Managing and Minimizing Puppy Separation Anxiety

Puppy separation anxiety can be a severe problem that worsens with age. In order to prevent this devastating behavior problem, begin to teach your dog independence early in life.

Learning to Be Left Alone

Once your puppy has started to adjust to your home, he needs to learn to be alone. Put your puppy in his crate or X pen with a good treat, such as a Kong stuffed with peanut butter or cream cheese or a bully stick, on which he can chew for awhile. Once he is excited about his treat, leave the room. If your puppy is quiet at the end of a half hour, let him out.

If your puppy starts whining, ignore it. Puppies learn early that whining gets them attention. If your dog relieved himself prior to being put in his crate, he should not have to go in a half-hour. Wait for your puppy to stop whining. Once he has stopped for a few seconds, let him out. Then he learns that quiet behavior gets rewarded.

Gradually build up to an hour or two of quiet time each afternoon.

Convenient Practice Sessions

Separation anxiety in dogs usually begins when owners and dogs are inseparable. Trainers usually suggest simply closing the bathroom door when using it is a good window to begin training.

Your puppy does not need to follow you everywhere. Go outside or in the restroom for a few minutes and close the door. The more you leave and come back, the more confident your puppy becomes that you will always come back. Just don't come back if your puppy is barking.

Planned Departure

Next, start leaving the house for an hour or two. Put your puppy in his area with a great treat on which he will have to work for awhile and leave.

Minimize hellos and good-byes. Dramatic hellos and good-byes create fear because your dog doesn't understand why you are so upset to leave and so relieved to return. You can pet your puppy, of course, but don't get too excited.

Plan short departures and gradually build up to leaving him for a full day. Don't leave your puppy in a crate for longer than six hours. If you have to be gone longer, put him in an X pen or small room blocked with a baby gate.

Desensitizing to Cues

If your puppy is already showing signs of separation anxiety, in addition to the other steps, you have to reduce fear around your departures. Think about your routine before you leave the house. Maybe your brush your hair, put on your shoes and pick up your purse. Maybe it's even longer. You must teach your dog that each of these cues mean nothing.

Thus, 10 times a day, start doing activities you usually do before leaving. Then, 10 times a day, pick up your keys and put them back. Build up to walking outside, starting your car and coming back. But only return when the whining/barking stops. Keep these sessions short and build up to actually leaving.

Once separation anxiety becomes serious, it can be very time-consuming to fix. However, you can prevent these problems in your puppy and save yourself the heartache.