8 Simple Ways To Deal With Puppy Separation Anxiety

By on July 22, 2015
Handling puppy separation anxiety

According to Cesars Way, “One of the most common phrases used by owners to describe a dog that appears stressed when the owner leaves home—or just leaves the room—is separation anxiety in dogs. We can define separation anxiety as a dog problem behavior that shows itself through symptoms like excessive salivation, barking, whining, destroying items in the home, scratching at walls, doors and floors, and attempting to escape from the crate, or room.” Here are some ways to deal with puppy separation anxiety.

Be Realistic

Have realistic expectations when training your dog for your absence

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Quick and Dirty Tips suggests that you speak with a consultant about your puppy’s separation anxiety, insisting, “When you and your consultant discuss the plan for your dog, try to be realistic about how much time and effort you can put in. Behavior modification for separation anxiety is effective but can be laborious, and one study found that guardians did best with the simplest, least time-intensive plans.”

Crate Training

Crate training can help keep your dog with their separation anxiety

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Animal Humane Society says, “Teach your puppy to feel comfortable in a crate. Let her run in and out of it for treats, leaving the door open.  Repeat this exercise several times during the day, shutting the door (with puppy inside) in gradually increasing increments:  two seconds, five seconds, fifteen seconds, etc.  Give your pup toys or treats to chew on while you do this to prevent her from becoming fearful and setting both of you back.   If you play this “game” once an hour and put your pup in when she’s napping, you’ll go a long way to helping her love her crate.  Once she’s comfortable there for longer periods, give her a stuffed Kong or a chew bone to work on, and return before she’s finished, quietly greet her and take away the toy/bone:  she’ll go from “Let me out!” to “Darn it, I’m not done!”  Keep this up, gradually increasing the amount of time she’s alone in the crate.  If she does start barking or howling, do not open the door until she’s quiet:  this will only teach her that noise makes you come back.   Aim for a shorter period of time during your next session.”

Teach Your Dog Commands

Handling separation anxiety in your puppy

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According to 2nd Chance Info, you should “teach your dogs as many commands as possible. Your pet should be able to “sit” “relax” and “stay” on command while you stroke and reassure him. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to join a group obedience class. Each member of your household should participate in a “take charge” way because it is impossible to have happy, well-adjusted family pet if family members are below it in the “peck order” (social order). The point of this training is teaching anxious dogs to relax and give it confidence. Do the exercises in various rooms of the house and in the yard. Give out praise effusively and chew treats liberally.”

Lots of Attention

Keep your dog entertained so they're tired when you're away

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As Perfect Paws shares, “Another way to prevent separation anxiety is to set aside scheduled time periods to give your dog undivided attention, play and exercise. A happy, well-exercised puppy will usually sleep contentedly during the day while you are gone. Be sure that one of the scheduled play sessions occurs before you must leave for the day. Give your puppy a chance to settle down before you leave and don’t make a big deal of your departure – just leave without any emotion or commotion.”

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Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy for puppy separation anxiety

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“One treatment approach to this “predeparture anxiety” is to teach your dog that when you pick up your keys or put on your coat, it doesn’t always mean that you’re leaving. You can do this by exposing your dog to these cues in various orders several times a day-without leaving. For example, put on your boots and coat, and then just watch TV instead of leaving. Or pick up your keys, and then sit down at the kitchen table for awhile. This will reduce your dog’s anxiety because these cues won’t always lead to your departure, and so your dog won’t get so anxious when he sees them. Please be aware, though, that your dog has many years of learning the significance of your departure cues, so in order to learn that the cues no longer predict your long absences, your dog must experience the fake cues many, many times a day for many weeks.” (Pets Web Md)

Scavenger Hunt

Deal with puppy separation anxiety by playing hide and seek before you leave

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Hiding toys and treats in the house is a good idea according to Dog Time. “Leave Kongs stuffed with peanut butter or cottage cheese ready for him to dig into as soon as you leave.
Hide small treats around the house or in his crate. Make sure his favorite toys are tucked safely in places he knows to search. This gives him something to do while you’re gone and helps eliminate boredom.”

Start Off Slow

Slowly get your puppy used to you being gone

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Paw Rescue advises, “It is important, particularly during this acclimation phase, to make sure you do not leave your dog alone any longer than she can reasonably, comfortably wait to urinate. If you leave the dog alone so long that she feels discomfort about “holding it”, or gets hungry, or gets scared, you are teaching her that she does have reason to worry when you leave. You, of course, want her to learn the opposite: that she can trust you, her leader, will always return in time to properly take care of her needs. Consistency is critical. Gradually lengthen your absences to 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and longer. Hopefully, she will not get anxious since you have been conditioning her to accept your absences as a normal part of life. She will learn to be confident that you will return, and also, she will learn that it is you, as pack leader, who decides what happens and when. It’s good to stay in range the first few days of this acclimation exercise so that you can tell if and when your dog shows signs of anxiety.”

If All Else Fails – Drugs

Use drugs to decrease your puppy's anxiety

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The Humane Society says, “It can take time for your dog to unlearn his panic response to your departures. To help you and your dog cope in the short term, consider the following interim solution: Ask your veterinarian about drug therapy. A good anti-anxiety drug shouldn’t sedate your dog, but simply reduce his overall anxiety.”

Have you had success with one of the above techniques or something else? Let us know in the comments!