Separation Anxiety For Dogs – How To Prevent It.

So you have decided that the family will add a new 4 legged member to the clan and it just so happens it’s a puppy!

Getting a puppy for me is just the best thing as they bring you so many laughs and that puppy breath is to die for.

However, at some point, you know that you are going to have to leave them alone.

Separation Anxiety for dogs can be a scary thing so it is a good idea to teach them very early that being left alone isn’t a scary thing and that you will always return.

Separation Anxiety For Dogs – Why Do They Struggle?

From the very beginning way before they became our domesticated pals, dogs have always been very social animals.

They would live in packs and over time have evolved alongside their human friends to both keep us company and to work with us.

Nearly all dogs would either prefer to spend their entire day with us or other dogs but being alone is something they really don’t like and it most definitely isn’t a natural thing for most of them.

Younger dogs, and especially those that are puppies are very easily bored and as anyone who has owned a puppy before are full of bounce and energy!

It is so important to give your puppy plenty of mental and physical playtime so as they behave how you want them to and that plays a big part in helping to treat separation anxiety for dogs.

Going Out – Where Should I Leave My Puppy?

The first thing we need to do, and this is something we should already have planned, is where we are going to be happy to leave them alone.

A lot of puppy owners like to leave their puppies either in the kitchen or laundry room as these are places we find easier to clean up those little puppy gifts they leave us when we are out.

Leaving them in these areas is fine however, make sure that it is not only when you go out that they are put in these areas as they may soon learn to associate this with being left alone.

It is also a good idea to put them here when you are home as it starts to engrain into them that it isn’t always a place to go when you are away.

Preparing An Area

Preparing an area goes a long way in the treatment of separation anxiety for dogs, and here are a few things you can do for this;

Stair Gates

These are great things to use when first getting your puppy used to be home alone. To a puppy these arent as scary as a closed-door as they still allow your puppy to see what is going on around them.

It lets them see you, smell you, and hear you and will help train them to accept distancing while you are still at home.

These stair gates will need to be placed in the doorway of the room you have decided on leaving them in when you go out.

Toys and Chews

To make their “Go-To” room a place they love you will need to make sure they have some familiar items.

Make sure you have a comfortable bed and plenty of water for them to drink.

You can also put in some of their favorite toys and chews to help them with boredom.

One of the best things I have found for this is a Kong filled with some frozen treats. This will keep them occupied for hours!

Another great idea is to leave an article of clothing you have just worn in there with them as it gives them that extra sense of security. It is probably best not to leave your favorite shirt as puppies may do what they do best and that is to chew it!

Chill Out Music

I don’t know about you, but some of my most relaxing times are listening to some chill-out music and this can also be the same for your puppy.

Try putting on some quiet background music for your puppy when you go out as this helps to muffle any frightening sounds from outside, and let’s face it as a puppy there will be a lot of unusual sounds in the beginning.

I know I said chill-out music, but that was more for me, the best stations are the talk-back stations as voices are what your puppy really wants to hear when you are out.

To them, these voices offer comfort and security.

Separation Anxiety For Dogs – Training In The House

All you need to do is a quick google search and you will soon see there are a lot of training ideas you can do to help your dog adjust to being left home alone.

Always try to keep the training light, fun, random, and is something I cover in great detail in the article “Before You Get A Puppy – Everything You Need To Know” something I highly recommend you read before making any decisions on purchasing your new bundle of fun!

Here are a few other things you can get started on;

  1. As I mentioned earlier in this blog, pop your puppy behind the stair gate with the Kong stuffed with some frozen treats.
  2. Close the gate and carry on with your normal routine but try to make sure you still stay within their view and earshot.
  3. Give them a few minutes then head back to the gate and open it. Don’t call them just walk away and in the perfect scenario you want them to be still engrossed in their treat. It is now your puppy’s decision on whether they want to leave the room or not.
  4. Once your puppy is comfortable staying behind the gate start to gradually increase that time. Every puppy is different in how they will react and accept this, for some it will be a few days and for others, this will take longer. Your end goal is to have them relaxed and comfortable when you are out of their sight.
  5. Ideally, we now want to aim for about an hour of you being somewhere else in the house without them worrying about where you are or what you are doing.

The Time Has Come – Leaving The House

OK, you now have your puppy comfortable with you being out of sight for an hour while still in the house, and we can now start to get them used to being alone for a short time while you are out of the house.

Just like we did above while we were in the house we will now do these same steps as we prepare them for us going out.

As your puppy gets used to this, repeat the same process a few times throughout the day.

A BIG TIP – When you leave your puppy for the first time, NEVER make a fuss, what you want them understanding is that there is nothing exciting or scary going on, and what you will be doing by avoiding this is creating a calm space and relaxed puppy while you are out.

Slowly increase the amount of time you go out.

Every puppy is different so the amount of time for them to become comfortable with this can vary but it is very important that you work at a pace that is comfortable with them. It’s not a race so let them decide.

If your puppy does start to freak out go back to the amount of time that they were last comfortable with and start gradually increasing the amount of time from there.

This all may seem like a lot of work, but you have committed to getting this puppy and doing everything you can to make sure it feels safe, happy, and cared for.

If you are a working family and will need to leave your puppy for several hours make sure you build them up to this.

A good idea is to arrange some leave from work prior to bringing them home, this way it gives you some time to put into place everything we have discussed here so far.

But My Puppy Looks Scared When I Leave

It’s hard to resist those puppy eyes and the looks they give you.

If you are seeing that your puppy starts to look scared and worried when you grab the keys and put on your jacket ready to head out you may need to spend some time getting them used to this.

Just like everything when it comes to training, the key is repetition!

What we are going to do here is put our puppy back into their area during the day and start getting them used to hearing you pick up the keys, see you putting your coat on and heading out, and then coming straight back in again.

It is extremely important that we don’t actually leave the house yet.

Once they become comfortable with this we will start to actually leave the house for a few minutes at a time, slowly increasing the time depending on their comfort levels.

My Tip – Always keep your greeting friendly, calming, and predictable when you come home. Never show any signs of anger or frustration if you come home to find your puppy has chewed your favorite shoes or gone to the toilet, Remember they are still very young and are learning what behaviors are good and what are bad.

Helping Puppy Feel Relaxed When I Leave

If you have followed all the training I have set out above and slowly built up your puppy’s alone time you should be well on your way to having them feel relaxed whenever you leave the home.

Before going out you will also need to make sure you have given them plenty of exercise which is normally some playtime with you and you have taken them outside to go to the toilet.

Toilet training your puppy is easy and a must-do if you intend to have your puppy grow to be an indoor dog. My article on How To Toilet Train My Puppy outlines everything you need to know and makes it very easy to do.

You could also give them a small light meal as this will help them to relax and feel a little sleepy.

Accidents Happen. Should I tell My Puppy Off When I Get Home?

The answer to this is simple – NO!

Any kind of punishment you give your puppy when you get home won’t stop them from doing it again and actually will make the problem worse!

It is a known fact that dogs think of punishment for what they are doing at that exact time.

So your puppy will obviously think of the telling off as something they are doing right now, and not what they did in the time you were away from the house.

Many dog owners think that taking their puppy over to where they went to the toilet and scolding them will somehow help the puppy realize this is not on works. It doesn’t!

It’s not to say they don’t remember going to the toilet there, they just won’t be able to tie in the punishment they are getting and something they did possibly hours ago.

If you do this, what will happen is that your puppy will start to realize that every time you come home, rather than it being a fun and enjoyable moment, it is actually a scary and not so fun time.

Continue in this way, and what will happen is you will start to build up anxiety in your puppy, and an anxious puppy will start to chew things to calm themselves or continually go to the toilet without control because they are scared and worried.

Over time this will increase into their adult life and separation anxiety for dogs could mean a lifetime of medication or calming aides.

So What Should I Do?

Firstly, if you have decided to get yourself a puppy you should expect that chewed items and the wet spots around the house are part and parcel of owning a new dog.

So when you come home and find this, rather than punish them, greet them as you would have done if nothing had happened, then calmly clean up the gifts they have left you (And yes I know how frustrating this can be) no matter how you are feeling at the time.

You need to remember at this early stage in their lives they still haven’t got the bladder control they will have when they grow up and are still learning wrong from right on what is theirs to chew and what isn’t

There is an old saying, “Patience Is A Virtue” and this is so relative to being a puppy parent.

My Puppy Looks Guilty When I Get Home- Why?

As a parent, I know that when my kids sense that I am upset with them they have a completely different look, and it is no different for our furry kids.

The signs your dog may show when they sense you are upset with them are;

  • They make look away from you, squinting their eyes.
  • They may crouch right down.
  • They may put their tail in between their legs.
  • They could flatten their ears

In veterinary or animal behaviorist terms this is called “appeasement behavior

According to the physiological dictionary, appeasement behavior in dogs is when it reduces its body size to look un-threatening, and we as humans have associated this with a look of guilt that our puppy is showing because they have done something wrong.

Who hasn’t come home and thought my puppy has done this on purpose to teach me a lesson for leaving them alone?

Despite what we may think they really haven’t done this for any other reason other than they are still learning.

Puppies and dogs that may look guilty when we arrive home are simply responding to the sense of your disappointment and it is their way of calming the situation.

Other Support

If you need more help with toilet training or possibly you have a dog who is suffering from anxiety then I encourage you to read these articles to help both you and your dog to be the happiest team ever!

Another anxious time for all our pets is fast approaching, and that’s Halloween, so please remember to have everything in place for your dog before this great time is upon us so we can all enjoy a SPOOK-TACULAR Halloween in 2021.

If you have any questions on how to treat anxiety for dogs or would like to leave some tips or advice on this, please leave your comments below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

“May Your Home Be Filled With Love And Dog Hair”

Mark

Founder of Our Dogs World 101

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7 thoughts on “Separation Anxiety For Dogs – How To Prevent It.”

  1. I feel it hurts me more than it hurts my puppies when I go out. Yes, I can’t bear seeing those puppy eyes. And specially since they got used to seeing me always at home during the past year and part of this one. But I’ll have to return to the office. Your tips have been really helpful. Thank you very much!

    Reply
    • Hi Ann,

      I have a feeling we are going to have a lot of stressed out pets this year after many of them would have got used to having their best friend home so much.

      I am glad my tips have helped and please let me know how you get on.

      Thanks,

      Mark

      Reply
  2. Pups are really similar to us humans eh! Its painful to see your little pup sad when you leave home and it can be really hard. Thank you for helping us dog owners manage our dogs separation anxiety. I thought your point on setting aside a space for him or her regardless of whether or not you’re leaving home was fantastic! It’ll make them think that being in their space doesnt always mean that we are leaving, hence it would not trigger their anxieties. Yet another great article Mark! I’m learning something new about dogs through your blog posts! 

    Reply
    • Hi Julian,

      That is the most important part when they are young, setting aside that space early removes the fear and makes that a space they are happy to be in.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Mark

      Reply
  3. Hi, what a great site. I love the images and the information! This is great advice and good instruction for everyone from the novice to experienced pet owner.  My family has always been big on owning pets, and we have actually tried a lot of the suggestions you list in your article, and they all work. Really well written. Thank you

    Reply
  4. Another great article by you, it’s very useful, because I struggled with this problem before. I had a rescue dog and she was not good with being left alone. She would follow me everywhere I went inside the house, I couldn’t go to the toilet without her tailing me. Which was great but when I had to leave the house without her, you could hear her crying from the end of the street, which broke my heart. I wish I knew about these training steps before, especially the music bit, that sounds really useful. Not sure if it would have worked with her, but I will definitely try it in the future. 

    Thank you for the post,

    j.

    Reply
  5. I never thought of separation has a problem for my dog. Thank you for pointing it out. We stay very close to them and always coddle them around. I will immediate prepare a permanent place for them and make it comfortable. Although providing music might be challenging but I will make a good bedding and water available 

    Reply

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