One of the key lessons the pandemic has taught many us, is that separation anxiety is an extremely stressful thing to experience; for both dog and owner. In one of my past blogs I talked about how lockdown has made our dogs more anxious, and this is especially true for pandemic pups who have never known what life before the pandemic was like.
This year I welcomed my own family addition, Rodney, and as a part of his puppy training I adopted a few techniques to help build his confidence and prevent separation anxiety. By applying a few of these tried and tested methods, I have one very confident and relaxed pooch who can safely manage a couple of hours without me when necessary.
Here are some of my top tips on how to avoid separation anxiety and build canine confidence.
Puppies love routine! Having a schedule that your puppy knows and is able to anticipate is a great way of building security and confidence. It is also a good idea to build exercise routines around times you know you may likely be out of the home, tired pups are more likely to sleep whilst you are gone.
The perfect environment. Create a safe, secure and cosy space for your pup, crate training when done properly is a great tool. Make sure they have their favourite bedding and perhaps their favourite non destructible toy. Keep their safe space away from anything that might overstimulate them.
Start small. You don’t have to physically leave the house to get your dog used to you being gone. Start leaving the room or putting your pup in their crate for a few minutes, gradually building on their time alone.
Calm entrance and exit! Big grand farewells or welcome homes can actually increase your dog's anxiety levels. Keep the comings and goings low key and calm and always remember to praise and reward your dog if they are calm when you arrive back from an outing without them.
Collateral! Give your puppy something to do whilst you are gone. Save those highly prized treats or favourite toys for when you leave the home. Not only will it keep them occupied, it will also teach your dog that leaving means something positive happens.
Consider a dog walker or doggy day care. If you know your pup will be left alone for longer than a few hours it is really worth looking into a dog walking service or doggy day care to provide the attention and toileting opportunities your dog needs. The maximum time I’d recommend an adult dog being left alone is around 4 hours. For puppies this needs to be built up gradually over their first year.