Gone are the days when the usual advice was to ignore a crying puppy. “Ignore him”, we used to say, “until he stops crying”. If you approach him while he is crying, you will strengthen him and teach him to cry even more”. This is terrible advice, and I regret that I was guilty of saying this to my clients years ago.

Now that competent and trained experts in dog behavior and training have a much better understanding of the science of behavior and learning, we won’t tell you to ignore your puppy’s cries. You must act when your puppy is in danger. That’s what his cries are: he communicates to you that he is in distress, sometimes very distressed (Note: this does not apply to “demand barks” – which require a different response).

While some puppies feel ignored and become normal, healthy adult dogs, others suffer from stress-related behavioural problems for the rest of their lives, including separation anxiety, due at least in part to the fact that their needs were not met while they were desperately seeking help. So what do you do when your puppy cries? He asks for help. Help him.

Why is the puppy crying?

When a puppy arrives in his new home, his world is turned upside down. His mother and siblings have died. The familiar sights, sounds, and smells of his home have disappeared and have been replaced by a strange environment. Even if he comes from a responsible breeder who has helped him prepare for this change in life (which, unfortunately, is the case for only a small percentage of potential puppy sources), the stress of the move can trigger distressing behavior.

It is very important to take things slowly. Your puppy may never have been alone before. Being left alone now could be terribly traumatic, especially if you ignore his cries for help. The best approach is prevention. Suppose your puppy has never been locked in a crate or left alone before, and plan to stay close to him at first. Even if he was previously used to the crate, the stress of moving can contribute to panic attacks.

Help your puppy

Whether you’re dealing with a new puppy or a puppy that has been with you for a while, here’s what to do:

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