Puppies can develop anxiety because of the changes that occur with transitions. Most puppies move away from their siblings into a new home. They may be exposed to new people and things, have a new schedule and spend time alone for the first time in their lives. Separation anxiety is common, but fear of new places and people also occurs.
Manifestations of Anxiety
Your puppy may show anxiety by vocalizing. She may soil her bedding or your rugs. She might chew up toys, bedding or your property -- from television remotes to furniture. Many pets with anxiety chew on their crates or scratch at them, breaking nails or teeth in the process. In conjunction with that, your puppy may try to escape, attempting to flee her crate or home. Pacing is another common sign; your pet can’t seem to relax and continually moves. Your veterinarian can help you determine if your puppy’s behaviors are a result of anxiety, boredom or a lack of training.
Ensure that your puppy has adequate training, exercise and stimulation. Dog puzzle toys and treats can help provide stimulation and keep your puppy’s attention occupied. Adequate exercise will also help give stimulation. Training also ensures that your puppy has manners. Crate-training her through conditioning over short periods of time can help her adapt to being in her kennel with a minimum of stress.
Minimize the stress of your departure by giving specific treats or toys when you leave the house. To prevent your puppy from fretting anxiously while you're gone, keep your greeting when you get home to a minimum. Allow your puppy to readjust to your arrival before playing or giving treats or meals. Training your puppy allows her to get cues from you, so when she gets nervous in any given situation, she will look to you for comfort and calm.
Medications are sometimes used to treat behavioral abnormalities in dogs, but many puppies may not need them. Natural remedies may be more successful, with a minimum of side effects. Anti-anxiety pheromones, such as in products like Adaptil, help minimize stress, anxiety and fear. Counter-conditioning is similar to training methods, and it involves associating stressful events with positive ones. Start with very short periods of time for your pet to be exposed to events, from crating to you leaving the house. You may need the help of your veterinarian, a trainer or a behaviorist to successful implement a counter-conditioning program. If these methods aren’t successful, your veterinarian may need to put your puppy on an anti-anxiety medication.
Elizabeth Muirhead is a practicing veterinarian with an undergraduate degree in biological sciences. She has real-world experience with the husbandry, grooming, training and feeding a variety of household pets.