Puppies tend to show signs of separation anxiety if they have not been trained to be alone when you are not around. This is especially so for a young new puppy that you had brought in to your home.
You may have been with your puppy for many months as you are working from home, and he gets the idea of seeing you and playing with you all day, but out of a sudden, he finds that you are missing from his sight (as you are now back to work in the office) and this is certainly going to create much anxiety and nervousness in him and cause him to act in undesirable reactions.
He may start to show signs of separation anxiety, such as following you around, sleeping in the doorways to prevent you from leaving, trying to escape when you are not with him, and rolling in dead animals to get your attention.
It’s important that you recognize these signs and start to act on it before the behavior gets worse and out of control.
As the saying goes, prevention is always better than cure, it’s going to be much better to start training your puppy to learn how to spend time to be alone without getting anxiety.
How To Prevent Separation Anxiety In Puppy
One of the best ways to prevent separation anxiety in puppies is to ensure that they have a safe, protected personal space for them to be around. They should also be given a sufficient amount of exercise to keep them from being lonely or boredom and dog training to boost their confidence level.
Crate Train Your Puppy
Although not mandatory, I would strongly recommend that you get a crate for your puppy and a wire crate with an open view would be an ideal choice.
Trust me, crate is certainly going to be one of the wise investments that you have made on your puppy training.
You can make use of a crate for many purposes including potty training as well as to provide a safe and secure personal place for your puppy to be in when you are not around or when he is feeling stressful or nervous.
Start slow to get your puppy to feel comfortable with his crate. For a start, you can keep your puppy in his crate when you are doing some house chore or cooking. This will make your puppy get used to his crate before you leave him in it for a longer period of time.
Make sure that you make the crate cozy and comfortable for him to be in. Place a warm blanket and some of his favorite toys in the crate to keep him busy playing with it. This will get him distracted and will not focus his attention that you are not with him.
Get him out of the crate as soon as you have finished the chore and reward him for being calm and quiet. This will help him to associate that being in the crate without your presence isn’t something to be worried about and will make him feel at ease the next time he is back to his crate.
Of course, you shouldn’t keep him in a crate for the whole day as that would certainly make him feel very stressful and react aggressively including biting the crate. Start introducing the crate to him in a “pleasant” way.
You can proceed with the night crating once he is used with the day crate training. Puppies will usually experience separation anxiety in the night especially when he is still adapting to his new environment and finds himself alone in the dark night.
What you can do is to have your puppy in the crate and place the crate in an area where he can easily see you. This will help to ease his anxiety and make him calm down. The simple act of making sure that he can “smell” and hear you will make him feel at ease in the night.
Make sure that you have him in the crate occasionally for a short period during the day and not only in the night or when you are busy with some tasks. This is to prevent him from thinking that crate time is the time when you are going to leave him alone and associate it with negative experience.
You can have him in the crate and place the crate beside you while you are reading a book or watching a TV program. This will help him to create a positive experience that you are still with him though he is in the crate, and he can play with his favorite toys at the same time and would develop the “love” for his crate.
Keep Him Busy
This approach works at all times. When your puppy is preoccupied with activities, he would not be paying his attention that you are not around, and he is now alone.
Activities such as physical and mental games will also help to drain off your puppy energy and make him feel tired at the end of the events.
As the saying goes, “A tired dog is a good dog”. By making your puppy tired, he will less likely feel lonely or bored. So plan for adequate physical and mental exercise to keep him occupied for the day.
If possible, you ought to spend at least an hour daily playing and interacting with him. This will help to build his trust on you and see you as his pack leader.
Dogs are social animals and don’t like to be alone. However, it is certainly not possible for you to be with him for 24/7. Finding ways to keep your puppy self entertained should be the way to go and crating can be a good approach.
You can keep him busy in his crate (go for toy that got many holes that you can put kibble or peanut butter in it so that your puppy can spend his concentration, time and energy to get his treat out and by then, he will be too tired and will need to get some rest) while you are out for some grocery chores.
As your puppy will view his crate as his den, he would naturally feel safe and secure in it and would take a nap when he is tired from playing.
Build Up His Confidence Level
Socialization and obedience training will help to build up your puppy confidence level and get him to know what he can and cannot do in your home.
This is an important step to help him gain confidence and do away with undesirable behaviors such as licking his lips as a result of anxiety and fear.
Get him to do things that he fears most and gradually build up his confidence. So if your puppy is afraid to be alone, start with leaving him alone for merely a few minutes and come back to him.
Give him praise and reward if he overcomes the fear and remains calm.
Do Not React Immediately For His Anxiety
Unavoidably, you may see your puppy start acting weirdly, keeps crying or whining when he finds you missing. The first thing that you should NOT do is to go to him the moment he cries.
If you do that, this will reinforce his thinking that by crying or making noise, he will get your attention.
You should instead wait till he has calmed down and stop making noise before you reach out to him to praise him and give him a reward. This is to make him associate his calmness with positive experience (a reward from you).
You may also find him holding your hand with his small paw. This is his way of seeking assurance from you that you are not going to ditch him!
Keep Your Exit Or Return “Silent”
Do not make “broadcast” to your puppy that you are leaving or coming back to home as this will create unnecessary excitement or anxiety for him.
You should instead place your puppy in his crate, give him some toy to play with and as he is engaging with his toys, silently reach out to the door and make your exit.
To have greater success in this approach, you should take your puppy for a short walk or play, followed by potty before having him back to his crate. This will help to “prepare” him for his nap while you make a move outside.
If your puppy sees that you are back and exhibits signs of excitement, keep calm and do not pay attention to him and avoid eye contact. You would not want to encourage undesirable behavior.
Only go to him when he has calmed out and reward him for being obedient. Remember to use positive reinforcement to encourage the behavior that you want your puppy to repeat.
Your goal is to train your puppy so that he is aware that your action of coming and leaving the home is a very routine activity and there is nothing to be worried about.
Make Some Noise
Your puppy will get so used to all the “sounds’ that you have been making while you are at home and when these “noises” go missing out of a sudden, this will make him anxious.
What you can do is to turn on radio or television to create that noisy environment for him to make him feel at ease while you are away, and he would not feel so lonely.
Start With Short Absence
Go for maybe 5 minutes of absence from your puppy and if he remains calm and quiet, reward and praise him when you are back with him.
It’s likely that during the initial training stage, you may find him keep looking around the room searching for you.
That is okay, as it takes time for him to adjust to your absence.
Continue with the training and, once he is adjusted well, you can increase the absence duration.
Slowing increases the timing to 30 minutes or an hour or so and repeats the reward process. If he starts to growl or cry, wait till he has calmed down and go back to him to reward him.
To facilitate this training, you can also give him some toys to let him engage his attention with the playing. The idea is to make your puppy see that you will be back and there is nothing to be worried about.
Teach Your Dog a New Trick Every Week
Wait…You may be thinking what this has to do with anxiety separation. Hear me out….
By teaching your dog a new trick (could be as simple as rollover or high-five) every week, what you have done is to create something new and different for your dog to pick up and that helps to simulate his thinking and concentration and ease his boredom.
Though anxiety separation is mainly caused by dogs feeling lonely, it could also be due to them feeling boredom.
By stimulating your puppy with new games and tricks, you are elevating his environment and this helps to reduce his overall boredom.
Get Everyone Involved
Every of your family members should be involved in your puppy training and preferably to have one to one session with your new pet.
The idea is to have your puppy introduced to all your family members so that he considers every one in your family as his next kin.
This will certainly help to ease his anxiety if you are not at home, but he sees that other family members are still with him.
Keep these 9 TIPS in mind and put them to good use when you are dealing with separate anxiety issue for your puppy.
This will prevent him from howling in his sleep as a result of missing you!