Adopting a new puppy can be an incredible and rewarding experience. These precious little bundles of fur are energetic, mischievous, and loving. However, the fulfillment we receive by taking care of our new companions is unlike almost anything else on earth. Adopting a puppy is much like having a new member of the family in our homes, and the first few months with a puppy can be strikingly similar to the first few months of having a baby in the house. Much like a child, puppies have needs and feelings, which you will quickly notice in the first few days of bringing a new puppy into your home.
One of the first things you may notice about your new puppy is that he becomes sad or agitated around bedtime. This behavior will be noticeable if your new puppy sleeps outside of your bedroom. The cause of this agitation is separation anxiety. Dogs are exceptionally loyal and loving to the humans in their family, and when those humans go away for an extended period of time, the dog can feel anxiety and loneliness.
Anxiety in puppies can manifest in several different ways. If your puppy engages in any of these behaviors at night, they may be sad or anxious.
- Pawing or scratching at your bedroom door after bedtime
- Panting or whining around bedtime
- Nonstop pacing around the house
- Going potty inside the home after being successfully potty trained
- Biting or chewing on household objects they usually ignore
- Biting at their tail or scratching at their face
Seeing your puppy engage in any of these activities may be worrying and even heartbreaking. But steps can be taken to alleviated anxiety in puppies at night. With the proper training and care, most puppies can learn to make it through the night without issue. Then you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing your puppy is safe and happy while you’re asleep.
Breeds Prone to Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety in puppies at night is rare, but it does happen. Unfortunately, certain breeds are more prone to it than others. While a dog of any breed can fall victim to this apprehension, some breeds are more likely to suffer when left alone.
1. German Shepherd
German shepherds are smart and loyal. These dogs have been bred to fill many different roles. This breeding is what has likely given them some issues with their temperament. The last few years have seen an unfortunate decline in the disposition of these dogs, and they are now one of the most common breeds to suffer from anxiety issues.
2. Australian Shepherd
Australian shepherds are bred for herding. The lack of activity at night could be the trigger of their angst. These dogs want to be running around and “working.” The downtime that comes with bedtime can trigger anxiousness in some pups.
The Vizsla is a popular gundog from Hungary, and they are accustomed to hunting with their owners. The breed craves constant companionship. Losing their best friend for even a few hours at night can cause this breed to become distraught.
4. Border Collie
Border collies are smart and energetic dogs. They crave constant stimulation and activity. While us humans like our eight hours of sleep, border collies would prefer to use that time doing something productive. This fact can lead some border collies to feel anxiety associated with separation from their human.
5. Toy Poodle
These tiny and loving dogs were explicitly bred for companionship, resulting in some pups hating even the briefest of moments left alone.
Do Puppies Grow Out of Separation Anxiety?
The unfortunate reality is that puppies will not just grow out of separation anxiety. While scientists aren’t sure on the exact cause of anxiety in puppies, they know that it isn’t a natural trait puppies possess. Most puppies will never have this ailment, but the ones that do will need specific care to get through it. Temperament issues in puppies can be considered as a mental condition. As the caretakers of these loving animals, we must take steps so that these cherished family members can overcome this illness and become healthy again.
Puppy Separation Anxiety Solutions
Now that we know puppies will not just grow out of their anxiety when left alone, it’s time to look at some solutions that can effectively treat the problem and make our little fur babies happy and healthy once again. There are different levels of separation anxiety, and each level can be treated differently. Mild cases can be combated with simple training techniques that anyone can undertake, but more severe cases may require outside help.
The first step new puppy owners should take to combat this issue in puppies is to stick to a set schedule. Allowing your new puppy to sleep in your bed with you at night will train them to expect such habits in the future. If you suddenly take that nighttime routine away, you may cause your puppy to feel anxious and sad when you close off your room to them, and they are suddenly without you for several hours at night. It’s best to teach your puppy right from the beginning of their lives that their nighttime hours will be spent by themselves. They will quickly become used to this reality, significantly reducing the chance that they feel abandoned.
For puppies with mild nighttime loneliness, several things that can be done to help them cope.
- Don’t make a big deal out of going to bed. Simply slip into your room.
- Leave recently worn clothing out for your puppy to keep close to them. Your scent may provide them some comfort and a calming feeling.
- Establish a word and use it every night before bed. This may assure your puppy that they will see you in the morning.
Puppies with severe temperament issues may need outside assistance. A dog trainer may be able to help your puppy get over their anxiety. A veterinarian may also be able to help with severe abandonment issues. If you are interested, you can attempt some methods on your own before seeking outside help. Try placing your puppy in a secure location, such as a bedroom with windows and a lot of toys. This may help them cope with your absence during the night. Leaving a pile of dirty laundry out for your puppy may also help with this, as your scent will be strong in the air, comforting them until you return in the morning.
Separation Anxiety Medication for Dogs
Unfortunately, no matter how much you try, your puppy may not be able to navigate their way out of the anxiousness they feel during the night. In these cases, there are medications available that will help them cope with their anxiety.
- Sertraline (Zoloft)- This medication comes in both tablet and liquid form. It is an SSRI that increases the amount of serotonin produced in the brain.
- Dexmedetomidine (Sileo)- This medication is approved by the FDA to treat dogs with noise aversion, but it can also help with other temperament issues. It works by depressing activity in certain parts of the brain. The result is that dogs feel less anxiety while taking the medication.
- Clomipramine (Clomicalm)- This medication helps both separation and situational anxiety. Dogs on this medication often see positive results, and it is a recommended treatment for any dog suffering from any mental distress.
(Here is the separation anxiety supplement I recommend for dogs. It is all-natural which is my preference and has a 4.7-star rating with 45 reviews of others who have found it effective as well, not to mention that dogs love the chewable treat.)