Easing your puppy's separation anxiety

Here are some helpful tips from our partners in pet nutrition - Eukanuba on how to deal with your puppy's separation anxiety.

Maybe it hit you as soon as your parents backed the family car out of the dormitory parking lot your first year at university and you realized you were on your own. Or, perhaps you felt it standing at the neighborhood bus stop last fall, your first born struggling to climb the oversized steps of the school bus on his way to kindergarten.

No matter who you are or when you felt it, you never forget bouts of separation anxiety. The pang of loneliness is nearly visceral; the need to reach out and hang on is imperative. As human beings, we can explain to ourselves how and why the hurt is there. We understand life's beginnings and endings and are able to navigate them, usually with resolve.But people aren't the only ones who struggle with separation anxiety. Puppies do, too.

Considering she's recently left behind her momma, her siblings and the only home she's ever known, that's understandable. She might be scared. And lonely. She clings to what she knows makes her feel safe, warm and happy - you. So when you go off to work in the morning or spend an entire day at a rugby match, she mourns you. Unlike human beings, however, she doesn't have the mechanisms to cope as well. As a result, she might drool, pant, bark excessively, soil the house or engage in destructive behavior. She may try to escape from your home. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help her adjust. Here's how:

Diagnosing Separation Anxiety

Most puppies learn to embrace their new lives soon after being adopted. Old fears quickly evaporate as they learn your household's routines. But for one in every 15 pets, separation anxiety remains acute. How do you know if your pup has a bad case? Veterinarians who see chronic cases report that the aforementioned behaviors occur within the first 30 minutes after you leave your home. Moreover, they happen consistently when your puppy is left alone.

How You Can Help

  • Be empathetic. Pups who suffer from separation anxiety are not misbehaving or being spiteful. Never punish or isolate her. Both tactics can backfire and worsen the problem.
  • Redirect her behaviour. Tuck a treat into your little one's kennel before departing or toss her a new toy before you leave. You could also try feeding her a meal, as pups with full bellies are likely to be more relaxed than those who are hungry.
  • Keep your departures and arrivals low-key. If your voice and body language say "this is no big deal", she might start to believe you.
  • Hire a pet sitter or doggie day care service so that she'll have company while you're gone.
  • Teach her to tolerate your comings and goings. Give her a treat, then leave the house for a minute or two. She'll begin associating your departures with pleasure (or at least the treat sweetens the deal). Then, gradually prolong the amount of time you're gone until she can better cope.

Seeking Professional Advice

Some pets do not outgrow separation anxiety. (In fact, breeds like the Weimarner are known for such issues in some form of it even as adults.) These animals need your utmost compassion and, perhaps, medical attention. Sedatives can be prescribed for extreme cases (though they are not long-term solutions). Moreover, professional animal trainers can help.

Like you, puppies are social creatures. It is normal for her to miss you. In time, she'll learn you're coming home, and the pangs of separation anxiety will fade. Someday soon, she'll be so comfortable with solitude you will be sure to catch her asleep - atop your favourite couch.

Version suitable for printing
More Information

Copyright © The Kennel Club Limited 2016. The unauthorised reproduction of text and images is strictly prohibited.