Puppy Separation Anxiety – Pandemic Puppy Training

Annoying Dog Behaviors, Blog


Did you recently adopt an adorable little pup during the pandemic?

Across the globe, many new puppy owners are enjoying their time with their new pup now that they are staying home during the quarantine.

Even though your home with your pup now, you should immediately start to prepare them for the days ahead when you won’t be there whether to return to work in the office of out for the day with the family.

We need to start teaching your puppy how to handle short periods of your absence and increase this duration as training progresses. This means you should start crate training your puppy ASAP so they can stay safe when you aren’t home.

We never leave a puppy out to roam around when you’re not there. Pups are curious and will chew and destroy things in your absence such as electrical cords, furniture, and belongings. (Find out how to handle puppy chewing here!)

They will be more anxious because you won’t be there unless you start training now.

Think about it like this… you brought your pup home and you spent 24/7 with them then all of a sudden one day you’re not there.

What’s a puppy to think?

This is why it’s so important to start living like you are going out for a typical workday. I don’t mean you have to leave your house but I do mean working towards keeping your pup in their crate for longer durations of time and letting your puppy play in their puppy pen while you’re busy cooking or doing household chores

You can check out this video here all about crating your puppy when you leave for work… tons of great crate training tips in there.

You’re going to want to give your pup some alone time in their crate and puppy pen periodically throughout the day. If you’ve been snuggling your puppy and not teaching them how to handle your absence say when you leave the room or run an errand, you are going to set your puppy up on the separation anxiety path.

This is not a good path to go down.

A dog with true separation anxiety will excessively bark, chew, dig, destroy, and try to escape. Now I know what your thinking… but my puppy cries when I leave them alone.

stop a puppy from chewing, biting,

This doesn’t mean your puppy has separation anxiety… Usually, it means they haven’t been taught how to self-soothe just yet.

Yes, they will cry but we have to teach them how to self-soothe and remain calm and relaxed in your absence otherwise, you’re never going to get your puppy over their anxiousness when you’re not home.

When puppies are really young and are still with their littermates and mother, they would cry for their mother, who would come running back to care for her pup’s needs.

This is a natural instinct your pup has… cry and wait for attention.

This is why it’s important that you don’t come running back every time your pup cries when you leave. You’ll continually reinforce the behavior

It’s ok when your pup was 8 weeks and younger but now it’s time to help them work towards the next developmental stage in their life.

Puppies will have to go through what we call an extinction burst… Your pup is going to have to cry it out many times without a response from you before the behavior can change and they can settle down better on their own. This is how we help puppy self-soothe (which is a necessary skill to learn).

However, when you go and let them out, pick them up when they cry or bark or give him any attention it only reinforces the behavior and we start back at the beginning every time.

It takes several repetitions to create a new habit, so if you don’t let your pup cry when you step away you’re only setting your puppy up on that separation anxiety path I mentioned earlier.

Now when we put a puppy in their crate we want to make sure all their needs have been met first. This will help them settle faster and won’t make the experience traumatic. This means we take the puppy out to go potty before going in the crate, we make sure pup has been well exercised before going in the crate both mentally and physically too.

Watch this video all about puppy exercises, and this video all about canine enrichment for mental exercises.

Something else to consider… that will help your pandemic puppy or all puppies and dogs for that matter…

You need to teach your puppy obedience games to work on their manners, listening skills, and being able to work around different levels of distractions. Remember training is part of the mental exercise your puppy needs daily. Plus you’re teaching them what you want them to know and correcting the things you wished they’d stop like pulling on the leash, biting, barking for attention, not coming when called and so much more.

If you want to learn more about these training games and be able to ask me questions whenever you get stuck… I invite you to take a peek at my at-home online puppy training program 30 Days to Puppy Perfection.

Ok back to the crate…

During the day we provide safe chew toys in the crate such as a Nylabone.

We don’t put soft easily destroyable items with stuffing in their crate they can become choking hazards as well as a blockage if pieces get stuck in their intestines and can’t be passed

For more information on which crates I think are best to use for training… Make sure you watch this video here.

Remember putting your pup in their crate periodically throughout the day is important because they will need naps and downtime otherwise they get overstimulated.

An overstimulated puppy gets cranky, bitey, can’t focus or stop unwanted behaviors easily.

You’re actually working on your pup’s mental health and well being when you are teaching them that it’s ok to be away from you for periods of time.

It’s extremely important for you to leave their presence and work on teaching them they don’t need to be near your 24/7.

Go outside for a walk without them, weed the garden, sit and read… just make sure you do something away from your pup periodically throughout the day.

Remember a puppy can stay in their crate for about 1-2 hours per month of age because that’s about how long they can hold their bladder.

So an 8-week old pup might only be able to stay in the crate for 1-2 hours at a time.

We use crate training for potty training too so they don’t keep having accidents all over the place.

For more information on potty training don’t forget to grab the free New Puppy Starter Kit, there’s a sample puppy schedule, potty chart, and video lessons in there to help you with the potty training process.

You see when you spend too much time with your puppy you’re actually doing them more harm than good. They can and will do just fine once that extinction burst has passed. I know the crying and barking will pull at your heartstrings but it’s far better than setting your dog up for failure when their entire world drastically changes when you return to work or start leaving them home for longer periods of time.

You don’t want a dog that has true separation anxiety on your hands, it’s a long road to recovery! Be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to your puppy’s training!

Michele Lennon

About the trainer 

Michele Lennon

After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help.  The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants.  Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.

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