Puppy Separation Anxiety From Litter

Two of my puppies from a litter in 2010

If you are a dog owner, and your pet just gave birth, you are probably excited to give one or two of the puppies as gifts to your friends or relatives who are animal lovers like yourself. Or, if you have decided to earn money by breeding as well as selling puppies, for sure, you want to get the return of investment as fast as possible. But the question is, when is the right time to do this?

When you take puppies from their litter too soon, separation anxiety may occur, and this could lead to some issues. It is not just the new-born pups that will be affected, but also the mother. Therefore, it is crucial for you to know when the right time is. You should also learn how to prepare the little dogs for separating them from their mom as well as siblings. Keep on reading to find out more about puppy separation anxiety from litter.

What are the needs of new-born pups?

Puppies are just like human babies. When they are newly born, they tend to be too dependent on their mother. This is one of the biggest reasons why you just can’t separate the little dogs from their mom right after birth. You also have to take note that puppies need their mother’s milk for about 6 to 8 weeks in order for them to survive.

Puppies learn to socialise with each other

The first few weeks of their lives are crucial, because this is the period wherein these little pups require attention, physical contact as well as proper nourishment so they will grow healthy. They need a clean and safe environment, warmth from their mom and littermates, nursing and nutrition, including socialization.

In their litter, they get to learn how to socialize. Here is where they begin to mingle and play with their mother, brothers, and sisters. They will also learn some good traits. They will start to know when playing with other puppies become too much that it is hurting one of them.

During this period, it would be best to allow human contact as this will help prepare them for separation later on. Once you distribute the puppies to their new parents, they won’t be shocked anymore. This, of course, still depends on when you are going to do it.

When is the right time to separate puppies from the litter?

Like what we have said earlier, new-born dogs need to be nursed for about 8 weeks or 2 months. This is when you can start separating them from their litter.

Some people believe it should be slightly later at 12 weeks of age because the puppy will be slightly more independent, more accustomed to eating solid foods and grooming themselves but from my own experience I would say that it is far more common to let the puppies go at 8 weeks.

Another important but obvious point to make is that all puppies are individuals. They develop and mature at different rates.

In the litters that I have have “had”, there have been individuals (both male and female) who have been ready to go at 7 weeks- they are super confident, full of energy and are beginning to throw their weight around. They are ready for their new home and a new challenge.

But we kept them for that extra week!

On the flip side are puppies that might need a bit longer to develop and gain the confidence where as an owner you know that they are ready to leave their Mum.

What we have done here is to make sure that their new owners are aware of the what the needs of their new puppy is and what they need to do in order to meet those needs.

You see, a crucial part of minimising a puppy’s separation anxiety is to place that puppy in the perfect home, with owners who will utterly adore it.

How to find the perfect owners to minimise anxiety

Finding the perfect owners for any new puppies takes hours and hours of work and it is very similar in many ways to a very thorough job interview.

But finding our new puppies a heavenly environment to thrive in will help any anxiety that they will experience when they leave us and enable them to continue to flourish well into adulthood.

It involves three stages and a life long warranty.

[1] Advertising

We have never used social media to advertise any of our new litters but instead we use a national website for pedigree dogs.

We have always had many more people who have wanted our puppies than we have puppies and so this enables us to be able to be “choosy” and to say “no” to people.

[2] Phone calls

Expressing an interest via a detailed email is not good enough.

We want to talk to any potential new owners and ask lots and lots of questions.

You can find out a lot from people from talking to them.

[3] Face to face meeting

People who have passed a phone interview will be asked to come and spend time with us and the new puppies.

This helps us to meet them in person to see how they interact with the puppies.

We normally ask people to come and visit us a couple of times, which is also a good test of their level of commitment.

[4] Life long warranty

Before the new owners get to take their puppy, they sign a detailed contract with us.

The most important part of this contract is that if for any reason their circumstances change and they can no longer look after their puppy they should let us know as we will take it back if necessary.

Of the three litters that we have had we have had two puppies returned to us and so this is not something that we take lightly.

The reasons for getting rid of them sooner

Getting rid of puppies much before they are eight weeks old is clearly “wrong” but in some ways it is understandable.

And I want to explore, the two main ones.

Raising a litter of puppies is totally draining. You will be up at all hours of the day and night feeding them, playing with them and clearing up after them.

Way before they are eight weeks old, you have nothing left in the tank and are walking around like a zombie.

The thought of a gentler and calmer way of life is very attractive.

The next reason is that the sooner the puppies leave you, the sooner you get paid and get a return on your investment.

Having a litter of puppies involves lots of “up front” costs and for some people there is an urgent need to get some of that money back as soon as possible.

As I said, all our puppies have left us at eight weeks of age we would never let them go sooner but I can understand the pressures that other “parents” experience.

Short term separation anxiety

When any puppy moves away from its litter to its new forever home, it will be highly anxious and that is perfectly normal.

It has left its family and the only home it has ever known and is now somewhere completely strange.

This is something that you need to plan for.

When you get a new puppy, you will have to dedicate lots and lots of time to it.

If there is no one at home all day, think about taking a week’s holiday off work to help the puppy settle in.

The types of anxious behaviour you should expect in the short term include being very “clingy” and “needy”- they are looking for lots of warmth, love and reassurance from their new owners to replace the security that they have just lost.

And they will find it very hard to be on their own, for even the briefest periods.

And if they are expect lots of worrying behaviours, the three most disturbing are:

  1. howling and barking
  2. lots of frantic chewing and
  3. perhaps urinating and defecating

What you will need bucket loads of is patience because getting to know your puppy and settling them in is a process that will take weeks not hours.

If you think that you can make a few quick tweaks to your life and everything will be hunky dory you are setting yourself and the puppy up for failure.

Real progress must be measured in days and weeks and not hours otherwise you will become frustrated and annoyed.

Knowing that your new puppy will hate to be separated from anyone and will tell you this in all sorts of unpleasant ways, this leaves us with a very tricky question.

What should you do at night?

Puppy separation anxiety at night

As you can imagine, there are all sorts of ideas out there as to how to deal with your new puppy when you go to bed.

And there is no right or wrong answers to this question.

Some “experts” recommend that you lock the puppy in a crate downstairs at night and then put up with a few very disturbed nights of sleep as the puppy howls in distress for hours on end.

Other people suggest that you take the puppy to bed with you- which is great because your puppy won’t howl but what do you do on the second and third night?!

Another recommendation is that you have your puppy sleep in a dog’s bed in your bedroom at first and then over time you move the bed further away from you until in a few weeks the dog is sleeping peacefully downstairs.

You need to do what feels right for you and to recognise that none of these solutions will be trouble free- they will all involve lots of work and some lost sleep.

If you don’t mind sharing your bed with your dog that is your choice but your dog will expect to sleep with you always, your sleep will still be disturbed and most dogs will end up making your bed hairy and smelly!

The most important thing to do is to create an evening and night time routine and come what may, stick to it.

A simple routine will help your puppy understand what is happening causing them to be far less anxious.

This routine will include going out into the garden for a toilet break last thing before you go to bed and it might include a quick trip into the garden during the night (as young puppies won’t be able to go through an entire night without weeing or pooping.)

And the routine might also include a late afternoon or early evening meal.

No matter what it is, just stick to it.

What happens when puppies are separated from the litter too soon?

If you don’t wait for the right time to take the puppies away from the litter, it is not only them that may suffer from separation anxiety. The mother may also be affected. Her mammary glands may get congested and inflamed, which could cause too much pain, and may lead to other health issues too.

As for the pups, several health problems may arise. They may also have behavioral issues later on if you separate them from the litter too soon.

Other things that may happen include:

· Trauma

Since the puppies did not spend enough time with their mother, they may get traumatized. They will feel nervous with their new environment, and this could significantly affect their overall behavior around human beings as well as other dogs even when they grow up.

· Decreased Learning Ability

Little dogs learn a lot of important things during their time in the litter. If you don’t follow the right time to give them away, their learning ability could be affected. The new owners may have a hard time training or giving commands to them later on.

· Poor physical health

The amount of time spent by puppies in the litter is critical because this is the period when they still depend on their mom’s milk. And so, if you separate them too fast, it could result in poor physical health. This, in turn, may lead to serious health conditions.

· Prone to illnesses

Puppies that were not given enough time to get their mother’s milk will, of course, be susceptible to illnesses. They may even develop diseases that they will have to deal with for the rest of their lives.

· Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety may also happen in dogs that were separated too early from their litter. As a result, they tend to be stubborn and won’t follow any command. They might not even eat or do anything. This behavioral problem may progress even when they become adults.

How can you avoid separation anxiety in puppies?

 For some people, separation anxiety in dogs due to the fact that they were taken away too soon from their litter, may seem to be a simple issue. They might think that the puppies will outgrow that. In some cases, yes, that is true. However, this issue may also lead to more problems, and it could affect the puppies’ life even when they grow old.

As the original owner, the best thing that you can do to avoid separation anxiety is to make sure that you allow the new-born puppies to spend enough time with their mother and siblings. You should never rush in distributing them to other people. Instead, wait for the time when you know for a fact that the puppies have already gotten the nourishment that they need. And to be on the safe side, do this when they have already reached, at least, 3 months of age.

How can you help puppies suffering from separation anxiety?

If you have just brought home a new puppy, and you noticed that it is nervous, that is normal. However, if the behavior does not change even after a few days or weeks, then that is a completely different story. More so if he does not want to eat, do anything, or even respond to you. These are signs that your new pet is suffering from separation anxiety. Most likely, it was separated too soon from his mother. So what should you do?

As the new parent, it is now your responsibility to take care of the puppy and make sure that it does well. Just so you know, a little dog that was separated too early from the litter may be quite challenging to deal with. Therefore, you need to be very patient and considerate.

Here are things that you can do to help your puppy cope up:

· Give attention

Give your puppy lots of attention

Since the puppy is now in a new environment, you have to help him become comfortable in it. A great way to do this is to give as much attention as you can. Remember that your young pup is still longing for his mother, so this is something that you need to replace. If you spend time with your pet often, he will get used to you and this will significantly help him adjust.

· Provide warmth

Little puppies also crave for their mother’s warmth, especially when they sleep. So for the first few nights, you can take your pet with you to bed. This will make him get used to your warmth as well as your smell. He will then start to recognize you as his new parent.

· Ensure proper nutrition

Your pet is still in a critical stage when it comes to nourishment, so you have to ensure that he is getting healthy food to make him strong as he grows. Providing your dog with proper nutrition is also an excellent way to prevent illnesses. To be safe, you can also seek the advice of a vet.

· Allow socialisation

Having other dogs around can help with separation anxiety

Allowing your new puppy to be around other dogs will help him cope up as well. So when you get a chance, take him out and let him socialize with other puppies. But if you have other pups at home, then that would be better.

Dangers of keeping puppies together for too long

Before I finish, I want to briefly discuss the dangers of keeping puppies together in a litter for too long.

Life is never simple is it? Just when you thought that puppies could only be harmed when they are separated at too young an age.

Littermate syndrome happens when two puppies from the same litter are kept together and grow up together.

And it won’t happen to all siblings.

Puppies and young dogs with this syndrome display a few worrying fear based behaviours, one of which is very severe separation anxiety on the odd occasions that they aren’t together.

Closing thoughts

Dogs are just like human beings in so many ways. When they are born, their mother attends to their needs. They depend on her for a lot of things, especially when it comes to nourishment. And so, if they are separated too early, there is a huge tendency of them suffering from separation anxiety. That is why it is not advisable that puppies are given away only a few weeks after they are born.

Puppy separation anxiety from litter is something that should not be neglected because it could lead to more problems. For new parents, there are several things that could be done to help puppies cope up with this particular issue.

Photo Credits

¹ Photo by Lydia Torrey on Unsplash