What are realistic expectations in the throes of teething and regression?

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This post is going to be some weird combo of puppy blues, venting, and desperation for any advice you may have.

Our puppy (4.5 month old mini American Shepherd) has been with us since he was 9 weeks old. He’s sweet and smart and has picked up on things quickly, but my god the regression is real. Especially with separation training. At around 12-14 weeks he was comfortable going into his pen at any time of day, hanging out by himself, etc. We could leave him home alone and he was totally fine. He would just calmly watch us come and go. But the past few weeks he has been completely unable to self settle and has started whining and howling when I leave his sight. It’s honestly worse than it’s been since we first brought him home. He’s also back to trying to nip and pull on clothes and faces which he hasn’t done in weeks.

He’s teething badly right now (we can see he’s got molars coming in, so I’m sure he’s uncomfortable) and that can certainly contribute to his clinginess. So we’ve been a bit lax, going back to basics with training in these areas and trying to be compassionate that he’s a baby who’s in pain. He also has several chews and toys available and we’ve been keeping him well-stocked on frozen veggies to soothe his gums.

My issue comes in with setting realistic expectations when the baseline seems to be constantly changing. A few weeks ago, it was realistic of us to trust him home alone for an hour in his pen. Now more than 10 seconds away and I expect to hear screaming. Am I expecting too much of him for his age? Or his current condition? Or am I babying him, expecting too little and making his regression worse?

Not being able to get a handle on this, or even know which direction is forward is really starting to take a toll and I’m beginning to feel trapped in my apartment again which is affecting my mental health and work in a not-at-all fun way. How do you all set realistic expectations?

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