Ease Your Puppy’s Separation Anxiety

Maybe it hit you as soon as your parents backed the family car out of the dormitory parking lot your freshman year at college and you realized you were on your own. Or, perhaps you felt it standing at the neighborhood bus stop as your child struggled up the school bus steps on his way to kindergarten for the first time. Separation anxiety can affect us all -- even our puppies.

Your puppy likely has recently left behind her mama, her siblings and the only home she has ever known. She might be scared and lonely. She clings to what she knows makes her feel safe, warm and happy: you. So when you go off to work in the morning or spend a day at a football game, she mourns you. Unlike human beings, however, she doesn’t have the mechanisms to cope as well. As a result, she might drool, pant, bark excessively, soil the house or engage in destructive behavior. She might try to escape from your home. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help her adjust. Here’s how.

Diagnosing Separation Anxiety
Most puppies learn to embrace their new lives soon after being adopted. Old fears quickly evaporate as the puppy learns your household’s routines. But for 1 in 15 pets, separation anxiety remains acute. How do you know if your pup has a bad case? Veterinarians who see chronic cases report that the aforementioned behaviors occur within the first 30 minutes after you leave your home. Moreover, they happen consistently when your puppy is left alone.

How You Can Help

  • Be empathetic. Pups that suffer from separation anxiety are not misbehaving or being spiteful. Never punish or isolate your dog. Both tactics can backfire and worsen the problem.

  • Teach her to tolerate your comings and goings. Give her a treat, and then leave the house for a minute or two. She’ll begin associating your departures with pleasure (or at least the treat sweetens the deal). Then, gradually prolong the amount of time you’re gone until she can better cope.

  • Redirect her behavior. Try feeding her a meal, as pups with full bellies are likely to be more relaxed than those who are hungry. You can also tuck a new toy into your puppy’s crate before departing.

  • Tire her out. Stacy Braslau-Schneck, a trainer who blogs frequently for Exceptional Canine, suggests increasing your puppy’s mental and physical exercise.
  • Consider crating your dog. Your dog might be more comfortable when confined to a small den, says Braslau-Schneck. Your dog needs to be able to “hold it” for as long as she’ll be in the crate. And you want her main activity in the crate to be sleeping; that’s where all the exercise beforehand comes in. Before using a crate, you need to understand your dog’s preference, since some dogs don’t do as well in crates, says Braslau-Schneck.
  • Keep your departures and arrivals low-key. If your voice and body language say “This is no big deal,” she might start to believe you.
  • Hire help. Use a pet sitter or doggie day care service so she’ll have company while you’re gone.

Seeking Professional Advice
Some pets do not outgrow separation anxiety. These animals need your utmost compassion and, perhaps, medical attention. Sedatives can be prescribed for extreme cases (though they are not long-term solutions). Moreover, professional animal trainers can help.

Like you, your puppy is a social creature. It’s normal for her to miss you. In time, she’ll learn you’re coming home, and the pangs of separation anxiety will fade. Someday soon, she’ll be so comfortable with solitude that you will be sure to catch her asleep atop your favorite couch.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/GlobalP

Groom Your Dog Like a Pro

When it comes to your dog, good grooming is more than pretty pink bows or a jaunty new collar. Your regular care makes a difference in your dog’s appearance and health -- and in your relationship.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a basic guide to keeping your best friend looking his or her best.

Regular Brushing Is Important
Make sure your dog never has a bad hair day by giving him regular brushings. Not only will his coat shine, but you will also help socialize your dog as you touch him. This also offers an opportunity to look for pests like fleas and ticks, as well as health problems indicated by lesions or lumps.

Choose from the following equipment:

  • Slicker brushes have beds of fine, closely spaced wires that are hooked or bent. They’re considered all-purpose tools for removing mats, tangles and debris in dogs with all types of coats.
  • Pin brushes include widely spaced tines that look like straight pins. These are excellent for use in longer-haired breeds to remove knots.
  • Bristle brushes are used as a final step to smooth and shine the fur on a shorthaired dog.
  • Metal combs give a finishing touch to extra-long coats.

Begin your grooming session by using the slicker or pin brush to remove dead hair, debris and tangles. (You might need both tools if you have a long-haired breed or if your shorthaired pet spent the afternoon romping in a bog.) For tough snarls, hold the tangle at the root and brush it out to avoid painful pulling. Smooth the coat with a bristle brush or comb. Please note that you’ll want to give your dog a break every few minutes.

After a thorough brushing, your dog might be ready for a bath. He can go two to three weeks between bathing sessions, though you can dunk him in the tub if he gets especially stinky.

  • Fill a basin with warm water. Check the temperature using your elbow, which is more sensitive than your hand.
  • Place your dog on a nonskid surface, talking gently and praising him.
  • Slowly pour water over his paws, working your way up to his collar. Do not immerse his head yet, so that he can get used to the sensation.
  • Using specially formulated dog soap (soaps formulated for humans can be irritating to dogs), lather his coat.
  • Rinse twice to ensure the suds are out.
  • Approach his head and repeat the process.
  • Dogs love a good toweling off; if he’s patient, you can try to use a blow-dryer.

Proper Paw Care
Dogs generally don’t like having their paws handled, but it is necessary to make sure the fur between their toes and pads does not become matted or infected. Here’s how to do it:

  • Remove mats from the fur under your dog’s feet.
  • Using scissors, trim fur so that it is level with the foot.

Next, trim his nails. Again, he won’t think this is nearly as fun as a game of fetch, but it is necessary to ensure his good health. Do the following every few weeks:

  • Using a guillotine-style clipper made for dogs, trim only the hook of the nail.
  • Never trim into the quick -- the live portion of the nail -- which can draw blood.
  • Trim the dewclaw -- the thumb-like portion on the paw. If allowed to grow, they will curl up and pinch the skin.
Ear Care

During your dog’s bath, wash the outside of his ear with water. You can then remove interior wax with an ear-cleaning solution:

  • Warm the bottle in your palms.
  • Squirt a dab into the ear canal.
  • Gently massage the base of the ear.
  • Remove dirt or wax with a dry cotton ball.

Taking care of your dog’s grooming needs does not have to be a hair-raising experience for either of you. With practice and patience, he might even begin to enjoy his turn in the salon chair.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/m7hanmilan

Size up Your Puppy's Food

Whether your dog is a Chihuahua or a Great Dane, Los Angeles–based veterinarian Dr. Amber Andersen figures she knows something about your pal’s approach to dinner. “They’re all chowhounds,” says Andersen with a chuckle.

But even though most puppies share the same voracious appetite, they have unique nutritional needs, depending on their size and breed. There are several important steps you can take to make sure you’re meeting your dog’s unique nutritional needs:

  • Educate yourself. Read up and talk to a breeder about the health issues and unique characteristics of your dog’s breed.
  • Talk to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian should also evaluate your puppy’s development and caloric needs.
  • Feed your dog size- and/or breed-specific food. “The best thing veterinarians recommend is high-quality dog food, grouped by size,” explains Andersen (visit her at AnimalDrAmber.com). “Some brands will even offer foods for a specific breed,” and selling breed-specific food is not some marketing gimmick, notes Andersen. “Pet food companies will modify nutritional components based on previous known issues for the breeds. They’ll modify because, just like people, different dog breeds have specific dietary needs.”


What Does Your Dog Need?
So what is your dog likely to need nutritionally, depending on his or her size? Here’s an overview:

Small dogs: Small-breed puppies have faster metabolisms and reach maturity quicker. This means they need higher levels of protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus to support growth and development of bones, muscles and other tissues. Moreover, their mouths and tummies are dainty, so their meals must come in the form of a petite kibble.

Medium dogs: These breeds are -- you guessed it -- right in the middle. They’ll weigh between 20 and 50 pounds as adults. Food for these breeds should have the appropriate-sized kibble and meet their unique nutritional needs. High-quality foods contain antioxidants, including beta-carotene and vitamin E for immune system strength. They also include fiber, such as beet pulp; digestible carbohydrates, such as barley and grain sorghum; and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, for skin and coat health.

Large dogs: Large-breed puppies tend to grow fast. If they’re not eating the right nutrients, their developing bones can’t handle the weight. Their skeletal systems bend and break, and these beautiful creatures can be hobbled for life as a result. “Large-breed puppies, or those expected to weigh more than 50 pounds as adults, should eat balanced food with controlled energy content along with calcium and phosphorus levels that have been formulated specifically for their needs,” says Dr. Amy Dicke, a technical services veterinarian with Eukanuba. If you’re not sure what food to get for your dog, ask your vet or breeder for recommendations.

Feeding Frequency
A St. Bernard puppy can gobble more chow in a sitting than a Yorkie can. But no matter your dog’s breed, it’s best to meet your puppy’s caloric needs by breaking up feeding into several small meals. Andersen advises offering your puppy at least three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/Eriklam

Avoiding Winter Health Hazards

As cold weather approaches, you winter-proof your car and your house. But it’s also important to think about your dog: Only you can protect him from winter hazards when the temperature drops.

Your Dog’s Special Winter Needs
Any time you take your dog for walks in icy conditions, take special care to check his paws for ice balls and cuts. Wipe his paws dry with a cloth after he treks on salt or chemical snow-removers.

Also be particularly attentive to your dog’s daily needs as winter arrives. His caloric needs might change if he’s either less active (and needs fewer calories) or exercising in the cold (and requires more). And regular grooming also helps your dog’s coat do its job better in protecting him from the cold, advises the American Kennel Club.

Treating Frostbite
Frostbite is caused by exposure to extremely cold weather. The symptoms, which don’t develop until 48 hours after exposure, include pain and swelling. If the blood flow to the extremity is entirely interrupted, the tissue will turn black and fall off. To treat suspected frostbite:

  • Hug your dog to you so that your body heat can warm him.
  • Never rub him, as this could damage tissue.
  • Place him in a bath of warm (never hot) water. Test the water’s temperature by dipping your elbow in it -- a much more accurate analysis than using your hand.
  • Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately if he is severely chilled or unresponsive.

Beware of Hazards in the Garage
If your dog spends time in the garage during the winter, be aware of these potential hazards:

  • Licking up only a few teaspoons of antifreeze -- which tastes sweet to a pet -- can kill a dog. Be sure to check your car to make sure the radiator isn’t leaking.
  • Never leave your pet in the garage while you start the car, as carbon monoxide (which escapes from the tailpipe) can kill him.
  • Rat and mouse poisons are used more frequently in the winter months, says the American Humane Society. Make sure your dog can’t access them.

Decoding Puppy Food Labels

You are what you eat -- and so is your puppy. If your puppy is eating well, you’ll be able to see it in its energetic play, its curious approach to life and its beautiful, healthy coat.

What you’re seeing is an external articulation of what’s happening inside: Its skeleton is developing properly, muscles are building and neural pathways in the brain are expanding. High-quality commercial foods are best, as they can guarantee the antioxidants the puppy needs for its developing immune system, which helps its body combat common canine diseases like distemper and parvovirus.

A Recipe for Your Pup’s Health
Your puppy’s food should include a carefully calculated blend of protein, carbohydrates and fat necessary to ensure good health. A quality commercial food should include:

  • Digestible carbohydrates, such as corn and grain sorghum (to meet energy needs)
  • Fermentable fibers, such as beet pulp and the prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a type of fiber found in certain fruits, vegetables and grains (to support digestive health)
  • Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (to keep skin supple and coat shiny)
  • Antioxidants, like beta-carotene and vitamin E (to boost immune system)

Decoding Dog Food Labels
Read labels carefully so you know exactly what you’re putting into your puppy’s system. Here’s what you should notice:

  • The food’s name can tell you how much of a particular ingredient is in it. Brands that mention an animal protein source in the title (e.g., “Beef formula”) indicate that at least 25 percent of the product is beef. Names that include “With” in the title (e.g., “With chunky chicken”) or “Flavor” (e.g., “Turkey flavor”) contain as little as 3 percent of the ingredient.
  • Labels on the back of puppy food can also clue you in on the primary ingredients in the food. Those listed first, second and third are present in higher quantities than those listed fourth, fifth and sixth. (Though this is according to weights taken before cooking.)
  • The law requires manufacturers to list their names and addresses on their packages. If you ever have a question about a product, you should be able to call the company’s consumer affairs line to receive a thorough, researched response from a company representative.
  • The label should include a statement from an organization called the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

“I prefer to see that most, or all, of the ingredients are wholesome,” says Dr. Bruce Silverman of Village West Veterinary in Chicago. “I love to see if the ingredient list makes me want to eat it myself! You shouldn’t freak out too much over natural preservatives and ethoxyquin (an antioxidant used as a preservative). There hasn’t been any known health risk to dogs and cats, and it’s even found in human foods.”

Feeding Tips
Once you’ve purchased your puppy’s food, it seems it would be simple to feed him -- just open the bag and pour, right? But take as much care in feeding your pup as you do in selecting the right food.

Measure portion sizes, avoid letting him graze between mealtimes, offer fresh water, and don’t mix things such as cottage cheese, egg or hamburger in with your puppy’s chow.

Buy the right food and follow proper feeding requirements, and your puppy’s food will meet all its dietary needs.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/AVAVA