Preventing Puppy Dog Separation Anxiety - Part 3
Updated: Feb 14
Preventing Puppy Dog Separation Anxiety -
This is Part 3 of the series Preventing Puppy Dog Separation Anxiety. It was written during the corona virus quarantine but is applicable for any time. It and it deals with training your dog. Please read my post on Dog Separation Anxiety for a description and understanding of what separation anxiety is.
This is the third article in the series Preventing Puppy Dog Separation Anxiety during the Coronavirus Quarantine, and we will talk about some easy things you can do several times a day starting now.
How Is Puppy Dog Separation Anxiety Treated?
In a nutshell, Separation Anxiety treatment had been to desensitize a dog to being alone by systematically leaving him home for longer periods of time – 1 minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, etc. The treatment was frustrating for both owners and their dogs because it typically takes several weeks of intense training, during which time their dogs cannot be left alone, so the dogs went to doggie daycare, someone’s house, or owners hired a pet sitter, neighbor, or family member to stay with them.
BUT the new thinking – which is being researched by several studies – is that Separation Anxiety is not a behavior problem in and of itself but that it is a symptom of an underlying problem.
Human equivalent – if you have a stomachache because you ate something that disagreed with you, you take an antacid. But if you have a stomachache that is caused by a growth in your stomach, the treatment for that is very different. The stomachache is the symptom but not the cause of the problem.
If your dog has other behavior issues – fear of noises, being startled easily, and aggression topping the list – please address those issues along with the separation anxiety to increase your success rate. However, because there are too many variables to address here, this series of articles will be specifically dealing with preventing Separation Anxiety and not any other issues. If you would like some help with those issues, call/text me at (310) 804-2392 or email me at caryl@DoggieManners.com. Treatment for both Separation Anxiety and these other issues is well suited for phone lessons or Zoom because it involves changing the way you do things. When you act differently, your dog will respond differently.
Preventive treatment solutions start with structure and your being a leader because you will show him that he can feel safe while he is alone and he can build on frustration tolerance. It starts by doing little things today. There is no punishment or harsh training methods.
A Few Caveats
I’m always honest with my clients and just wanted to let you know of a few caveats before you begin training.
Caveat #1 – It’s likely going to take time at the beginning of training and you may feel awkward because you are doing things differently. But please persevere, and it will take less and less time as your dog understands what the new rules are. His behavior may even get worse before it gets better while he is learning – that is a normal part of learning. Keep going!
Caveat #2 – There’s going to be frustration, on your part and his. You may become frustrated during this training part of this program because, frankly, it can be very boring, and it also may seem like you’re not making any progress – but you are even though it may not show up immediately.
Human equivalent – if you’re reading a book, you can see that you were on page 35 but are now on page 40. It’s difficult to see your progress of those 5 pages if you change your bookmark from page 35 to page 40. It hardly shows, but you have made progress.
The frustration on your dog’s part is that you are teaching him that he will not always get what he wants when he wants it, the result being that he learns to tolerate frustration.
Caveat #3 – Expect that there will be setbacks.
Expect that there will be improvements and there will be setbacks. You may take 2 steps forward and 1 step back. Hang in there, and work through it. You are your dog’s best hope. If Separation Anxiety takes hold after you return to your normal schedule, he will not be able to overcome it by himself, and it will be more difficult – and costly – to help him.
Everyday Stuff You Can Do Now
to Prevent Your Puppy Dog from Having Separation Anxiety
When Things Get Back to Normal
These suggestions take little or no time to do and mostly concentrate on doing things a bit differently and changing your behavior. The hardest part of the Everyday Stuff is to remember to do it and not fall into old behavior patterns! This is a new normal for us – it can be a new normal for your dog.
If you have a Velcro dog that follows you everywhere so you can’t even go to the bathroom by yourself or one that needs to be constantly touching you, begin by practicing physical distancing by setting new boundaries.
Please remember – you’re not going to be doing this forever! You’re setting up situations now where he learns that you will come back and so he learns that he can cope with being alone for short periods of time. Begin with the first 3 exercises and then incorporate the rest as your dog’s behavior begins to change.
Tell him he’s a good dog when he’s calm and quiet rather than paying attention to him when he demands it.
Don’t carry your dog everywhere.
Practice Physical Distancing. Begin with a situation that he’s familiar with that is of short duration and one where he knows that you will reappear. Start in the house for about a week (i.e., your going to the bathroom) and then when you go outside (i.e., getting the mail or throwing out the garbage). Close doors when you go from room to room – see, I said it was easy. Don’t pay attention to him when you go out the door and don't make a fuss when you come back.
Don’t encourage clinging or give him endless attention – even if you need it. Structure your affection time with him through learning exercises.
Don’t let your dog sleep in bed with you.
Don’t let your dog constantly touch you by being on your lap, next to you, or at your feet when you are in a couch or chair. Limit the time he can lie next to you or touching your feet. Simply get up and walk to another location or physically move him. When you’re starting this exercise, he can be near you but not touching you.
Ignore attention-seeking behaviors such as
Barking at you
Pawing or nudging you
Whining at you
Other Everyday Stuff
Have the radio or TV on all day. It’s like white noise to him and lessens noises outside your home in order to minimize or eliminate his reacting to them.
Have him “Say please” by teaching him to Sit (see Part 4, The Training Stuff) until you release him for his meals, while putting on his leash for walks, before playing with him, etc.
The next article in Preventing Puppy Dog Separation Anxiety During the Coronavirus Quarantine is The Training Stuff, creating a Safe Spot for your puppy dog and training him to LOVE that spot.
Wishing that you stay healthy, stay safe – and stay home.
Please continue to Part 4 - the Training Stuff to help prevent separation anxiety.
If you need help with puppy or dog training, we are now doing virtual online consultations which are very effective to help in puppy dog separation anxiety. Please contact us by calling or texting (310) 804-2392 or sending an email to caryl@DoggieManners.com. We would love to work with you!
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Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog trainer, dog behavior consultant, or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.
If you need help with puppy or dog training, we do both private in-person and virtual lessons via Zoom. Please contact us by calling or texting (310) 804-2392 or sending an email to caryl@DoggieManners.com . We look forward to working with you.