If your puppy wants to cuddle all the time, it means that the two of you have a good bond. In extreme cases, it’s a symptom of separation anxiety. Too much cuddling can sometimes be problematic. Your puppy should learn to be alone for short periods as well as how to socialize with other people.
Puppies also need playtime, walks, and other activities besides being held.
In this article, I’ll discuss why puppies like to cuddle, how much is too much, and what to do if your pup has separation anxiety.
Puppies Cuddle for Comfort
Puppies cuddle for various reasons including to bond with you, for comfort, and to feel warm from your body heat.
They may also cuddle you to reduce their own stress, or in an attempt to comfort you because they can feel that you are stressed.
The only time it’s wrong to cuddle your puppy is if you’re forcing them to stay with you or if it’s impeding on their other needs such as exercise, socialization, or training.
Different people have different preferences, but if you don’t mind your dog laying on you for much of the day, it’s completely fine to let them!
Some puppies crave lots of cuddles, and some breeds are even bred specifically to be lap dogs.
Some Breeds are more likely to Cuddle
There are entire breeds that are bred specifically to be lap dogs, such as Shih Tzus, Pugs, and many others. If your puppy is one of these breeds, that explains why they like to cuddle!
Often, these breeds are also more prone to separation anxiety due to an intense love for being around their families.
You should get them used to being alone for short periods as early as you can to prevent this. But you should also ensure you aren’t leaving these puppies alone for long periods, even when they are older.
Breeds like this are most suited to families for this reason, since there is usually someone home with them in that circumstance.
Training a Puppy to Spend Time Alone
Training your puppy to spend time alone is incredibly important for their self-confidence. You want your pup to grow into a dog with independence.
However, you must make this experience positive or it will backfire. A dog who builds up negative experiences being left alone will become fearful of it.
Of course, your expectations also must be at the right level. For instance, a lap dog breed will always be less independent than dogs bred to work on farms.
Dogs are also domestic animals, and have been bred to depend on us for survival and companionship.
Lastly, puppies can only spend up to a couple of hours alone at a time. In the beginning, they’ll likely be comfortable with much less than this—maybe a couple of minutes.
That’s why you should…
Start Leaving Them Alone for a Short Time PeriodsIn the beginning, your puppy may only be able to tolerate a few minutes alone. This is okay!
The best way to start is by walking out of the room when they are preoccupied, such as when they’re chewing a toy or bone, eating a meal, or napping on the floor.
Walk back in after a few minutes and reward them for doing well.
Build up to Leaving Them Alone for Long Periods
Over time, you can increase the time your puppy spends in a room away from you.
Then, you can transition to leaving the house for short periods and build up from there.
A Puppy Can’t Be Left Alone for That Long
A common mistake with puppies is to expect too much with them. This sets them up to fail and is very frustrating for you, too.
Keep in mind your pup’s limitations when it comes to holding their bladder, the amount of exercise they need, and the length of time they can comfortably spend on their own.
Young puppies aren’t suited to being at home during an entire work day, for instance. It isn’t their fault if they can’t do so—it’s what they are capable of at that age.
If you leave your puppy alone too long, it may lead to them losing their bladder, becoming bored and destructive, or developing separation anxiety due to negative experiences.
Use Crate Training
Crate training is done in a way that is very similar to the steps above. Instead of a different room, use their crate instead.
Remember to make it a relaxing and positive experience for your puppy so that they don’t learn to dread, avoid, or fear the crate.
Ideally, they’ll be going in and out willingly by the end. You might even find them sleeping or playing in there sometimes during the day!
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
Puppies who love to cuddle all of the time and get stressed when left alone may be suffering from separation anxiety.
This is a condition that’s very stressful for your pup, in which they have a hard time being left alone.
Symptoms that may occur before, during, or after being left alone, even if only for a short period of time are:
- Accidents in potty trained puppies (who haven’t been left for too long a period)
- Barking, crying, or howling when alone
- Destructive behaviors, such as chewing inappropriate items
- Pacing around the house
- Extreme stress
- Clinginess before you leave or after you return home
- Excessive drooling, panting
- Escaping or trying to escape a crate, room, or home
How to Treat Separation Anxiety
Treating separation anxiety typically starts with a trip to the veterinarian. Only your vet can rule out other health problems, which is essential before treating separation anxiety.
Your veterinarian can also offer professional advice tailored to your unique situation, and give you some perspective when it comes to how severe your dog’s anxiety is.
Once you’re sure your dog has separation anxiety, follow your veterinarian’s advice to solve the problem. Some things they are likely to suggest are:
- Counterconditioning, or slowly teaching your puppy that it’s okay to be alone
- Changing up your routine before you leave the house
- Ensure your puppy is getting the right amount of exercise every day
- Don’t fuss over your puppy when leaving or coming home
- Leave your puppy with material that smells like you, such as a t-shirt
- In extreme cases, medicate your puppy to help them stay calm
Never punish your dog for being anxious. Separation anxiety can be frustrating to deal with, but your puppy almost certainly feels worse than you do while it’s happening.
If you punish them for being afraid, they will only become more fearful. This will also damage the relationship between the two of you.
Alternatives to Cuddling
There are bound to be times when you can’t cuddle your puppy, or simply don’t want them on your lap. Here are some alternatives to cuddling your puppy.
Dog beds are an excellent place for puppies to sleep when they can’t be on your lap. Consider trying different types of beds and placing them around your home where your puppy spends the most time.
If you can’t afford this, there are also cheap options or even free alternatives like giving your pup an old blanket to lie on.
Many people crate train their pups in part to give them a place to sleep. Proper crate training provides your puppy with a “den” that they can feel safe and secure in, and lie inside of willingly.
This does take a lot of time and effort on your part—over six months of training, to be exact.
However, it can be incredibly worthwhile for some people and pups.
Remember to never force your puppy into their crate or use it as a punishment tool.
Puppies need lots of playtime throughout the day, and shouldn’t always be sleepy or sitting still. (If your puppy seems overly tired, you should consult a veterinarian.)
Make sure your cuddly pup gets the exercise they require. Consult the guidelines for their age and breed, or speak to your veterinarian.
If you don’t know the breed of your puppy, it’s okay to guess and follow guidelines for similar breeds.
In addition to playtime, most dogs need at least one walk daily. For puppies, a few short walks are often recommended rather than one long one.
This is due to their energy levels, which are constantly peaking and dropping throughout the day. They also have short attention spans.
Writer: Katelynn Sobus