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Separation Anxiety

Pug Dog Separation Anxiety 


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
Pug dog home alone

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 environment and set-up. This makes all the difference in the world.

Here is what you will want to have and how to set it 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- Use an indoor canine playpen. Dogs often do terrible when left in a big empty house to roam alone. And being by themselves in a large room isn't the greatest either.

The larger the space, the more intense the feelings of isolation. While you do not want your Pug to feel confined,  you so want him to feel safe.
If a Pug has an appropriately sized playpen, this offers a sense of security and comfort. In addition, it has the very important added benefit of ensuring that all of his needed supplies will remain in one spot, easy for him to access and without a chance of rolling away, spilling or otherwise becoming out-of-reach. 

Tip: When you are home with your Pug, leave the entrance to this pen 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.

3- 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.
4- Within the playpen, there should be each of the following:

A quality canine bed - Along with the previously mentioned playpen, a bed helps lend to the secure feeling of having a 'den'. A great bed located within the right playpen will create the ultimate area to feel secure when humans are not around. 

 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 and sounds; these keep a dog entertained.

2) Treat-release toys; these work to keep a dog busy and should be left in place of a planned meal. Stuff an appropriately sized Kong or other treat-release with a mixture of your Pug's kibble and smooth, all-natural peanut butter.

3) Companion toys - How do you help a dog cope when he's all alone? You offer something that mimics a living creature, to wipe away feeling of isolation. Smart Pets is an incredible toy that is a good-sized stuffed animal that emits a soothing, rhythmic heartbeat. 

In addition, you can choose to engage the warming feature, which radiates a comforting warmth to really offer a true companion. These are one of the best investments an owner can make, aside from obtaining a real-life dog. 
• Food and water bowls - If your Pug enjoys his treat-release toy and you obtain one big enough to hold a meal's worth of food, you do not need to place down an additional bowl of food unless you believe that you might miss the next meal. It is, however, very important to leave more than enough water. Be sure to use the right bowl; a non-skid stainless steel or ceramic bowl.   

If your Pug tends to tip over bowls (heavy stainless steel tend to stay in place, but if a Pug is really frantic, a bowl can be knocked over), opt for a water dispenser instead. 

• Pee pads - 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 that within the playpen, there are 4 basic areas: bowls, toys, beds and pee pads. Since dogs rarely soil on their own belongings, the pads are the most likely area that he will use for bathroom needs.
• 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 since you have complete control over what your Pug hears. 

Some of these CD's, MP3s and digital music products have songs that are interspersed with noises such as comforting animal sounds. 

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; However, within a safe, designated area, with toys for entertainment, a companion toy, enough food and water, possibly a window view, and background music playing, he may very well calm down once you're down the road. 

Arriving Back 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. 
Two Pug dogs playing together

Should You Get Another Dog to Help the First 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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