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How to prevent separation problems in puppies

Puppy beagle looking anxious advice
© Pexels

Separation problems are very common behavioural issues that affect many dogs from puppyhood onwards. Dog owners should know some methods to prevent it.

By Daniel Mar

Most dogs are uncomfortable when they are separated from their owners. This problem may have many causes, however it is very frequent that dogs are never trained to be left alone. This needs to be addressed as soon as you get your puppy in order to prevent future problems. However, before getting there, you must learn all about it. If you are planning on getting a puppy, read this article so that you know how to prevent it from even happening.

What are separation related problems?

This is a behavioural problem that can happen to a puppy. Your dog displays stress and other behavioural problems when left alone at home. Since it is very common, and dog owners don’t really know how to deal with it on their own, it leads to very sad decisions. As a matter of fact, this condition is one of the most common reasons why dog owners get rid of their pets. What is really shocking and sad is that this issue can be treated by implementing a few tactics!

With this said, when raising a puppy, you can take the first step to prevent separation issues by being a responsible owner. This can lay the foundations for a disciplined, well-adjusted and easygoing dog.

How to tell the difference between separation issues and normal puppy behaviour

Puppies rely on their mother or their human for survival, therefore it is normal and appropriate for them to be in distress when they are separated from their attachment figure. However, they also need to learn how to become well adjusted and independent individuals. If this doesn’t happen we will have separation problems. This is a problematic situation, that goes beyond puppy separation distress. It is a behaviour problem that will make your puppy suffer from the time you leave the house until you return.

Causes of separation problems

According to vets, some dogs are more prone to separation problems than others. This evidence states that shelter dogs suffer separation problems more often than others. This has to do with the fact that losing their attachment figure created hyper-attachment issues. People-oriented breeds may also be more susceptible to this behaviour. Lastly, small dogs can suffer separation problems if they are used to constant contact with people.

Drastic life changes also cause this condition. For example, a sudden change in schedule, moving to a new house, or the sudden and extended absence of a family member (either by divorce, death or any other reason).

Signs of separation problems

There are many different signs of separation problems. Also, take note that all these signs can happen occasionally. But, once you notice that there is a pattern of multiple episodes of more than a few of the following which repeatedly occur when you leave your dog alone, then you know for sure that your puppy is suffering from this condition:

  1. Excessive barking and howling.
  2. Destruction of furniture.
  3. Frantic scratching at doors or windows.
  4. Excessive salivation.
  5. Excessive panting.
  6. Non-stop pacing.
  7. Attempts to escape.
  8. Lack of appetite.
  9. House-soiling.

How can you treat this problem?

Once you know that your dog is suffering from separation problems, you must do all you can to treat it. Here you have a list of the most efficient methods to cure this behavioural problem:

  • Providing a safe-haven: some dog owners don’t know this but the dog’s bed is your dog’s safe place. Therefore, it is very important to train your dog to use a bed and teach him that, in there, he can feel safe and secure, as in a safe-haven. Some dogs prefer to have a covered bed, such as a crate or a kennel. Dogs are den animals, so it is coded in their DNA that small, enclosed spaces are important for protection, warmth, calm and quiet. Therefore, you can use this instinct to prepare your puppy. Once he sees the crate or bed as a safe place to retreat to, you can feel better about leaving the house.
  • Desensitisation and counter-conditioning: this is an important element when raising a puppy. For example, you can teach him that separation has its rewards. When a puppy is suffering from separation problems, he is conditioned to feel stressed when you leave him. However, you can counter this reaction by using something very rewarding, such as a food-toy (e.g. a Kong or puzzle toys). You can give him this treat before you leave which will make him look forward to your departure. Begin counter-conditioning and desensitising your dog by leaving for short periods of time, few seconds at time. Then, gradually increase the time you are gone.
  • Exercise: if your puppy gets plenty of exercise, he is more likely to settle down when you leave. “Mental exercise is just as important as physical, if not more. Games that build his self-control, focus, and patience are key to him getting better when alone”, says Dr Brian Kilcommons.

Take all of this into consideration. Learn to treat separation problems. Don’t let your dog suffer in your absence.