Who doesn’t love talking puppies? But wait, puppies in a separation anxiety blog? Surely puppies don’t get separation anxiety?
Well, some owners, me included, report separation issues very early on. So anecdotally at least, puppies can come preloaded with separation anxiety.
Is there anything you can do to avoid your puppy having separation anxiety?
Yes! Here are my top 3 suggestions.
1. Avoid Puppy Mills
First, get your puppy from a reputable breeder.
How can you tell if they’re reputable? It can be hard. Puppy mills have all sorts of ways of tricking you into thinking your puppy came from a breeder. The headlines are:
- don’t buy online,
- insist on visiting the puppies and seeing the mum and dad,
- a good breeder won’t let you take a pup home any younger than 7 weeks—most even say 8,
- don’t get a puppy shipped, even if you found a rare colour/breed you’re desperately searching for.
And another big one for me: trust your instincts. I love facts but sometimes we can trust our own instincts. If you have even so much of a hint of anything not passing the smell test walk away.
Here’s a great article on avoiding puppy mill puppies.
If you suspect your puppy did come from a puppy mill but you didn't realize, don’t feel bad. As I said, these outfits are getting bigger, slicker, and way more devious. They could fool anyone.
2. Crate Training Without Fear
House training and crate training go hand-in-hand. It’s easier to housetrain a puppy that you can crate.
But separation anxiety and crates don’t go well together.
Even non-anxious puppies will need a gentle introduction to their crate. Never assume any puppy born to love his crate.
So on that first day, you’ll need to work both housetraining and crate training.
Housetrain by being super vigilant. You might not be able to crate him for long periods yet. Tie him to your waist on that first day if you can’t crate him. That’s going to help you avoid accidents.
At the same time introduce your puppy to his new crate. Make it a magical place where treats drop from the sky and food bowls appear from nowhere. He’ll soon want to spend more and more time in this amazing place.
Puppies who don’t have separation anxiety get accustomed to the crates quickly. They will whine to come out at times. But if they’re fed, watered, had a good play, gone outside and it’s nap time, then you can ignore normal puppy whines.
I’m not saying ignore your howling puppy and leave him to cry for hours. I mean non-anxious grumbles from your protesting puppy can be ignored. He’s not anxious and all his needs are met.
But how can you tell a normal puppy whine from an anxious whine? The big difference is persistence and frequency. Those protesting whines for the normal pup won’t last long. And he won’t always do them. There will come times—even on the first day—when he’ll toddle into his crate and be as happy as can be.
This is key. If a puppy is anxious in his crate he’ll most likely display crate anxiety all the time. He’ll be reluctant to go in there. And he’ll take a lot longer to warm up to the idea of the door closing on him.
If you’re unsure whether it’s anxiety or normal puppy stuff—get help from a trainer.
3. Practice Departures
Spending time with a puppy is rewarding and fun. When we first get a puppy we want to hang to with him as much as we can.
Of course we do! It’s a precious time and it passes so quickly. So we play, and cavort and goof around with our puppy. Then we put him in a crate with little or no stimulation—and we leave!
Let’s make the contrast a bit less stark.
If your puppy is under 12 weeks and still in that golden period of socialization, now’s the time to teach him you leaving is A-MAY-ZING!
Leave your puppy—little and often is best at first. And when you do go, make incredible things happen—like a bully stick or his favourite food toy.
Make him realize you going doesn’t mean the fun stops. Far from it. It means good things happen!
I can’t guarantee doing these things will prevent separation anxiety. But if I got a new puppy I’d make this my game-plan.
And if it’s too late? If your puppy already has separation anxiety it’s not too early to start training. Separation anxiety training will help your puppy to learn that being alone isn't scary. If you need help with that sign up for my free online training on puppy separation anxiety.