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How to Curb Your Puppy's Tendency to Bark at Everything :: The Top Eight Ways to Deal with Separation Anxiety :: How to Play the Right Way with Your Puppy :: Tips for Finding Work for Your Puppy

The Top Eight Ways to Deal with Separation Anxiety

If the first thing you see when you come home from an outing is toilet paper strewn across the floor or a new bite in the couch, you may be dealing with canine separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is simply your puppy becoming fearful or agitated when you're not there. Though most often seen in puppies who were not properly socialized early on, even well-adjusted puppies at this age can suffer from separation anxiety. And it may suddenly appear after months of not having any trouble.

Signs of separation anxiety include destructiveness, a panting, distressed puppy, housebreaking accidents, excessive licking of fur and excessive barking when you're gone. It can also manifest itself in aggressive behavior as you try to leave the house. How long you're gone does not necessarily matter to a dog whose sense of time is not the same as a human's. Your puppy can tell when it's time for things such as food and walks based on his circadian rhythm but he cannot tell if it's been 10 minutes or three hours. Understanding why the anxiety occurs can help you alleviate it.

Causes of Separation Anxiety

  1. Change - Any change in a puppy's routine can cause anxiety which shows up when you're gone.

  2. Dog as Alpha - If your puppy doesn't know that you are the alpha, he may take umbrage to the fact that you left the house without his permission.

  3. Negative Training - If you're training your dog using fear, you're sending mixed signals and when you leave, he does not have the confidence to be alone.

  4. Trauma - Any trauma a dog suffers, from loud noises to illness, can make it harder for your puppy to be comfortable when alone.

  5. Boredom - Dogs don't exactly get bored as we do because they don't think about what they'd rather be doing. But inactivity can cause them to look for something to do such as tearing up the rug.

Solutions for Separation Anxiety

  1. Crate Him - This can alleviate a great deal of anxiety because a pup feels secure in a den-like environment. But, there can be signs of social anxiety when he's crated as well.

  2. Hire a Dog Walker - Because dogs fall easily into a routine, this not only gets him out and about, it may help alleviate the anxiety.

  3. Medication - Separation anxiety can be caused by brain chemistry. This is also often accompanied by OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Certain breeds such as the Bull Terrier have a tendency for this. Medications such as Prozac can help.

  4. Diet - Make sure your puppy is getting enough fat. Too little can cause a neurological malfunction. Also, feed your pup food free of additives and preservatives and keep sugar out of his diet as much as possible.

  5. Sneak In and Out - Do not make a big deal of leaving and coming home. Ignore your puppy when exiting or entering and be calm and quiet.

  6. Wear Him Out - More exercise equals a calmer puppy.

  7. Leave the TV On - Low noise can be comforting to a puppy. And leave it on Animal Planet, please.

  8. Leave Toys Out - Boredom is usually solved by leaving Kongs full of peanut butter and interactive toys. You can even get a timed Kong dispenser that will keep your puppy busy most of the day.

If you already crate your puppy and he still shows signs of separation anxiety, there are a few things you can do. Leave strong chew toys in his crate or Kongs with peanut butter or interactive treat toys. Keep a favorite blanket in the crate but don't wash it too often. Your puppy is comforted by the smell (even if you're aren't). Place a ticking clock nearby. Not only does this help younger puppies sleep, it can calm older anxious pups.

The signs of separation anxiety may not actually indicate separation anxiety. Your puppy may simply be misbehaving. Or he might be frightened by something when you're gone and try to dig his way through the couch to safety. Note how often he shows the signs. If it's infrequent, it's probably not separation anxiety. Another thing to do is to video tape his activities or leave the house and sneak back to watch him through a window. If your puppy does have separation anxiety, be patient and work with him. It's a problem that can be fixed with a few changes.

Advice from Other Dog Owners 

Start Training Your Puppy Right Away

Even though the old saying goes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," in reality you can start training a dog at any age - if the dog is nine weeks, nine months, or nine years old.

Even if you bring home a very young puppy, training and working on wanted behaviors starts immediately after the dog comes home with you. You would start teaching the dog to recognize her name and get her used to a set schedule of when you go outside, when she's fed, when it's time for walks and when it's time for bed time. Even playtime can be training - you're teaching her what she can and cannot play with, not to bite your hands, and rules for your games (such as, when you bite me, the game ends).

Formal training, such as sit, down, and come, can be started at a very young age as well. It's never too early to "shape" behaviors using positive rewards. A good time to enroll into a class is around 6 months old - puppy class.

~Chris & Brian C., owner of German Shepherd

Dealing with a Puppy That Chews Everything in Sight

Try offering your puppy a variety of chew toys. Notice the texture and softness of what he usually chooses to chew on (that he's not supposed to chew on) and try to pick a toy with that texture and softness. But don't get any toys shaped like any of the inappropriate items he chews. Dogs don't know the different between a chew toy shaped like a shoe and a real shoe.

Also, redirect the behavior. It's very simple to do this. All you need to do is when you see him chewing inappropriate items, show him the chew toy and encourage him to chew that instead. Praise and richly reward him for chewing the right things. Whenever he chews the wrong things, just redirect.

~Tiffany C., owner of Papillon mix

Tips on Housebreaking a Puppy

The best thing I found was crate-training at night, and when you're away from home. I didn't keep my dog crated when I was home with him, I locked him in the kitchen the first week, staying in there to play with him. On the second week we slowly let him have more freedom in the house.

We were always watching, and after all activity (sleeping, eating, playing) took him out right away. I took him out as much as every 15-30 minutes. We took him out the same door always, out to the same spot (by a big field we have beside our yard), said 'go potty, go potty' (he's 2 now, and still goes to the same area to poop) and petted/praised like crazy when he did (good BOY, good potty!) Then right back inside....no playing right after potty. If we played, it was inside, then back out to play, so he'd 'get it' that that trip out was for potty alone. When you pair whatever words (like "go potty") to the action, I think it helps...and he'd go potty on command after awhile. That's nice when you're getting ready to go somewhere in the car, and need him to go!

If he had accidents when in the crate, I never scolded...never. Just cleaned everything up. Nature's Miracle worked wonders for me; it cleans spots and odors great. We would never rub the puppy's nose in it if there were accidents in the house. That's what worked for me.

~Donna C., owner of Labrador Retriever

Training Your Puppy to Sleep Through the Night

My trainer told me that puppies can usually hold it longer during the night, when they are sleeping.

If your pup is waking up and crying to go out at night, you might try pushing her potty breaks back a little. If she normally wakes up at 12, wait an hour, then take her out at 1. If shes fine with that, push it back another hour, til 2, and so on. That's what I did with my dog and it worked well and quickly. Instead of taking her out at 5, I'd wait til 5:30. Then 6, then 6:30, etc. She was sleeping through the night by 12 weeks or so (but I'm sure every pup is different).

~Dana S., owner of German Shorthaired Pointer

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