Combating separation anxiety
Separation anxiety occurs when your dog becomes greatly distressed every time you leave. Scratching at the door, chewing things up, barking hysterically are just a few of the signs. Most dogs want to be close to their humans at all times and those that haven’t been taught how to stay alone may exhibit unwanted behaviours. The best approach is to gradually adjust your pet to being alone.
Preventing Separation Anxiety
Here are a few simple steps to make your puppy comfortable home alone:
- Start by introducing your dog to his crate. Crate him for short periods while you are present and gradually increase the time crated.
- Reward quiet behaviour with calm praise and perhaps a treat such as a piece of dog food. Start leaving your puppy alone. At first, just a few minutes at a time and then gradually increase it. Limit your attention when you are home so it isn’t such a shock when you leave.
- Reward your dog with a piece of food and attention when he lies quietly away from you.
- If you work, consider hiring a walker to give your dog a midday break.
- Keep your schedule similar on weekends and workdays can help make things easier for your dog.
- Plenty of exercise helps dogs who must be alone for long periods.
Most puppies aren’t ready to be given unsupervised freedom in your home until they are a year-and-a-half or older.
Leaving and arriving
Do make leaving and arriving uneventful. If you make leaving a big production – lots of hugs and goodbyes or asking if he’ll miss you – your dog will assume it’s a big deal.
When you return, don’t go directly to his crate and make a fuss except if your dog is a young pup or has been left for many hours. In these cases, take him outside straight away as he may really need to relieve himself and making him wait can lead to a wet crate. If you can, wait until your dog is calm and quiet, then casually go greet him and praise him for being calm and quiet.
Signs of Serious Separation Anxiety
Most dogs, especially puppies, may whine or cry a little when left alone. True separation anxiety is defined as destructive or disruptive behaviour, including tearing up the room, constant barking and whining or housetraining mistakes every time you leave. This often starts immediately after you leave.
In such cases, you may want to consult a qualified dog trainer or behaviour professional.