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

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

How to Choose a Vet for Your Puppy

Your puppy’s relationship with his veterinarian is one of the most important in his life. Maintaining your dog’s health is essential to your long, happy life together -- and your vet will play a critical role in your pup’s well-being. Therefore, choosing the right veterinarian is essential. Dr. Tracy Dewhirst, Exceptional Canine’s resident veterinarian expert, says there are a number of factors you should consider when selecting a vet. Here’s a checklist:                                  

  • Office hours and location Understand hours of operation -- and how the clinic handles after-hours emergencies. An office close to your home could be critical if your dog is experiencing an emergency.
  • Office staff Are front-desk staff friendly and welcoming? Do they seem to like animals? “Believe it or not, some people working in clinics are not always kind to animals,” says Dewhirst. Do staff members appear organized? Will they expedite your questions and concerns to the veterinarian?
  • Communication Of course, you can’t pester your veterinarian with every little detail of your pup’s life, but is the veterinarian accessible to answer occasional questions? Is there a knowledgeable staff member who might help? Will the office respond to email?
  • Clinic facilities The clinic should be clean and calm. Is there a place to walk your dog on-site? If you own a large-breed puppy, are exam rooms and tables spacious?
  • Credentials How long has the veterinarian been in practice? Where did he or she attend veterinary school? Does he or she have specialized training? How does the veterinarian keep up with current veterinary best practices?
  • References Check with family, friends and even local Humane Societies to see if they have any recommendations on veterinarians in the area.
  • Anesthesia You should know how the veterinarian handles anesthesia, says Dewhirst. “Animals should be intubated and maintained on gas anesthesia with an EKG-type monitor,” she explains.
  • Specialist referrals Now is the time to ask how your veterinarian handles situations that require specialists. Does he or she work closely with specialists or refer cases to specialty veterinarians?
  • Surgical expertise “If your pet requires a serious surgical procedure, it is perfectly acceptable to ask how many times the veterinarian has performed this,” notes Dewhirst.
  • Breed expertise Some breeds face particular health challenges or needs. It’s good to know if your veterinarian is experienced with your puppy’s breed.

Meeting the Veterinarian
“Many veterinarians are happy to meet future clients for a quick hello,” says Dewhirst. Ask the receptionist when it’s convenient to stop by, and then be prepared to wait if the veterinarian is busy with a patient. If you need more time, schedule an actual appointment. “Not only is this courteous to other clients who are waiting for scheduled appointments, but it also shows the veterinarian that you value his or her time and opinion,” advises Dewhirst.

Introducing Your Puppy
Once you’ve selected a veterinarian, give your puppy time to adjust as well. Introduce your dog to his new veterinarian by scheduling an orientation-only visit. Let the veterinarian’s staff pet him and offer him treats. If you project a calm, upbeat attitude, your dog will likely remain calm too. Some experts recommend scheduling these just-dropping-in visits on a regular basis.

Although it takes extra time and effort, consider choosing the right veterinarian to be an investment in your puppy’s future and long-term well-being.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/lumenphoto

Why Your Dog Needs DHA

You already think your puppy is a brainiac. After all, without even telling her, she knows when you’ve had a bad day at the office. She intuitively understands when you could use a good cuddle. And she can even get your barista to keep the coffee shop open for a few more minutes with just one look.

But did you know you can help make her even smarter by making sure her diet includes DHA? Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) plays a critical role in the brains of all mammals, including people and dogs. And because your puppy’s brain is still developing, DHA is particularly essential, says Dr. Duffy Jones of Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Atlanta.

“It’s essential in proper neurologic development,” explains Jones. “DHA is a major component of the cell membrane and affects fluidity of the cell membrane. It helps the neurons interconnect better and causes the ability of the brain to function better.”

Your Dog’s Brain Development
Until your puppy was weaned, he received this fatty acid from his mother. In fact, pregnant dogs provide DHA to their puppies, so Exceptional Canine’s resident veterinarian expert, Dr. Tracy Dewhirst of Knoxville, Tenn., recommends giving puppy food with DHA to pregnant dogs during the last two weeks of pregnancy and until the puppies are eating on their own.

But your puppy’s brain continues to develop after she’s weaned. Puppies acquire 70 percent of their adult brain mass by the time they’re 6 weeks old, and 90 percent by 12 weeks of age. That means there’s a lot you can do to help your puppy’s nutrition between the time your puppy leaves her mom and the time she is fully developed.

How much does it matter? “Studies have shown that dogs supplemented at a crucial time in brain development showed increased trainability than those that did not get supplemented,” explains Jones.

Where You’ll Find DHA
It’s difficult to provide the right mix of essential fatty acids, so look for this omega-3 fatty acid -- most likely derived from fish, fish meal and fish oil -- on the label of commercial puppy food. And you shouldn’t give your puppy additional supplements if he’s eating this diet.

Other Benefits of DHA for Dogs
If you feed your puppy DHA, she’ll likely socialize and train better; you may even find she’s easier to housetrain! With the right grooming and dental care, this fatty acid contributes to a shiny coat and healthy teeth and gums. And DHA also helps build a healthy nervous system and strong vision, playing a critical role in retinal development, says Jones.

WIN a Year’s Supply of Dog Food!

Want to win a year's supply of dog food plus puppy toys and treats? Think you have the most exceptional puppy on the Web? Then starting July 26, enter your best friend in Exceptional Canine’s Exceptional Puppy Photo Contest!

It’s easy to enter:

1.    Go to http://www.facebook.com/ExceptionalCanine.

2.    “Like” Exceptional Canine's Facebook page.

3.    Upload a pic of your exceptional puppy (he/she must be currently 2 years old or younger to be eligible).

4.    Get your friends and family to vote. The more votes you get, the better your chances of winning!

10 exceptional puppies chosen by our panel of judges get a gift basket valued at around $600, which may include:

  • 12 vouchers for 20-pound bags of any Eukanuba canine food
  • Eukanuba Healthy Extras Puppy Growth Biscuits
  • Chuckit! Mega Ball Launchers
  • KONG Wobbler Dog Treat Dispensers and Feeding Toys
  • Top Paw Rubber Grooming Gloves & Gentle and Tearless Puppy Shampoo
  • Nylabone Puppy Double Action Chews
  • And more!

Winners' photogenic pups will also be featured on the Exceptional Canine website and Facebook page!

The competition begins at 10a.m. on July 26, EST, and ends at 8 p.m. on August 29, EST. The picture must be a color .jpg file and no larger than 10 MB. Only owners are permitted to post a photo of their pets. One entry per person. Entrants may vote for their own dogs, but are limited to one vote per day.

Enter your puppy now, and check out www.ExceptionalCanine.com for more extraordinary advice for active dogs from the experts!