Now your puppy has settled in, it’s time to let go a bit more and prepare them for the next stages of their life in your home.
Today’s busy lifestyles mean you cannot be with them 24/7, so leaving them home-alone is inevitable and all part of them growing up and gaining independence. However, if this is not done carefully and properly from when a pup is young, being left alone can cause distress or separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is a complex issue to deal with and can be challenging to fix. In more serious cases, the help of an experienced dog behaviorist may be required. Like most things, however, prevention is always better than cure.
While puppies cannot be left alone for too long, you should introduce short periods of time when you do leave them, just to gently ease them into the process. It is unfair to smother a puppy with constant attention and then suddenly leave them for half a day when they are 18 months old. By conditioning them at a younger age, you shouldn’t have problems with anxiety further down the line.
If, despite this, your young dog does still suffer from separation anxiety, here are a few tips on how to tackle it.
1. Establish a safe space they are familiar with such as a cosy den in the form of a dog bed or crate. Fill it with bedding and toys they love. Hide a few of their favourite dog treats too. This environment will then act as their comfort blanket (literally!) when you go out.
2. Make each home-alone experience fairly short to begin with then slowly build it up. For example, from 5 minutes to 15 minutes to 30 minutes and so on.
3. Do not – and this is absolutely essential – make a big fuss of them when you return. This will only feed their anxiety. Simply come home, briefly acknowledge them, and then go about your business. This will ensure that you going in and out of the house and leaving them on their own is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.
4. Take your time and be patient. The problem will not be resolved overnight so patience is key.
5. If you have to leave them on their own on a daily basis, consider breaking up the routine a few days a week by leaving them with a friend or family member or try doggy day care. This not only assists with the separation anxiety issues, but also helps them build social skills and gain independence. Just like sending a child to nursery. A clingy antisocial four-legged friend is not good for anyone!
Next time, as your dog reaches its prime, we look at how to keep them stimulated through mental and physical play.
This blog is part of a series focusing on a dog’s life from puppy to pensioner! Read about how to look after your dog - from agility and grooming to neutering and zoning out.