What To Do With A Puppy With Separation Anxiety

When you adopt a puppy, it’s difficult to know what kind of adult dog they will one day become, both physically and emotionally. For example, I’ve seen tiny dogs who were fierce as lions when protecting their family, but I’ve also seen enormous dogs scared of their own shadow. Knowing what your dog will ultimately be like is a tough call.

The good news is that, even if you have a timid, anxious, or otherwise excitable puppy, proper training and patience will go a long way towards helping them become better adjusted. Also, the amount of love and attention you give to a puppy is critical. In the first few weeks and months especially, try to give as much of your time to your pup as you can.

No matter how well you treat and train them, however, some puppies will suffer from a condition called separation anxiety. As the name suggests, separation anxiety is when a puppy gets anxious, scared, or nervous when you leave them alone or are otherwise separated from them. 

Your pup’s anxiety and fear, unfortunately, can cause them to do all sorts of crazy stuff when you leave. Barking non-stop, for example, or tearing up everything in sight. Defecating and urinating are often caused by separation anxiety, leaving you to clean up the mess when you return home.

I was thinking about separation anxiety in puppies the other day after a reader contacted me with a desperate question. Her new puppy was freaking out every time she left the house and causing all sorts of stress in her life. Her question was what to do with a puppy with separation anxiety?

The answer is that there are several methods you can use to help a puppy with separation anxiety. Some work better than others depending on you and your pup. 

Seeing as “several methods” is much too vague of an answer, I’ve got a lot more information for you on what to do with a puppy with separation anxiety below. If you’re desperate to have a chill pup who’s OK with you coming and going, read on!

Signs of Separation Anxiety in Puppies

The thing about separation anxiety in puppies is that, often, it’s mistaken for simple disruptive or destructive behavior. Let’s face it, just like a child, a puppy left alone will sometimes get into things it shouldn’t and make a mess. 

On the other hand, if your puppy is creating a massive mess every time you leave the house, barking, defecating, chewing, digging, and peeing everywhere, that could be a sign that they’re suffering from separation anxiety. The fact is, separation anxiety is a type of stress and, like all stresses, needs to be dealt with in a manner that isn’t harmful to your pup or yourself. 

One way to determine if your puppy is simply being destructive or suffering from separation anxiety is to look at other behaviors they’re having at the same time. For example, suppose your dog starts drooling incessantly whenever you prepare to leave the house. That’s a good indication that they have separation anxiety and start to stress out even before you leave.  

Another way to determine if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety is if they become agitated, excited, or nervous whenever you’re getting ready to leave the house. Some puppies will even try to prevent you from leaving by blocking the door or other types of behaviors.

What’s worse is that your puppy will usually start to bark incessantly as soon as you leave. If you live in an apartment or share a home with someone, that could be extremely problematic.

However, the worst sign of your puppy suffering from separation anxiety is when you return home and find them injured or bleeding from trying to escape. Puppies who suffer from extreme separation anxiety will try so hard to stay with you that they can injure themselves while trying to escape through exit points like doors and windows.

Below are the common signs of separation anxiety in puppies, including

  • Urinating and defecating in various parts of your house. 
  • Barking incessantly as soon as you leave and, in some cases, howling. If a neighbor tells you that your dog is howling after you leave even though they never howl when you’re at home, it’s a sure bet they have separation anxiety.
  • Trying to escape. Puppies suffering from severe separation anxiety often try to follow you when you leave. That includes digging, chewing, and other actions that, in some cases, can cause them great harm.
  • Destroying everything in sight. Separation anxiety causes many puppies to become extremely nervous and agitated, which then causes them to chew on anything they can get their teeth around. Windows, doors, furniture, shoes, toys, whatever.
  • If you keep your puppy penned up outside, they will dig like crazy to try and escape if they have separation anxiety. 

What Can You Do To Lower your Puppy’s Separation Anxiety?

Knowing if your puppy has separation anxiety is one thing. Preventing it is another. Using the methods below, you can often reduce your pup’s anxiety when leaving the house.

  • Try crate training. Puppies feel more secure in their crate once they are used to it, making it easier for you to leave without freaking them out. 
  • Stick to a daily routine as much as possible.  Your puppy will have more of an idea of what is happening and less anxiety when you eventually leave.
  • Consider hiring a dog walker if you’re gone most of the day.
  • Reduce the attention you give your puppy before you leave. This will reduce the shock when you do.

Do Puppies Grow Out of Separation Anxiety? 

As long as it isn’t severe, most puppies that suffer from separation anxiety will grow out of it as they get older. However, they might need extra training and care to fully overcome their anxiety and fear.

Some dog experts recommend crate training for puppies with separation anxiety. That’s because once a puppy is used to being in its crate, it will feel safe and secure there. That goes for when you leave the house also. 

In some cases, it’s a good idea to keep their crate in another part of the house, away from the door you use when you leave. That way, they won’t see you leave and will have less anxiety.

Are Some Puppy Breeds More Prone to Separation Anxiety?

When adopting, it’s important to know which dog breeds are more prone to separation anxiety than others. That way, you can adopt one that might be better adapted to your lifestyle. The 10 dog breeds that are most likely to suffer from separation anxiety include:

  1. Labrador Retriever
  2. Border Collie
  3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  4. Jack Russell Terrier
  5. German Shepherd
  6. Australian Shepherd
  7. Bichon Frise
  8. Vizsla
  9. German Shorthaired Pointer
  10. Toy Poodle

Final Thoughts

What to do with a puppy with separation anxiety is a question I hear pretty frequently. As we’ve seen today, there are a few things you can do to lower their anxiety or prevent it. There are also several breeds of dogs that are more prone to separation anxiety than others. Depending on your lifestyle, you might want to keep that in mind when adopting.

I hope today’s blog about separation anxiety in puppies has been helpful and answered all of your most pressing questions. Please see my other blogs if you have others or would like to learn more about being a proud puppy parent. They’re filled with actionable, real-world information to help you raise your precious puppy into a healthy, well-adjusted adult dog.