Because separation anxiety is much easier to prevent than to treat, taking steps early to train your dog to be away from you is something every puppy parent should think about. Putting in this effort now will save you heartache, frustration, and costly repairs when your dog is older.
- Teach your puppy to feel comfortable in a crate. Our crate training tutorial will help you get started.
- Teach your puppy to be alone. Make time in your day for your puppy to be alone, either in his crate or in a puppy-proofed area. This may sound silly and unnecessary if you work from home or are retired, but if you don't do this it can set the stage for separation anxiety later on.
- Keep greetings and departures low-key. Highly emotional comings and goings tend to ramp up a dog’s arousal level which over time can make it harder for him to be left alone. If you're anxious or emotional about leaving, you might unintentionally transmit that tension to your dogs. Some owners leave without saying goodbye at all.
- Help your puppy associate your departure with good things. Think of the things you typically do before you leave: Putting on your coat, jingling your keys, picking up your bag or briefcase, etc. Start doing these activities when you're not leaving, give your puppy something he loves (like a stuffed Kong or a favorite toy), and put him in his crate. Wait a short time and take him out before he’s finished with his treat. The idea is to teach him to associate the signs of your departure with feeling good. Some owners save high-value toys and treats for alone time to help this process along.
- Follow a “nothing in life is free” protocol. It's important for puppies to learn that they must earn the things they want. Ask your puppy to sit before being fed, going out to play, even being petted.
- Make sure your puppy gets plenty of exercise. Appropriate exercise depends on the age of your puppy, but free play with other puppies, gentle fetch games, and short walks can all burn off excess energy. Keep exercise sessions short and allow the puppy plenty of rest periods. Avoid long walks (over a mile) and runs until your dog is 1 year old. The growth plates at the ends of his bones are still developing, and hard exercise can cause swelling or even stunted growth.