Puppy separation anxiety is a frequent complaint among new puppy owners. If mild, it may make your puppy whine or bark when left alone. Left unresolved, his fear can gradually intensify. A severely anxious puppy is often destructive and disruptively loud.
A few of the behaviours that are commonly linked to separation anxiety are: urination and defecation in places that are inappropriate, excessive barking, destructive behaviour and whining. Even hyperactivity and depression could be indications of separation anxiety in your puppy. Of course, the behaviours could be warning signs of other problems as well.
What Causes Puppy Separation Anxiety?
The puppy has an instinctive need to be part of a pack. He feels frightened and insecure if there is no alpha, or dominant, leader to the group. Most of the time that he is anxious about being home alone, he is reacting not only to the lack of his pack mates, but actions that he has come to associate with your absence. This is why puppy separation anxiety often seems excessive.
When your puppy is observing you, he comes to realize that there is a normal sequence of events that take place each day. When he sees you going through your daily routine and expresses fear, you may attempt to comfort him, unknowingly giving positive reinforcement to his frightened reaction. In the end, you have a puppy who is consistently anxious when it is time for you to leave.
Reducing Puppy Separation Anxiety
Reducing puppy separation anxiety when it first appears is far easier than ignoring it until it becomes a serious problem. This article discusses a few simple methods to try as soon as you notice this is becoming a problem.
Do Something Different
If your morning schedules is the same from day to day, your puppy will have an easier time connecting your actions with his fear of being alone. Changing your routine makes a huge difference in breaking these connections in his mind. If you notice that one particular step of your preparations is when he begins to behave nervously, alter it somewhat.
Change the time that your alarm rings, get dressed after breakfast if you normally dress immediately upon waking, or pack your lunch before you shower. They may not seem like big changes to you, but to your puppy, they will make a big difference in helping him to feel less anxious.
Never Give Positive Reinforcement
It may seem to you that you are comforting a scared family member, but in your puppy’s mind, you are rewarding him for being scared. As inhumane as it sounds, the most effective way to reduce puppy separation anxiety is to ignore it. The first way to get him to stop being frightened of you leaving is to break any associations between your arrival or leaving with affection.
When you are going to or getting home from work, ignore him for the first or last quarter hour or so. Practice leaving the house and returning without making any fuss over the puppy. This is especially effective when combined with crate training or practicing putting him in a room by himself.
You’re Alpha, Not Mean!
As a responsible puppy owner, it is your job to prevent or address puppy separation anxiety by teaching him to be calm about being alone and secure in his rank in the family. Dealing with his anxiety will help prevent damage to your home, angry neighbors and preserve your pup’s mental and physical heath.
Once you’ve tried these methods, if he is still frightened, you need to take further steps to figure out a solution immediately. Dealing with these symptoms of anxiety in your puppy while they are still minor will help prevent him from having serious habits to break and feeling insecure about his position in the pack.
Handling Puppy Separation Anxiety
A number of ways exist to take care of separation anxiety in a dog; however, your two primary goals are:
- Ensure that the puppy find enjoyment during the period in which he is alone; well, perhaps “enjoyment” is a bad choice of word in this instance. Probably “tolerate” would be a better choice.
- Ensure that the puppy is occupied while it is alone at home.
Below are a few tips that can be made use of as a means of eliminating separation anxiety in puppies:
- Your puppy must be taught to be alone. Begin while the pet is still young. At first, you should start out slowly, short training sessions that are just about 5 to 10 minutes in length are considered to be a good start.
- It is important to note that there is absolutely no need for emotional, long goodbyes. If you have to go away from the home, just do it. When you leave and come back immediately because the pet is whining or displaying other symptoms of separation anxiety, your puppy will be reassured that all will be fine; however, the puppy will interpret that as you rewarding his tantrums. In fact, what you are doing is promoting puppy separation anxiety.
- Prior to leaving, tire out your pet by engaging it in a number of tiring activities. There is a big possibility that after you leave, the puppy will fall asleep.
There is tip that is among the easiest to implement when dealing with separation anxiety in your puppy; prior to leaving, turn on a radio. This will possibly not seem like it makes much sense; however, hearing different voices will provide your puppy with reassurance.
Training the Puppy for You to Leave
Some of the training methods to reduce puppy separation anxiety might seem counter intuitive but you must remember it is all about reinforcing good behavior and ignoring or scolding bad behavior. Work with your puppy by pretending to leave.
Start the morning routine where you go for your energy reducing walk. From there, begin getting ready as normal. If the puppy begins to show signs of anxiety, ignore the behavior. Open the door as if you plan on leaving but then close it without going anywhere. Sit down and relax but do not show the puppy any affection if he is exhibiting signs of anxiety.
Keep repeating the “leaving” process until the puppy does not show signs of separation anxiety and then shower the animal with affection. This gives him a sense of the “right” behavior as well as a belief that you will always come back.
Puppy separation anxiety is one of the most frequently occurring problems with puppies and the anxiety can lead to behavior problems, and because dogs are pack animals and very social, being alone causes the animal concern. They do not understand why there is no noise, no people and it feels very unnatural to them. Even having a large home or yard to wander around in may not be enough to eliminate separation anxiety.