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Separation Anxiety

Pug Dog Separation Anxiety 

Overview

Separation Anxiety is a real event experienced by Pug dogs in which the dog becomes severely distressed when left home alone. This has nothing to do with good vs bad behavior and has everything to do with the Pug's emotional ability to handle the isolation that comes with being home by himself.

Since most owners need to leave the house to work and go places where they simply cannot bring along their puppy or dog, learning ways to help a Pug cope with being home alone is vitally important for not only the emotional health of a Pug, but physical health as well. Enduring stress on a daily basis can be very overwhelming and taxing on a Pug dog of any age.

In this section we will discuss:
  • Signs and symptoms of Separation Anxiety
  • Clear, detailed steps that you can take to greatly reduce the amount of stress that your Pug endures
  • Supplements and other aides that may help
Pug dog home alone
The Signs of Separation Anxiety with a Pug 

Most of what a Pug will experience will take place when the owner is not home, so it can be tricky to know exactly what the puppy or dog is going through. 

However, when sensing that an owner is about to leave, anxiety may start to creep in. Neighbors may relate details such as hearing loud, constant barking and the aftermath may be apparent once you walk back in the door.
 
Here are the most common signs and symptoms that a Pug has when he has Separation Anxiety:
  • Nervousness when the owner begins to prepare to leave - A Pug may shadow his owner, begin to whine when the keys are picked up, resist being put into his area, etc. 
  • Whining, barking or yelping - often for hours until the Pug is simply wiped out  
  • Destructive chewing - done as a coping mechanism and nothing is off limits  
  • Panicked behavior - Some Pug dogs become so worked up that they are out of control, they may spin or pace frantically, jump against a gate even if it is to no avail, etc. 
  • Excessive excitability when the owner arrives back home - A Pug that suffered anxiety when the owner was away will have a hard time controlling himself when reunited. There may be jumping, heavy panting, and for some there will be excitement urination. 
How To Help

There are many things that you can do to help a Pug with Separation Anxiety. The key is that often just one element will not work alone. However, if you implement most or all of these strategies, they will work together to help a Pug cope.

1) Make morning fun - Wake up early if you must, however a Pug will do better by himself if he has a good amount of time in the morning to interact with his owner, go for a brisk walk and have some one-on-one play time. If a dog awakens and feels that there is a rushed environment, this can send a Pug into a panic even before he is left home alone. Having a good 30 minutes to an hour to be walked and to play fetch, etc. will help tire a dog out and give him some release of energy that would otherwise be directed in a negative way.

2) Create the right area for your Pug but do not allow it to only be used when alone. Many owners have a great setup for their Pug, but the problem is that the dog associates it with being alone and just being walked over to it can cause stress.

Let's first talk about how this area should be set up:

1- Never leave your Pug in a crate. No matter his size or age, being placed into a crate for the day - or even for several hours - will cause undue stress. This breed can be claustrophobic. When you couple that with feeling isolated, you have a recipe for severe stress.

2- A sectioned off area (using baby or canine portable gates) or obtaining a canine playpen is best. This allows a Pug to have enough room to move around, does not limit him in such a terribly constricting way as a crate but does limit his movements better than leaving him alone in full sized room. It should be placed in a room that you used often so that he is very familiar with it and being there gives him a feeling of familiarity and security.
3- If that room is carpeted, you can obtain a large piece of linoleum from a home improvement store to use as the flooring that the gates will surround.

4- Some Pugs do better when the area is located by a window and some do not. For some dogs, the sight of the outside world will trigger intense barking. Almost as if the Pug is calling out for someone - anyone - to rescue him. For others, having a window view can help because seeing things and hearing noises can be a good distraction and helps them not feel quite so alone. You'll have to experiment with this element to see which your Pug prefers.
5- Within the gated off area, there should be plenty of room for each of the following:

• A resting spot - This should be a canine dog bed or pad. A blanket put down will not stay in place; a bed on other hand will essentially stay put and a Pug will learn that it is his area to rest and curl up when he tires out.

• A toy container - Even though a Pug puppy or dog may move his toys around, it's best to have a plastic bin that holds his toys. Dogs like to know that their toys (their only real possessions) are safe and there for them. The area should not be so small that the only place to play is atop the bed.

• Toys - It cannot be overstated how the right toys can keep a Pug distracted and even calm down from Separation Anxiety.

There are a couple different types that will help:

1- Chew toys that make noises
2- Chew toys that hold treats
3- Comfort toys - One of the best that we've discovered is a sturdy stuffed animal that emits a soothing heartbeat. This can wonderful comforting for a Pug that feels isolated and alone.

• Food area - If you'll be gone during a meal time, the treats put into a chew food-release toy will help but having a bowl of your Pug's favorite food is a good idea as well. Some owners try to limit food given to a Pug home alone due to housebreaking issues. However, eating is distracting and can alleviate some stress. A hungry dog is always more stressed than a satiated one.

• Water - Since water is so crucially important, it is recommended to have a water dispenser as opposed to a bowl that can be tipped over. Even non-skid bowls can be knocked over if a Pug is in a panicked state due to anxiety.

• Bathroom area - The trick here is to have a pee pad area for your Pug, but to completely understand if it is not used. Don't try to train him to use the pads; as he matures he will be able to hold his needs for the time that you are away (about 8 to 9 hours for an adult) and go outside in his designated area. So, if he misses the mark, so be it. The key is that is the pad is placed far from the food, toys and sleeping area the Pug may very well use it.
pug wearing sun glasses
6- When you are home with your Pug, leave the entrance to this area open. Any time that you have a new toy for him, give it to him when he is in this area. When you go inside to tidy it up, speak with a happy, pleasant tone. If your Pug is sleepy, encourage him to use the bed that is there, while he sees that the gated door remains open and you are still accessible.

The goal will be to let your Pug know that this is his 'den' and not necessarily a bad place that is only used when he is left home alone.

7- Leave a radio or TV playing in the background can always help a dog not feel so alone. However, what show or music that is playing is important as well (see ahead). Loud talk shows with yelling (i.e. Jerry Springer) will not help a Pug feel more secure. Easy listening music or pleasant shows (i.e. old school programming like I Love Lucy or the Dick Van Dyke show ) are good choices. 
Leaving in the Right Way

The way that you leave can have an effect on how your Pug interprets your exit and what that means to him. This in turn, can affect how much Separation Anxiety he feels once you are gone.

Sometimes, owners become so worried about how their Pug is going to react, that they can tense up and not really know how to act before they go out the door.

Here are some tips:

1) Train your Pug to cope with short amounts of time home alone, working your way up to longer periods. Following ALL of the advice ahead, leave for varying amounts of time. Start off by following all the steps but arrive back 10 minutes later. The next time, let it be 20 minutes. Vary the times as much as you can.

2) After you've taken your Pug for a walk, fed him and have had some time to play allow him to follow you around while you get ready. The key is to act completely casual. Speak in a normal, relaxed tone of voice. Take note if you tend to become stressed yourself as your Pug will pick up on that. Also, it's not helpful to do the opposite and offer over-comforting words. If you speak to your Pug in a super soothing way, he'll interpret that to mean that something is indeed wrong.

3) About 10 minutes before you actually leave, place your Pug in his spot. Do this in a matter-of-fact manner and close the entrance. Let him see you move about the house as if nothing bad is about to happen.

4) When you leave, resist the urge to hug and kiss your Pug. It goes against human instinct - we know! However your Pug will cope better with Separation Anxiety if you 1- give him a toy. You'll want this to either be a new toy or one of his 'daily' toys that is filled with healthy treats. 2- After saying 'Good boy/girl', you'll casually leave without making a fuss what-so-ever.

Don't turn around and offer comfort if you hear a whine or barking. You'll be taking steps to make sure your Pug is safe and comfortable. He may bark while you leave but with comforting toys, chews, possibly a window view and background music or TV playing, he may very well calm down once your down the road. 
Arriving Home in the Right Way

Do you ever throw your car into park and essentially run into the house, not wanting to waste one more second that your Pug is home alone? You want to rush in to ease the Separation Anxiety as soon as humanly possible, right?

Well, this can give the wrong message. Many dogs will interpret this behavior to mean, "Oh my Gosh, against all odds, I made it back home! Thank goodness we're both still alive! Let's celebrate, let me hug you!"

When a Pug is already struggling with being alone and feels the weight of Separation Anxiety, if the owner behaves in a way that says coming home cures all the problems, this won't be helpful.  
Pug dog with smile
What will help your Pug in the long run is to casually enter the house. And again - against all instinct - don't greet him. Hum a bit, walk into the kitchen to get a bottle of water, flip through the mail…. Stay casually busy for about 5 minutes and then casually walk over to let him out of the area. Have a leash in hand and calmly take him to his designated bathroom area.

Once he has relived himself, stay outside for a bit to now express your happiness and interact with him. This way, your Pug will not associate you coming in the door with the end of the isolation. It becomes a rather blurry line.

You'll need to inspect the area to see if there are feces or urine that needs to be cleaned up or anything that was chewed. Never act frustrated about this.  
Additional Help for Pugs with Severe Separation Anxiety 

You'll definitely want to offer the comforting toy that emits a heartbeat and experiment with a window view vs non-window view. However, even when implementing all of the above steps, some dogs have such a high level of anxiety that nothing seems to offer relief.

At this point, there are a few other things that may help:

1) A calming collar - This won't do much on its own, but when used in conjunction with the other methods, it can take the edge off for some Pugs. This sort of collar is an OTC product that uses pheromone technology to help keep a dog calm. We've found that those that release lavender and chamomile seem to work best.

2) Calming supplements - Be careful which you choose; however there are safe supplements that contain colostrum calming complex, L theanine and Vitamin B1 which has been proven to help with some dogs that have anxiety.

3) Prescribed medications - Only in severe cases in which the anxiety is so bad that it is interfering with a dog's health. The veterinarian may prescribe MAOI's or melatonin. Benzodiazepines are not recommended as they can very negative side effects. 
*** You may see recommendation for calming collars and supplements under 'Separation Anxiety' in the Pug Dog Specialty Shoppe
4) Happy, calming music or music & sounds - Another great way to help a Pug not feel alone, is to have certain sounds playing. While the TV or the radio can do this to some extent, choosing to play music specifically designed for canine ears is often a more effective choice. 

Some of these CD's, MP3s and digital music products have songs that are interspersed with noises such as comforting animal sounds. 
Two Pug dogs playing together
Should You Get Another Dog to Help the 1st With Loneliness?

Many owners who see that their Pug is miserable and lonely when home alone - which can be the majority of the days in the week, wonder if getting a second dog will help. The short answer is yes; however you'll want to really put thought into this before making the commitment.

Here's some things to consider:

1) The Pug is undoubtedly one of the friendliest breeds that exist. He typically gets along extremely well with other dogs and with other Pugs in particular. However, for some there is a period of adjustment; the dogs may not take to each other right away.
2) It's important to think about the cost and time involved with another Pug. There is double cost for food, vet care, toys and more. Grooming tasks such as at-home dental care, brushing the coats and baths will take twice as long. If you obtain a puppy, time and effort will need to be put into house training.

3) As a Pug matures, he may learn to cope with being alone. Owners thinking about adding to their Pug family to ease the anxiety of a current dog may want to give it a bit of time before making such a big decision. If you do decide to add another Pug, this will usually help with Separation Anxiety since it eliminates the isolation factor.
Some Points to Remember

Some Pugs may never be completely happy when left home alone; however over time they may learn self-soothing techniques and gain more stable coping strategies simply by getting used to the routine of being alone for a certain amount of time.

If you have worked hard to set up a pleasant, safe and comfortable area for your Pug and you are a loving owner who spends quality time with your Pug, try not to worry too much. Remember that your dog will pick up on your vibe. Always take time to play with your Pug and introduce him to as many places and situations as you can. When a dog has a full life of exploring, interacting and enjoying his world and a close bond with his owner, some days of being home alone will not outweigh the rest of what you offer to him.
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