puppy separation anxiety

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Puppy Separation Anxiety Explained: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Katelyn Son

By

Medically reviewed by

Natalie Ragland, DVM

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Can Puppies Get Separation Anxiety?

Can Puppies Get Separation Anxiety

Yes, puppy separation anxiety is a common behavioral issue. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if your puppy’s behavior when alone is normal or not. To avoid issues, puppies must not be left alone for extended periods.

There are no specific statistics on the number of puppy separation anxiety cases. However, separation anxiety occurs in 14% of adult dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, the issue can be drawn from puppyhood to adulthood if not addressed.  

Research by veterinary behaviorists J. P. Scott and J. Fuller shows that the dog’s behavioral makeup is 35 percent genetic and 65 percent due to external factors such as socialization, nutrition, health care, training, and management.

In other words, external factors cannot change temperament. However, they certainly play a role in future training and behavior modification. With that being said, pet parents should be aware that the prevention of puppy separation anxiety starts as soon as the new puppy gets home.

Can my 8-9 Week Old Puppy Have Separation anxiety?

Yes, an 8-9 week old puppy can have separation anxiety. In fact, puppy separation anxiety is not age-limited.

Typically a seven-week-old puppy is still with his mother and siblings. At eight or nine weeks of age, a puppy may be spending its first week in a new home. So there are many reasons a puppy at 8 or 9 weeks may be experiencing separation anxiety.

This is important as there are two critical stages in a puppy’s life:

Behavioral Refinement (7 to 9 weeks). Puppies are like sponges and, with the right approach, can learn anything. However, training must be structured and on an individual basis. A stable individualized learning environment is essential. 

Fear Imprint (8 to 11 weeks). Between 8 and 9 weeks of age, puppies start being cautious or even fearful of loud noises, sudden movements, strangers, and discipline from other dogs or humans. If frightened during this period, it may take weeks to return to normal. 

What Causes Separation Anxiety in Puppies?

What Causes Separation Anxiety in Puppies

The foundation of separation anxiety is fear. In her book “Separation Anxiety in Dogs,” canine expert and author Malena DeMartini-Price says that separation anxiety is a clinical condition “when a dog does not tolerate being alone without his specific person or people.”  

JAVMA, in a study in 2001, tells the vet community that separation anxiety is one of the most common canine behavior issues. The causes of this anxious behavior in puppies include:

  • Enduring a long car or airplane ride
  • Living in a new home full of unfamiliar people and possibly other pets
  • Going through trauma (living in a shelter or being abandoned)
  • Early separation from the mother and littermates
  • Single traumatic events (car accidents, abuse, etc.).

What are the Signs of Separation Anxiety in Puppies?

It is hard for first-time pet parents to notice the signs of separation anxiety. Here are some of the signs indicative of puppy separation anxiety:

  • Vocalization (crying, whining, barking)
  • Excessive salivation (pronounced drooling)
  • Always asking to be picked up or close to a family member
  • Destructive behavior (chewing, scratching, digging)
  • Increased urination frequency
  • Urinating and defecating accidents (despite potty training efforts).

How do You Stop Separation Anxiety in Puppies?

How do You Stop Separation Anxiety in Puppies

There is no single best way of stopping puppy separation anxiety. Every puppy is different and needs a personalized treatment plan.

Therefore, the question of how to treat separation anxiety in dogs is tricky. In general, it is best to work with a professional – canine trainer or veterinary behaviorist.

Here are some of the methods pet parents can try to stop puppy separation anxiety:    

  • Pheromones. Synthetic pheromones are designed to mimic the chemicals the mother dog releases. These pheromones support calmness and relaxation. Pheromone-based products like sprays and diffusers are used to calm anxious dogs. 
  • Anxiety Vests. By applying pressure to your dog’s body, anxiety wraps or vests may also promote relaxation. There are many different types of anxiety vests on the market. Most puppies get used to wearing such vests quickly.
  • Supplements. Many supplements help alleviate anxiety, and it’s always essential to have a veterinarian help determine the best options for your anxious puppy. The amino acid, L-theanine is found in green tea and is popular with dog owners.  
  • Interactive Toys. Providing your puppy with toys is an excellent way to prevent behavior issues. Interactive toys (puzzle toys, chew toys and dog food/treat dispensing toys) are the best option as they promote both physical and mental stimulation.
  • Dog Separation Anxiety Training. Techniques like desensitization, counterconditioning, and positive reinforcement can help manage puppy separation anxiety. Dog training is a complex approach and requires the help of a dog trainer or behaviorist.
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Do Puppies Grow Out of Separation Anxiety?

No, a puppy is not likely to grow out of separation anxiety. In fact, unless managed, the alone time will become an even larger trigger for the anxious puppy.

Therefore, it is important to start managing puppy separation anxiety as soon as it becomes evident.

Using a pet sitter or enrolling your puppy in doggy daycare is a good temporary solution. It will prevent the anxiety from becoming more severe while working on a proper management plan.

Sitters and doggy daycares are particularly useful if your puppy has to spend longer periods of time alone. Even if the puppy is spending short periods of time alone, having company will help in the long run.

How Can I Prevent Puppy Separation Anxiety?

How Can I Prevent Puppy Separation Anxiety

The question of how to prevent separation anxiety in dogs includes several answers. The exact answer depends on your dog’s behavior.

It is important to teach your puppy that being alone is not a big deal. This is done by keeping the departure cues at a minimum – do not make a fuss when leaving and coming back.

At first, the puppy can be left alone for a shorter period. As the training advances, gradually increase the amount of time the puppy is spending alone.

Tackling separation anxiety early on is why there are so many well-adjusted puppies. Many dogs learn how to be home alone because pet parents know the importance of training.

According to expert J. Naismith preventing puppy separation anxiety includes several steps that can be classified on different days. Here is a short overview of her dog training plan:

  • Day 1: house training needs to be a priority and teach them they’re here to stay.
  • Day 2: housetraining, teach him to sit, and the door is a bore exercise and crate training if that’s something you’re prioritizing. 
  • Day 3: housetraining, the door is a bore, socialization exercises, and continue crate training.
  • Day 4: housetraining, continue crate training, exercise socialization, and teach it to spin.
  • Day 5: work on the behaviors from day one to day four, housetraining, socialization, and crate training. 
  • Day 6: housetraining, crate training, and start the ‘practice leaving your puppy’ (Naismith walks through this in her book).
  • Day 7: home-alone training, housetraining, and crate training.    

Home-alone training starts the first time you get your new puppy home. The most important thing you can do is have compassion and empathy for your puppy. You don’t live with a bad dog, and your buddy isn’t going to share with you why they panic when you leave. Be patient and ask for help if needed.