Seeing the sad, desperate look of separation anxiety in your puppy can be heartbreaking.
Honestly, there’s no quick and easy fix.
With patience and diligence, though, you can help your pup overcome it.
Read on for more information!
Related: Top 10 Best Puppy Separation Anxiety Toys
Curing dog separation anxiety quickly: is it possible?
Before we get into the puppy separation anxiety tips, I think it’s really important to address this question.
A see a lot of people looking for a quick fix, and that just isn’t going to happen.
Training a puppy to do anything takes time and patience.
Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, puppies don’t just “get over their fears” in a single session.
Do puppies grow out of separation anxiety
A similar question, but with a slightly different answer.
Yes, some do, especially if your dealing with puppy separation anxiety resulting from leaving his litter.
However, some pups don’t get past it without training.
So, don’t just assume your pooch will grow out of it. Instead, plan for the worst case scenario.
Symptoms of Puppy Separation Anxiety
Before we can talk about how to deal with puppy separation anxiety, we need to make sure that’s actually what we’re dealing with.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to see your vet first.
Anxiety looks a lot like other, more serious conditions, so it’s important to rule them out first.
While it’s common for dogs to start showing these symptoms AFTER you’ve left, you may notice them as you’re getting ready to go out.
I know my dog starts freaking out as soon as she realizes I’m getting dressed to leave.
Puppy separation anxiety symptoms may include:
- Excessive drooling (in a breed that’s not already a drooly dog)
- Barking (in my case, it’s a very whiny, panicked bark versus the “danger” bark)
- Following you all over the house
- Inappropriate elimination (peeing and pooing in the house)
- Loss of appetite
- Struggling to escape the crate
As you can see, many of these symptoms mirror medical conditions.
Dogs who suddenly start drooling could have a tooth problem.
Peeing in the home could indicate a bladder infection.
Hiding may be a sign of pain.
That’s why it’s so important to see your vet before you just assume that you’re dealing with a case of puppy separation anxiety.
Also, as experts at the AKC explain, it’s important to make sure these behaviors are actually signs of separation anxiety and not just the result of poor training.
Things like chewing up your sofa or eating every pair of shoes you own could be a sign of both!
Cause of Separation Anxiety In Puppies
Just like the symptoms vary, so can the causes. That said, in most cases you’re likely looking at puppy separation anxiety from leaving the litter.
Puppy anxiety due to separating from litter
Think about it, up until the day you brought him home, your pup spent every waking moment with his siblings.
He had someone to play with, snuggle with, roughhouse with, and even dine with.
Now, he’s all by himself in a strange new house with strange new people who keep trying to kiss him.
Or, he’s in a strange new house with weird new people AND a ginormous strange dog that’s not exactly thrilled about sharing toys.
Then, to make things even harder, once he gets used to your wonderful snuggles and decides you make a great new adopted parent, you leave him.
Separation anxiety caused by your return to work
Consider your sudden absence from your pup’s point of view. YOU know you’re coming back. He doesn’t.
He thinks, “Where did she go? Why did she leave me? Will she get eaten by a bear? What if she never, ever, ever comes home? I will starve! I’m so scared!”
I don’t say that to make you feel bad, and honestly I did a little anthropomorphizing there, but you get the general idea.
It’s freaky to have you all to himself one moment and then watch you vanish out the big scary door the next.
If you’re just returning to work after being out for a long time, it’s even harder!
I once had two dogs who dragged literally every piece of clothing in my laundry basket out into the yard because they were upset that I went to work.
I only worked seasonally, so they were used to seeing me every day, all day.
Tips To Prevent Separation Anxiety In Your Puppy
Does your new pup bark constantly when you leave?
When you come home, do you find he has chewed things he wasn’t supposed to? The legs of your chairs, some clothes?
Maybe he has relieved himself on your carpet?
Fear not, this is behavior that, with a little training and persistence on your part, you can help your new family member overcome.
Here are some tips on how to prevent separation anxiety in your puppy.
Crate training your puppy is very helping in stopping separation anxiety in your puppy.
It gets him used to being alone and being okay with it.
You want a crate that is large enough for him to turn around in, but not large enough where if he has an accident, he can move far away from it.
Dogs don’t typically ‘go’ where they sleep.
Next, you want to place the crate in a high traffic area, where you spend most of your time, so the puppy doesn’t feel alone.
Make sure you put dog food and toys in there, but no water as it can get messy.
Start out with small amounts of time and move on to longer amounts of time so he can get used to knowing that’s his safe place.
NEVER use the crate as punishment
Do not, by any means, make him to go to crate as punishment.
This will only spark more anxiety when you need him to go there when you leave.
Getting your puppy used to going into his crate will eliminate anxious behavior when you leave and save your house from being destroyed.
Give him room to explore
Let your pup explore on his own (supervised of course).
Many dog owners feel the need to always be ‘entertaining’ their furry friends, whether it be playing with or even just touching and petting, let your dog have some alone time.
After all when you are gone, there will be no one there to do the entertaining.
Reward patience, not anxiety
Dogs love to please their owners, and when they know you are happy with something they have done, they will keep doing it.
It is very easy to get trapped in saying hello to your puppy when you have come home and they are excited to see you.
By showing attention, you are rewarding bad behavior, and you probably don’t even realize it. So when you leave the house, pay no attention to your puppy.
Grab your things and leave the house without saying anything. It sounds cruel, but you are provoking anxiety in your pup by letting them know you are leaving.
Do the same when coming back home, do not show attention. Simply wait until they are calm and then say hello. When you do, reward their calm behavior with a treat.
These are just a few tips on how to handle separation anxiety in your puppy.
Wear your puppy out
Exercise is a great way to prevent separation anxiety, as a tired dog is less likely to freak out when you leave.
If possible, spend some time playing training games that really engage your dog’s mind and body.
However, I know a lot of you don’t really have all that much time in the morning. I certainly don’t, as I’m a “get up and go” type of person.
In that case, at least take your pup for a brisk walk before leaving for the day.
When Training & Prevention Fail: Puppy Separation Anxiety Treatment Options
While the prevention tips above help manage the vast majority of puppy separation anxiety issues, there are always exceptions.
When all your best efforts to help your pup overcome it fail, it’s time to turn to the experts.
Let’s look at common treatment options, but please understand that this is NOT medical advice. It’s merely to give you an idea of what to expect when you discuss it further with your vet.
Intense training from an expert
There’s really only so much you can learn from the internet, a book, or even really stellar training videos.
Experts exist for a reason, and there is zero shame in admitting that you’re in over your head.
So, before resorting to other treatments, your vet will likely recommend consulting a professional dog trainer with experience in dealing with separation anxiety.
It’s super important to find a trainer that uses positive reinforcement methods. Punishing a scared dog isn’t just cruel, it’s counterproductive.
It’s also smart to choose one that lets you be involved in the training, rather than just a “drop him off and pick him up later” trainer.
That way, you can make sure you’re being consistent when you’re on your own.
Home remedies for separation anxiety in dogs
When it comes to home remedies for dogs, I prefer to err on the side of caution and start with things that they don’t have to take internally.
If that doesn’t work, you can move on to things like pheromone sprays and diffusers.
The pheremones are designed to mimic a mama dog’s natural scent, which may help soothe a puppy that’s dealing with litter separation anxiety.
If you do opt for internal options, such as herbal remedies and supplements, please talk to your vet first.
Even something as simple as simple as chamomile can cause issues if your pup has a preexisting medical condition.
I do recommend asking your vet about CBD oil for dogs, as I’ve had great experiences with it with my own pup.
Prescription medications from a vet
In cases of severe puppy separation anxiety, your vet may prescribe an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.
However, it’s super important to use them in conjunction with training, otherwise you’re just masking the condition.
Also, please, please, please never (ever, ever, ever) give your puppy medications prescribed to another dog. Ever.
The results could be fatal. Anti-anxiety medications are typically benzodiazepines with sedating effects.
Your vet carefully calculates the right dose based on your dog’s weight.
The same goes for giving him medications prescribed to people, such as diazepam (aka Valium)
Bottom line, dealing with separation anxiety in your puppy doesn’t have to be terribly challenging, but it does require patience.
Just remember to loop your vet in on the discussion!