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Four Ways to Ease Puppy Separation Anxiety

When the pandemic put the world on hold, people began branching out – with everything from new hobbies to new jobs.

And in some cases, many of us began new relationships by getting a pandemic puppy!

Fortunately, due to the pandemic, you’ve been able to spend all your time with your new best friend, going on many socially distant adventures. That’s why you got a pandemic puppy after all, right?

But it’s inevitable that when things get back to normal, you’ll spend more time away from home — and your puppy may develop separation anxiety.

Some symptoms of separation anxiety include elimination, barking, chewing, digging under doors, destroying furniture, and trying to escape.

If you notice similar symptoms, it’s important to first determine where you’re seeing them. If your pup is exhibiting these signs when you’re both at home (versus when you’re away and the pup is alone at home), they could be an indication of training, socialization, or medical issues.

For example, elimination indoors or a loss of appetite, even after you return, could mean a problem with your puppy’s food. Make sure you’re feeding a quality brand like Black Gold Explorer’s Puppy Formula, which is specially formulated for the needs of growing puppies.

Once you’ve confirmed that your puppy suffers from separation anxiety, there are a few ways to go about addressing it.

Change your routine 

  • If your puppy’s symptoms manifest at the jingle of keys or when you put on your jacket, disrupt that routine. Put on your jacket and sit on the couch. Carry your keys around with you at home. This will prevent these things from triggering your dog. At the same time, don’t make a big deal of leaving or returning. These actions only increase separation anxiety.
  •  It can also be beneficial to establish safety clues; things that you do only when you’re coming back. The idea is to get your puppy to associate being home alone with positive things. Giving your puppy a special chew toy or treat only when you leave helps them learn to think positively about being alone.

Crate training 

  • When effectively trained, a crate can be a safe space for your puppy to minimize separation anxiety. Associating the crate with positive things like puzzle toys and chew toys will allow him to feel comfortable alone.
  • Don’t leave your dog in the crate all day. Instead, use it as a temporary space. Just like with changing your routine, slowly increase crate time until they are comfortable spending up to an hour alone in their crate. The idea here is for your puppy to learn to be comfortable alone in an environment where they won’t cause destruction.

Keep your dog occupied before and while you’re away

  • Before you leave, tire your dog out with a walk or fetch. Give them a chance to get their energy out. An exhausted dog is much less likely to have destructive separation anxiety symptoms.
  • While you leave, give your dog something to keep them busy. Put some dog food or their favorite treats in a puzzle toy or hide small piles around the house.

Counterconditioning exercises

  • For more severe cases of separation anxiety, you can ‘practice’ leaving in smaller steps. Go through your leaving routine and then spend a minute or two away on the other side of the door. Gradually increase this as your dog becomes more comfortable spending time alone.
  • Most of your dog’s separation anxiety symptoms happen within the first half hour alone. So once your dog is comfortable spending an hour at home, it’s okay to begin to leave them for longer periods of time.

 Ultimately, it takes a lot of patience to fix a puppy’s separation anxiety. It could be a combination of the above that soothes their symptoms. If it continues, consult with your veterinarian for treatment options.

Eventually, your puppy will learn to conserve their energy for all the adventures you’ll take them on, rather than destroying the couch cushions when they’re home alone.