be fearful of it once they get older.
The 6 main signs of separation anxiety in puppies
One of the biggest signs of puppy separation anxiety is that your dog gets extremely stressed every time you or your family members leave the house.
But how can you tell whether they’re showing these signs if nobody is around to see them?
You could use a doggy cam to check whether your puppy is showing the signs of separation anxiety. That might include:
- Howling and excessive barking
- Panting, excessive drooling or salivation
- Attempts to escape the house
- Pacing aimlessly around the room
However, you don’t always need a doggy camera to determine whether your puppy has separation anxiety. Sometimes, they’ll show destructive behaviours such as digging and chewing (especially around the windows and doors), or toilet around the house.
Both of these signs could point to a pup missing their parents when they’re home alone.
How to treat puppy separation anxiety
Puppies with separation anxiety tend to be overly attached to the members of their families. They feel terrified when they’re left alone.
But as we mentioned earlier, the signs of separation anxiety (and the fear of being left alone) starts from puppyhood. They’ll grow to be anxious about being alone if they’re not used to it.
So, the best form of treatment is prevention.
Here are four ways you can prevent separation anxiety in puppies:
1. Start inside the house
Think about how you’d feel if you’d spent all-day, everyday with your best friend. You had no warning they’d up and leave you alone for two hours. And even if they only popped to the show, you have no idea where they are–or when they’re coming back.
It’d be a terrifying feeling, right? Hence why you need to start small when building your puppy’s tolerance to being alone.
Don’t rush out and leave them for an hour if they’ve never been left alone before. But also don’t leave it too long before you start to increase the distance because this can take a while to train them out of.
To do this, begin leaving your puppy in another room in the house. This could be the kitchen or somewhere else they’re comfortable. Sneak off while they’re engrossed in something else bound to keep them entertained whilst you’re gone (like a stuffed KONG), then close the door and leave them for 10 seconds.
Once that 10 seconds pass, go back in the room and make a huge fuss about how well your puppy did on their own. Repeat this multiple times over the day to show them they’ll be rewarded by being on their own–and that it’s not as scary as they think.
(It goes without saying you should check there’s nothing your puppy could injure themselves with in the room you leave them in.)
2. Gradually build the time and distance
Your puppy is gradually getting comfortable for those 10-second bursts. But it’s likely they’ll need to be left home alone for a longer duration, so start to build up the time–and distance–you’re leaving them alone for.
For example, you could use this schedule and spend:
- Week 1: 10 seconds behind a door in one room
- Week 2: 30 seconds upstairs whilst your pup is downstairs
- Week 3: One minute in the back garden
- Week 4: One minute out the front door
Notice how over time, your puppy starts to feel less anxious because they’ve learned that being alone isn’t a terrifying experience. It’s fun–they’ll get a treat and lots of cuddles when their best friend returns!
3. Don’t make a big deal out of leaving
In step #1, we briefly touched on the fact you should sneak off when your puppy is entertained.
This follows the advice to not make a big deal out of you leaving the house and coming back. Don’t tell your puppy goodbye, or that you’ll miss him when leaving for work (no matter how true that is.)
They can associate these things with worry and panic. Whereas if you ignore them and leave them in their own company without realizing, they’re less likely to build a negative connection with the word “bye!” and them being left alone.
4. Consider crate training your puppy
Crate training isn’t a puppy training tactic that everyone will agree with.
However, it’s one I’ve used with my Sprocker puppy Hugo, and has worked a treat. (He loves to be by my side at all times like any other velcro dog, but he also loves his crate.)
The secret to successful crate training starts the first night you bring your puppy home. Show them that their crate is their own place to be, and reward them when they’re inside. I did this by:
- Giving them a high-value treat when they’re inside the crate
- Vocalising lots of praise like “good boy!” and “well done!”
- Putting toys inside the crate and encouraging him to go in and bring them out
Again, you’ll need to crate training your puppy gradually. Start by leaving your pup alone in the crate for 5-10 minutes, and gradually increase the time they spends alone. You can then build the crate into your weekly schedule of how long you’ll leave your pup in their own company.
Final thoughts on preventing separation anxiety
Unfortunately, puppy separation anxiety is one of the biggest reasons why first-time owners get rid of their puppies. However, with patience and the right technique, you can easily resolve this issue and enjoy time with your furry friend.
The most important thing to remember? Dogs start to develop separation anxiety fears when they haven’t experienced being alone before.
Don’t leave it too late, and cause your puppy to be super stressed when you decide to leave them without any training beforehand.