Like humans, dogs also suffer from separation anxiety. However, in dogs, this phenomenon is characterised by symptoms, such as panic attacks, when left alone at home. Some other symptoms include barking, destruction, and causing other accidents in the home. If you leave this unaddressed, it’ll remain in them from their puppy stage to the adult stage.
This is why it’s important to train your dogs to be able to stay in your home alone and be comfortable in that situation. This will ensure you don’t have to spend the whole day distracted and worried about them while you carry on your life’s responsibilities.
If you’ve noticed that your dog has separation anxiety, you need to start looking for ways to stop and prevent it from growing further. This article from Eun Rockwell at Dissertation help UK includes tips to combat separation anxiety in your puppies.
1. Prepare the home for when you’re not around
If you’re a parent, you may already be familiar with childproofing your home. As important as this is for their safety, it also ensures that your children are comfortable as they’re growing up in the home.
An important factor in preventing separation anxiety in your puppies is preparing your home for the times when you’re not around. As they become more comfortable in your home space, it becomes easier for them to adjust to those periods when they’re alone. It works for puppies as it works for children. A few tips to help you prepare your home are:
Install fences or gates
You don’t necessarily have to close the door before you can keep your puppies confined within an area in your home. It’s better to install a fence or barricade than to close the door. This ensures that your puppies have enough space to play through and look around rather than being sealed behind the confines of a closed door.
Put common items inside the room
If you want your puppies to remain in your home and be comfortable while you’re away, then you need to provide all the items they need, such as a food bowl, water, dog chews, toys, and a blanket if they use one.
2. Proactive exposure training and socialisation
A dog that has a positive exposure to several experiences from a tender age will not likely suffer separation anxiety. According to a study, it was found that dogs that lack exposure to socialisation before a dog turns 10 months are a factor in determining whether they suffer from separation anxiety or not. Proactive exposure training ensures that your dog has the confidence and they can learn the necessary coping skills.
Your dog can learn to live and thrive in a different world with this training. Sometimes we expect too much from our dogs, forgetting they’re not humans. So you have to train them appropriately.
When socializing with your dog, the appropriate time is between 7 and 16 weeks. This is called the imprint period. Their experiences during this period go a long way toward shaping their behavior. So, ensure you’re creating many positive associations during this time, especially learning to be alone.
If the dog isn’t with you during their imprint period, it’s still possible to build their socialization and navigate the world. It may just take a little longer for them to adjust.
3. Create a schedule and routine for your puppy
Puppies are also good at learning routines, just like babies. So you can create a schedule for them, making it easier for them to become used to your life.
So, when you introduce a puppy into your home, you should create a schedule or routine for them. You should also ensure that everyone in your home follows the routine.
With a routine in place, it’s easier for the puppies to adjust whenever you leave them alone at home for other responsibilities.
It may be challenging for the first few days, but as they become used to this routine, they’ll also understand that whenever you go out the door, you will be back within a few hours. This way, they easily outgrow the separation anxiety they’re experiencing with time.
4. Teach them to live alone
You can’t blame your dog for getting stressed or anxious whenever they’re alone at home, especially if it’s a new experience. This might happen when your dog is already used to you working from home, and suddenly, you have to resume on-site work, or when you bring them home at the start of the summer and the children return to school at the start of fall. Anxiety will always crawl into situations like this because dogs love companionship. For them, nothing beats being beside a dog stick throughout the day. However, it’s normal for them to be alone. It will happen at some point; even if you’re only going to get some groceries, you’re not always going to be with them. So you should start getting your puppies used to staying alone so that they don’t panic or become anxious when it happens.
Create positive experiences for being alone with classical conditioning
- Prepare a work-to-eat you or long-lasting food puzzle. Make it something they’re not used to getting often and is very valuable to them.
- Before you leave your home, give your dog this special treat in its long-term confinement area or crate.
- Ensure your absences are short at the start of your classical conditioning when the dog is learning to be alone. Ensure you’re back before the dog finishes the food puzzle or when you’re just starting. You don’t even have to leave your home completely at the start. Just ensure you’re out of their sight for the training. For instance, you can take longer to walk to the mailbox or take the trash out. These are good opportunities for this exercise.
- Immediately after returning home, remove the work-to-eat toy or yummy puzzle and take it away.
- Increase the time you’re absent gradually.
At this stage, the dog is already learning that you leaving home means they’ll get something delicious, even though they’re home alone. They’ll also learn that whatever they get will disappear once you’re back.
It’s possible to combine the classical conditioning exercise stated above with desensitization. Desensitization allows you to expose your dog to several aspects of separation or to be alone in small spaces or tolerable increments. This helps to build their tolerance and lets them learn that some actions may not mean you’re leaving. An essay by British essay writers stated that you could teach your dog two types of desensitization; pre-departure desensitization and absence desensitization.
- Consider the little actions making up your pre-departure routine. For instance, picking your coat from your closet, brushing your teeth, picking your keys up, wearing your shoes, touching and turning the doorknob, and walking out the door.
- Do these little actions randomly at different times of the day without actually leaving the house. Ensure you’re ignoring your dog while you’re doing this. Put on your sneakers and then put them off immediately, and go back to your previous action. You can also grab your keys and pick up your bag, then place the bag back in its place and drop your keys. Another example is to walk towards the door and touch the handle before going back to continue your action. You may even walk out of the door and walk back in immediately.
This is how you desensitize them from your pre-departure routine, break off any association your dog may have between these actions, and leave them alone at home.
- Start exposing your dog to a small increase in their alone time. You can start by walking out of the door and coming back in immediately. Ensure you’re acting normally, not giving them extra attention or acting like it’s a big deal.
- At the start of your desensitization, slowly increase the time your dog is spending alone. You can ensure you’re out for a few more seconds than the last time.
- As the dog gets used to staying alone, you can vary the time you spend away from them.
5. Always act casual
You don’t have to make a big fuss about leaving home whenever you’re going out. Act very regular and casual, so it doesn’t feel like something different is happening or about to happen.
It’s okay to want to shower your puppy with love before leaving home, but don’t do this just when you’re taking your leave. Otherwise, you’ll leave them shocked when you leave them shocked and anxious when you finally go out.
Ensure your departure cues are very minimal. By doing this, your puppy may not notice when you’ve left. When your departure routine is very normal and not excessive, they’re less shocked by your departure.
Do you have any tips?
There are several ways to prevent or handle separation anxiety in your puppies. This article only discusses a few of them.
Eun Rockwell is a freelance journalist, blogger and copywriter who writes and works with several assignment writing services, such as essay writing service UK. She creates unique and research-based content about education, career, and travel. She has two adorable dogs.