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  • Writer's pictureKari Bastyr, MS, CDBC, CPCN

Dog Training: I Went Back to Work and My Puppy Has Separation Anxiety

Puppy Separation Anxiety

This year, many people adopted puppies while in quarantine. They are known as ‘Covid Puppies’, and dog trainers have been anticipating an influx of emails and phone calls regarding separation anxiety. Because these puppies have grown up with their parents working from home, plus staying home all the time, they are not used to being left alone.  Now, parents are starting to go back to work, and these puppies are panicking.

Here are some common questions I get when potential clients call:

What causes puppy separation anxiety?

Puppy separation anxiety can develop due to several variables:

~ You puppy is no being left alone when there has been no acclimation, ~ Your puppy has some level of generalized anxiety and insecurity, ~ Your puppy is confined in an area for long periods of time and they aren’t used to it, ~ Your puppy panics and has no way of self-soothing when you are at work.

If your puppy is always used to being on your lap, or at your side, once you leave, s/he will panic.

What are the symptoms of separation anxiety?

Many puppies start by whining or crying. Some will bark or howl. If your puppy is in a crate, s/he may try desperately to get out. Others will urinate or defecate in their crate, or in the house. If your puppy is left in a room, s/he may become very destructive and destroy bedding, while others may try to escape by chewing through drywall or doorjams. Some puppies even develop obsessive compulsive behaviors like chewing on their own paws or legs. 

How do you stop separation anxiety in puppies?

Helping puppies with separation anxiety improve involves a multi-faceted approach. Decreasing overall anxiety, building confidence, increasing impulse control, desensitization, classical-conditioning, and in some cases medication, are key.

Do puppies grow out of separation anxiety?

Puppies do not grow out of separation anxiety. In fact, if a behavior treatment program is not implemented sooner rather than later, the anxiety and panic will continue to increase until the puppy hurts himself or develops other anxieties and fears. In my opinion, separation anxiety can be debilitating for a puppy and not helping him/her to feel more secure will lead to a terrible quality of life for everyone. The puppy will be stressed, unhappy, and likely develop other behavior problems or panic disorder.

How do I stop my puppy from crying when left alone?

There is a lot more to it than just helping your puppy not cry when you leave. Teaching your puppy that you will always come back and making your departures a predictor of good things will go a long way. Working towards helping your puppy cope while you are gone by building her confidence and giving her something to do while you’re gone will help tremendously. Taking baby steps by leaving for very short periods, or even practicing leaving can help in many cases.  It can also be a good idea to speak with your veterinarian about getting some short-term anxiety medications to ease your puppy’s panic while behavior modification takes place.

If your Covid puppy has developed separation anxiety or separation distress, please reach out to me- I can help!  I am offering a 1-hour Zoom Workshop for Puppy Separation Anxiety several times in the next few months. I will outline ways to treat separation anxiety, and also I will answer specific questions from participants. One of the biggest benefits of an online group class is that you won’t feel alone… It’s like a support group. Everyone who has a puppy with separation anxiety is welcome!

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