Anxiety in Puppies

Anxiety in puppies is very common. Almost every puppy will experience some level of anxiety. Imagine that you have been taken away from all of your family, taken away from your home and all the familiar sights, sounds and smells have disappeared. Nothing is the same – everything is different and you are really scared.

There are new humans who try to make you feel better, pat you and cuddle you, but all you can think about is how you miss your family and home.

In this article we look at pup anxiety and some solutions for your puppy.

  1. What Is Normal Puppy Behavior?
  2. When to Bring a New Pup Home.

Puppy Anxiety – How you can manage.

  1. Using Diversions.
  2. Chewable Treats.
  3. Lots of Exercise.

Then we look at;

What to do on the First Night. 

What Is Normal Puppy Behavior? 

Most puppies will experience a normal level of anxiety for the first couple of weeks when you bring them home. The first night is always the hardest. The length of time that is considered as a normal time for puppies to suffer from separation anxiety is from two weeks to a month.

Some puppies may still experience some level of anxiety for up to three months, however the level of anxiety should be improving – becoming less – over that time.

When to Bring a New Pup Home.

It is always best to get your puppy when you can have a few days at home so that the human – dog bond can be built as early as possible. The puppy should be between 8 and 10 weeks old, weaned from the mother, and be eating on it’s own.

Puppies younger than 8 weeks and older than 12 weeks are more likely to have long term issues with dog anxiety that can last well into adulthood.

Puppy Anxiety – How to Manage.

Puppy anxiety

Using Diversions.

Diversionary techniques usually work very well. Introducing a new toy every few days can help your puppy be distracted and the goal should be to have 3 or 4 toys for your puppy at any one time.

Many puppy owners have a selection of 10 to 12 toys and rotate them so the puppy only has 3-4 at a time. If you change over your puppy’s toys once a week then they will always have something new and different to play with. Of course, if you puppy has a favorite toy that it plays with all of the time, you would leave that toy with the puppy at all times.

Chewable Treats.

Chewable treats can also create a great diversion. Puppies love to chew and they need to chew regularly to help the development of their teeth. Puppy raw hides or puppy chewing treats last a long time and if your puppy is introduced to these types of things early then they are less likely to want to chew up your shoes, clothes and furniture.

Puppy anxiety will be at it’s worst when your puppy is alone and bored. If you can keep your puppy busy and interested with a range of chew toys and chewable treats they are much less likely to have time to be bored and will be less anxious as a result.

Lots of Exercise.

Puppies are full of energy and need lots of play and exercise. You need to allow at least 2 hours a day for puppy play and more than that would be even better. Play time can consist of basic reward based training and just playing. The puppy brain requires lots of stimulation and puppy’s will learn a great deal in a relatively short period of time.

It has been suggested to keep reward training to short periods of five to ten minutes at a time and to use a combination of rewards (treats) and praise to positively re-enforce the training you are doing. Simple training should commence on the second day, once your puppy begins to trust you. Simple training should consist of “sit” commands, “down” commands and “come here” commands.

You can also start to introduce a collar and lead to the puppy by putting on the collar and praising you puppy as you put it on. Using the lead should only be done in a familiar environment, like your own back yard and only for a few minutes at a time.

What to do on the First Night.

It is a good idea to keep you new puppy inside at night for the first week. Your new puppy will not likely be house trained, so keep them in a room over night that is easy to clean like the laundry room or bathroom. Lay out plenty of newspaper so accidents are easy to manage. Don’t be tempted to put your new puppy in the bedroom with you, they won’t settle and you don’t want to start off developing bad habits.

On the first night it is a good idea to set up their bed with a hot water bottle underneath a blanket so your puppy will be warm. Your puppy will be used to having their mother and siblings around them at night and the warmth from a hot water bottle will help simulate the body heat they are used to.

Also place an old fashioned ticking clock in the room, this will simulate the mother heartbeat and provide a rhythmic noise to help your puppy sleep.

Half an hour before bedtime, play with your puppy in an effort to tire them out. Introduce some puppy toys and puppy chew toys and engage in some vigorous play. Then try to calm the puppy down by gentle petting or cuddling, once your puppy is looking tired or is going to sleep, pop them in to their bed and say “bedtime”.

If you need to attend to your puppy during the night, only go in once they have been crying for a few minutes, give them a quick pat and say “bedtime'” as you put them back into bed.

This post should help you manage puppy anxiety in a more proactive way. For more information on treatments for dog anxiety visit Dog Anxiety Treatment page.

Thanks for visiting our article titled Anxiety in Puppies.

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  1. G’day Bev,
    This is a wonderful guide for people having their 1st puppy. We have had many lovely canine babies over the years and have used nearly all the info you’ve given. New to me is rotating several toys – good idea.

    • Thanks Harry,
      I thought this was important to include. Most people who have never had a puppy before can be quite lost when they bring a new puppy home. Rotating toys does work well to distract a puppy – I first tried this technique about 25 years ago and have been using it ever since.

  2. Very interesting article Bev. We don’t have a dog at the moment but will bear this in mind for the future

    • Thanks for your comment Doctor Bill.

      A puppy can bring a lot of joy to a home but they are also a big responsibility.

  3. Never thought about what a puppy must be feeling! Gosh I am sad for the puppy who is taken from its mother…but also glad that they are about to start a life with a family that will include them. Going for walks sounds like a great plan, with lots of pupppy toys sounds like a great idea! Love how you have looked at what is normal for puppy anxiety and what time frame it might occur for!


    • Thanks Lisa,

      I don’t think that many people really consider what their puppy might go through on the day they bring it home because they are so excited. It is good to keep this in mind when the puppy wakes up, for the forth time at 4am, when your nerves are frayed and you have had very little sleep! It helps to keep things in perspective.

  4. Great advice on dealing with anxiety in puppies. A cuddle and a favorite toy can work wonders. Even burning a few drops of lavender oil can help to relax an anxious pet.

    • Thanks for your comment Mood Disorders.

      I have used lavender oil to help calm a puppy with anxiety – I think it did help.

  5. Hi Bev,

    Great post on Anxiety in Puppies. Thanks for sharing the tips on how to manage puppies’ anxiety. Introducing new toys always work well with me!

    • Hi Wilson,

      Anxiety in puppies can be managed in many ways – I just picked the methods that have worked well for me and others. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  6. As noted in the article, anxiety in puppies and kittens for that matter can lead owners to develop bad habits that will stay with the pets (and the owners) for life, reducing the enjoyment that you have with your pets. By staying strong in the first few days and weeks of owning your puppy, you’ll be set for a happy partnership with understood boundaries.

    • Hi David,

      Plenty of people think that it will “just be easier” to put a new puppy in their bedroom until they get settled in – but at some point you will have to make some change in this arrangement which can lead to anxiety issues later on. The best start to managing anxiety in puppies is to build a good routine.

  7. Hi Bev,

    Great article with some very helpful information. The first few nights can be very traumatic for the puppy and new owner. I remember 11 years ago when I brought Brandi home for her first night, she settled in very well, it was me that suffered the anxiety, I was up every 5 minutes checking on her. I cannot imagine my life without her, she was this gorgeous little ball of fluff, now she is this huge gorgeous ball of fluff.

    • Hi Belinda,

      Your story made me smile. Yes, sometimes it is human anxiety and not puppy anxiety that is the issue. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  8. I have had a dog my whole life so can totally relate to anxiety in puppies. These are great tips to help calm your puppy when bringing them home and I must say I have made the mistake of bringing them into the bedroom for the first few nights. When we bought our staffordshire puppy home, she was so worked up, my husband had her beside the bed with his hand on her all night to calm her.

    • Thanks for your comment Jackie,

      Don’t feel bad, many people start by bringing their puppy into their bedroom for the first few nights. The problem is that it is not always convenient to have your dog in your bedroom and at some point you will need to teach them to sleep independently. “Rooming in” with a new puppy can actually increase the possibility of anxiety in puppies and being separated overnight, most of the time, is actually harder for the owner than the pup!

  9. Hi Bev

    I remember a puppy which we had as a teenager. Mum kept her in the kitchen at night and it would just cry all night wanting us to get out of bed to give it attention – obviously the wrong thing to do.

    But we loved her to bits and loved giving her treats and toys to play with and walking her every day around the park where she would often go swimming.

    I really wish now we had known how to properly care for her when we first brought her home as a puppy to have made the first few weeks more comfortable and not so scary.