My Vet suggested I see a behavioral Veterinarian so I left a message for her on Friday. Waiting to hear back from the breeder as well. Thought I could get some good advice here in the meantime... Thanks in advance!
I really believe separation issues are beyond what most of us can address on our own. And you have additional challenges in that you really aren’t returning to a typical schedule for a while longer. Part of the reason for this is the behaviors can reinforce themselves over and over. Even in milder cases, I really believe help is most effective because we need the support and reassurance that we are doing the right things. Otherwise our own stress contributes to the problem.
Another issue is that methods for preventing separation anxiety and methods for correcting anxiety are slightly different. It’s very individualized in order to gradually increase tolerance to being alone. Otherwise those extreme anxious behaviors reinforce their fear. For instance, not paying attention when you walk in. This is really important in most cases, and a really useful tool in teaching a puppy to stay home alone. Our puppy was an exception to this rule. We found when we returned home, his anxiety would continue to escalate until he was panting and peeing all over the place, and even 30 minutes later he was still frantic. So we switched to greeting him immediately, picking him up, but in a really neutral way, no excitement or drama. I put him right back down and he’ll wait while I bring things in or whatever. Another thing the trainer helped with was identifying the best place for him to be on his own. We initially had a different puppy zone set up but found he did better alone with a window. The trainer also tried to help us teach him to play independently and self soothe, but we didn’t do very well following through on that. There are also different issues that can be at play, such as whether or not the anxiety is related to the place they’re in (such as a crate), being isolated from people or from one specific person, etc. Technically. mine has isolation distress, and knowing this helps us a lot. He does really well at daycare and with dog sitters.
IMO, cameras are most useful for monitoring to gradually increase the time alone while stopping just short of his anxiety threshold. Once they reach a certain point, time is all the same, though. I haven’t tested this in a long time because of covid, but last I checked, it took mine about 40 minutes to stop pacing. After that he remains alert watching for us the whole entire time we’re gone, but he’s not actively distressed. This is somewhat of a regression compared to when we were actively working on it and made a point to leave him alone every day, even if it was just within the house. In the beginning, he NEVER settled, so I don’t complain. He would cry, pace, pee, everything, the entire time we were gone. Yours might respond to the treats better down the line once he has some other skills in place. Mine is hugely food motivated but won’t touch ANYTHING while we’re gone, so it’s really individualized.
It doesn’t necessarily take months of work to become bearable, I don’t mean to overwhelm. Once you have identified his needs and have a plan in place, you can most likely get it manageable enough to leave him for short blocks pretty quickly. The most important thing is to maintain it by consistently leaving him alone, even if you don’t need to go anywhere that day. That’s the best way to see long term growth vs. managing the behavior. This I absolutely know from experience, because we have made this mistake several times now.