Puppy Separation Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms and How to Prevent It

One of the reasons we choose dogs to share our homes is because of the companionship they provide. However, for a social species, dogs and puppies can find it hard without their treasured humans. Puppies need to learn how to be alone and away from their families as this is a reality of everyday life.

It is important to distinguish between teaching a puppy alone time, clinical separation anxiety, and when and where to seek help when you or your puppy are struggling.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of separation anxiety by providing puppy separation training techniques to help your puppy learn to be alone. If you are unsure about your puppy’s behaviour please seek help from a veterinarian.

Puppy separation anxiety
Puppy separation anxiety

What is Separation Anxiety in Puppies?

Puppy separation anxiety is a clinical disease that can be diagnosed and treated by your veterinarian or a behaviour veterinarian. Some signs of puppy separation anxiety include excessive howling, barking, whining and pacing. Puppies and dogs may become destructive and engage in behaviours such as digging and chewing furniture. While we may find these behaviours annoying, if your dog or puppy is doing this, it is because they are distressed.

Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs and Puppies

Understanding the root cause of separation anxiety in puppies or dogs can be quite complex, as it can stem from a number of factors. As you start to flesh out how to look after your puppy, it helps to recognise common triggers that can lead to this condition, including:

  • Change in Household or Family

    Moving to a new environment can cause puppies and dogs to feel anxious in unfamiliar surroundings. They might not understand why they've been moved and may feel insecure.

    Puppies are often distressed when they are taken from their littermates and mother to a new home. Everything is unfamiliar to them and they are with strangers. Initially, it is best to keep their world small and not overwhelm them with too many new experiences and people. Give them time to get to know their new home and the people they will be living with.

    Similarly, the arrival of a new family member (such as a baby or another pet) or the loss of a family member are other potential causes of separation anxiety in dogs.


  • Changes in Routine

    Dogs, especially puppies, are creatures of habit. Any changes in their routine, such as changes in feeding or walk times, can quickly send them into a state of anxiety.


  • Past Trauma

    Past traumatic experiences can predispose puppies and dogs to develop separation anxiety. Whether your dog is from a shelter or a reputable breeder they may show signs of separation anxiety.

    There is a myth that rescued dogs are prone to separation anxiety, but this is simply not true. Trauma can contribute to distress but there is also evidence that genetics likely play a role in separation anxiety.


  • Inadequate Socialisation

    If a puppy isn't adequately socialised during its key developmental periods, typically between 3 and 12 weeks of age, then the shock of being without their humans or placed with new people and pets can be disruptive. Puppies need to learn how to be alone and comfortable in various situations from an early age to prevent separation anxiety.

Do you know the symptoms of puppy separation anxiety?

Read on to learn more about symptoms and how to prevent separation anxiety in puppies.

Separation 1
Separation 2
Separation 3

Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs and Puppies

The symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs and puppies can vary significantly in both intensity and frequency. Some dogs may display only one or two signs, while others may exhibit a mixture, including:

  • Excessive Barking or Howling: When left alone or separated from their guardians, dogs may bark or howl excessively, often for prolonged periods without pause. Dogs howl and bark when they are distressed. It is important we do not punish them for vocalisations. Electronic shock devices, ultra-sonic noise emitters or citronella collars are not recommended.


  • Destructive Behaviour: Dogs may cause a myriad of destruction throughout the house, like chewing on furniture or doors, scratching at walls, or even harming themselves, often because they are attempting to escape or cope with being left alone. These are signs of distress rather than the dog being naughty.


  • Pacing or Restlessness: Some dogs show repetitive or restless behaviour, such as pacing in a specific pattern (like in circles or along a certain path) when they're alone or anticipate being alone as a coping mechanism to handle the anxiety.


  • Accidents Indoors: Anxious dogs may urinate or defecate in the house, even if toilet trained, when under extreme stress.


  • Excessive Salivation or Drooling: When faced with stress or anxiety, some dogs may drool excessively or pant heavily as a physiological response to what they're experiencing.


  • Attempts to Escape: In their distress, dogs may attempt to escape from the area where they're confined when left alone. This can result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut paws, or damaged nails, and potentially harm the surrounding area (e.g., damage to doors or windows).
  • Changes in Appetite: Some dogs may show changes in appetite, often eating less or refusing to eat when their owner is absent.

How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Puppies

Helping puppies with separation anxiety is far more effective when you get ahead of the problem, and this starts with early puppy separation training by teaching your puppy how to be alone. As you integrate more methods on how to train a dog into their schedule, this might involve gradually getting the puppy accustomed to being alone, providing ample physical and mental stimulation, and establishing a predictable routine.

  • Crate Training a Puppy with Separation Anxiety

    Crate training your puppy provides them with a secure space they can call their own. It gives them a sense of security and helps to alleviate anxiety. Just ensure the crate is a safe and comfortable space, not a place for punishment.

    However, medically diagnosed separation anxiety often goes hand in hand with confinement anxiety, so you must assess if this is the best solution for your puppy. Their separation anxiety can worsen if crating is not properly trained or misused.

    When setting up an area for your puppy, make sure it is big enough for them to have a sleeping area, a playing area and a toilet area. Dog exercise pens make excellent sturdy places that keep your puppy safe.

    In the sleeping area make sure you add a comfortable bed that your puppy will love snuggling into. A sleeping buddy toy with a heartbeat can help your puppy feel less alone in bed.

    In the playing area, provide your puppy with hard chews, lick mats, soft stuffed toys, and chew toys to pass the time. In the toilet area, add puppy pee pads or an indoor grass toilet so your puppy cannot soil the house.

    It is also a good idea to use a camera to monitor your pup when alone


  • Dog and Puppy Exercise

    Keeping your puppy physically and mentally engaged is a great idea but it will not relieve the symptoms of separation anxiety. Regular dog-centred exercise is good and you can use designated dog exercise areas for this. Your puppy may find it easier to relax and sleep alone if you play with them before they rest in their crate area.


  • Desensitising Your Puppy or Dog

    Desensitising your puppy or dog to being left alone is a gradual process. You should start with short periods of alone time when they are relaxed and settled. As they become used to being alone you can extend that time longer and longer.

    All too often, well-meaning guardians may actually make separation anxiety worse by leaving their dog alone before they are ready. So it is important to take it slow at your puppy’s pace.


  • Medication

    In more severe cases of separation anxiety, your veterinarian may recommend prescription medications as part of the management of separation anxiety. Diffusers or collars that emit calming pheromones may also be of benefit.



  • Can a puppy have separation anxiety?

    Yes, puppies, much like adult dogs, can experience separation anxiety. The transition from being with their littermates and mother all the time to being alone can be quite stressful for them without the proper preparation and training.

  • How can I help my puppy with separation anxiety?

    Start by taking your puppy to your vet to discuss your concerns.  They can diagnose and recommend options to manage the condition, or they may refer you to a behaviour veterinarian for help.

  • Will my puppy outgrow separation anxiety?

    Separation anxiety is a clinical disorder and it is unlikely that your dog will grow out of it.  Expecting them to grow out of it and leaving them alone regularly may exacerbate the problem. If you suspect your dog has separation anxiety, please consult with your veterinarian.


Puppy Care
Puppy School
Everything to Know about Puppy School

Learn about the importance of puppy school and when to start. Find out more about what to expect at puppy school, from training to advice on puppy care.

View more
never miss a dose
never miss a dose

Have reminders sent directly to your phone

Copyright and Trademark Notice

NEXGARD SPECTRA®, NEXGARD®, HEARTGARD30® and PARAGARD® are registered trademarks of the Boehringer Ingelheim Group.
©2021-2023 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Australia Pty. Ltd. All rights reserved. PET-0228-2022 PET-0203-2023