This study documented the behaviors of puppies when they were left home alone and sought to document how these behaviors change over the first few months after adoption. When left home alone, puppies were filmed to provide direct evidence of the animal’s behavior, as opposed to indirect evidence based solely on owner perception. A video camera was installed in the room where the puppy usually stayed during the owner’s absence. The owners were asked to start recording immediately before their departure, and the puppies were filmed for 60 minutes. The videotaping sessions were then repeated after 1 and 2 months. Behaviors documented from the videotapes were exploration, locomotion, passive behavior, orientation to the environment, scratching, oral behavior, vocalization, play, grooming, panting, lip-licking, yawning, and elimination. Puppies tended to spend most of their time exhibiting passive behavior as opposed to being oriented to the environment. Locomotion, exploration, oral behavior, and grooming were observed for short periods. Only 3 puppies out of 32 were characterized by stress-related behaviors, such as lip-licking, vocalization, and oral behavior. These behaviors decreased over the 2 months of observation, indicating that even if some puppies initially exhibit stress-related behaviors, these behaviors do not persist over time. No significant influence of age or age when adopted were noted. Passive behavior decreased slightly over time, whereas orientation to the environment and locomotion increased with time. Play and exploration were similar for all 3 observations. Younger puppies were more passive than older ones.

Commentary: When a puppy is taken away from its original home, some degree of anxiety-induced behavior is expected. Younger puppies and those in a new home situation show more distress behavior than older puppies and those that have been in a new home for a longer period of time. In addition, no difference was detected between puppies kept in crates during the owner’s absence and those not kept in crates. This study supports the general concept that it is better to move puppies from their natal home at an older, rather than a younger, age.

Puppy behavior when left alone: Changes during the first few months after adoption. Cannas S, Frank D, Minero M, et al. J VET BEHAV 5:94-100, 2010.