One of our readers wrote in with a question:
I have a dog who is 9 months old. I have had him for a month and know nothing about his previous family. When I leave the room, even if it’s only for a few seconds, he goes crazy. He whines and whimpers and is even worse when he is in his crate. He tries to get out.
How can I solve this, as he is very noisy and upsetting the neighbors? I have tried covering his crate so he cannot see, but he still knows when I leave the room, no matter how quiet I am. I have left clothes with my scent on them near the crate, but he still knows. How does he know if he cannot see me leave and can smell my scent?
Separation Anxiety in Puppies
First off, congratulations on adopting a dog! (Reading between the lines, my guess is that you got him from a shelter or rescue. Thank you for saving a life.)
Unfortunately, it sounds like your puppy has separation anxiety, which can be difficult to manage (especially at night).
In fact, his former family may have given him up because of this behavior. Here’s how to deal with separation anxiety in a newly adopted dog.
Understanding Why Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety
As you’ve learned, dogs with uncertain pasts can come with baggage. You don’t know where they’ve been or what has been done to them, and shelter life often makes things worse. They feel abandoned, like children sent to foster care, and respond by becoming “velcro dogs” who are reluctant to leave your side.
Watch this anxiety-ridden dog get some help from a trainer in this video:
It’s bad enough when you’re in a different room at home, but when you leave, it can be unbearable for your dog, and he might act out with barking, inappropriate elimination or destructive behavior.
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The good news is that, because he’s a puppy still, you’ll have much better luck than if you had adopted an older dog, who may be set in his ways. There’s still time to eradicate this behavior, but it will take effort, dedication and consistency on your part.
What Doesn’t Work
A common mistake that people who have dogs with separation anxiety make is thinking that a second dog will keep him company and make him less anxious when you aren’t home. Your dog wants you. By all means, adopt another dog, but don’t expect that this will cure the behavior.
For the same reason, your scent will not satisfy your dog. He knows you’re gone because he can’t see you, and the house is probably quieter than usual. Covering his crate is a good move, but it won’t work unless he’s emotionally comfortable in his crate.
Can Crate Training Cure Separation Anxiety?
One of the toughest things about separation anxiety is that crating him doesn’t make a difference. In fact, he probably hates it. The best thing you can do for him is to start him on a crate-training program, which can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete, depending on the dog. Meanwhile, you’ll also need to work on his barking.
As you train him, go slow and make sure he’s comfortable with each step of the training. Move at his pace, not yours. If you rush him, you run the risk of making the separation worse.
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Other Ideas That Might Work
You’re right in thinking your clothing, which has your scent on it, can comfort him, but the scent needs to be inside the crate, not next to it. Your dog will want to roll around in your smell and perhaps cuddle with it.
Watch this video to see what separation anxiety looks like for this dog:
If your dog doesn’t respond to training, ask your veterinarian about doggie Prozac. You might also try Rescue Remedy (affiliate link), but it doesn’t always work. You can also try a Thundershirt Dog Jacket (affiliate link), which has proven successful for dogs with anxiety.
Good luck to you! Let us know how things go.