Barks, whines and howls -- as cute as they seem in a young puppy, separation anxiety in an older dog can become a huge problem. Puppies are notorious for making a racket when you leave them alone, which isn’t surprising if your puppy was recently separated from her mother and now thinks you also are abandoning her. If you don’t resolve this problem while she's young, she could go on to have continual problems when she's older.
Tire Her Out
Expend your puppy’s excess energy before you go by taking her for a long walk -- as long as she can handle at her age -- or playing with her for half an hour. A tired puppy is likely to sleep quietly, possibly dozing off even before you leave. Give her an article of your clothing to sleep on because your scent that will reassure her. Draw the curtains to create a calm, quiet environment and muffle sounds from outside, and leave a radio or TV turned on softly so the silence doesn’t overwhelm her.
Your puppy usually sleeps after eating, so feed her just before you leave to give her another reason to snooze. Feed her after exercising to avoid the risk of her developing indigestion, and take her out to go potty. With a full tummy, no immediate toilet needs and a happy walk or play session behind her, she will likely sleep for several hours without worrying about where you are.
Don’t Tell Her You’re Going
The worst thing you can do is make a fuss of saying goodbye. Far from comforting the puppy, this is a pre-departure cue that builds up her expectation and anxiety because she realizes something is about to happen. Follow the steps of exercise, feeding and elimination in good time for her to settle down and fall asleep while you are still at home. Leave the house quietly without letting her know you've gone. By the time she wakes up and realizes she's alone, she will be calm and less likely to make a noise.
If your puppy is crate-trained, she might feel more secure in her crate. If so, put her in the crate with some toys or treats several minutes before you're ready to leave. Fill a Kong toy with peanut butter, which will occupy her for at least an hour after she wakes up from her snooze. If she isn’t crate-trained, keep her confined in a familiar room or section of the home so she doesn’t roam around looking for you. Position the crate or confined area as far from surrounding sounds or windows as possible, which will also help to muffle any noise she makes from the neighbors.
Condition Her to Separation
If you find that your puppy continues to panic when you leave the house, practice going out for a few minutes and returning each time. Start with being out of her sight for a very short time, such as stepping out for a minute or two. Return and reassure her before she has time to become upset and start making a noise. Gradually increase the length of time you stay away, until she realizes that you will return every time.
By Tracey Sandilands
About the Author
Tracey Sandilands has written professionally since 1990, covering business, home ownership and pets. She holds a professional business management qualification, a bachelor's degree in communications and a diploma in public relations and journalism. Sandilands is the former editor of an international property news portal and an experienced dog breeder and trainer.