• Raychel Hill BSc (Hons)

Teaching your dog that is okay to be home alone

When you have a puppy it’s a good idea to teach them that it is okay to be alone, please do not let your puppy cry it out as this does not teach them that it is okay but rather nobody is listening so you might see chewing at exits or even a shutdown puppy, both of which could lead to developing separation anxiety later on in life.

Also when your dog has developed separation anxiety this advice may help you but I would advise a behaviour consultation to identify all your dogs triggers and devise an appropriate treatment plan as this can be a complex problem. 

Dogs are social beings, it’s a natural behaviour for them to form bonds and to have close relationships. In addition to this they also rely on you to fulfil all their basic needs of survival: water, food, and warmth.

Therefore, it is important to teach them how to be alone, and to build a relationship of trust, so that they know that regardless of what is going on, their needs will always be met, and you are not leaving them long term, or they are missing out on something.

Ensure they have a balanced routine of physical activity and mental enrichment. It is best to do more calming activities and enrichment before any desensitisation rather than high arousal activities.

It’s important to start with them calm and relaxed, and for example they could be settled if you get up off the chair, fine if you walk to the door but the point where you go to step outside the room they get up and starts to moving toward you. That’s where we start the work - find that point, and it might be sooner than that or later than that, and you are going to go half a step toward the door and return before they get up and move. Say nothing, act normal (as normal as you can obviously!), return, sit down, fuss them if that’s what you’d normally do but don't go crazy.

Then repeat - get up, know their threshold point – half a step before it, go back and sit down. Do this four, five times - stop, end of session (if that takes more than 5 minutes then reduce it, sessions should be just a few minutes long). It is important that you keep it at their pace and gradually build up so you are able to leave the room without them following and being in a different room whilst you are elsewhere in the house.

A common mistake is to leave your dog with a Kong (or similar) I would not recommend this whilst practising as this would act more as a distraction and would not cure the problem. Toys can be used but it is best to introduce them once they are comfortable with being left alone.

Once you can leave I would recommend getting a camera to watch your dog so that you know that they are not experiencing any distress. Gradually build the time you can leave for, start with one second and build on it. Every time your dog experiences distress they will be taking a step back in the training.

Please do get in touch if you require any more information.

E: raychel@petpeevessomerset

T: 07715497542

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