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Dog Behaviour

Preventing Separation Anxiety in Dogs… Especially During Lockdown

We are now in our second lockdown and one of my major concerns for the new puppies around who are not attending puppy classes at this time, is the need for owners to plan and build confidence skills in their puppies, INCLUDING BEING LEFT ALONE!

I know your puppies are incredibly cute and so amusing to watch and spend time with BUT it is vitally important that you spend time away from your puppy and your puppy learns to be left and spend time away from you!        

Why is leaving your puppy alone so important?

Separation Anxiety or Stress Related Behaviour (SRB) occur when a dog is separated from its owner and becomes anxious or distressed.

Signs of Separation Anxiety include:

  • excessive chewing 
  • shredding items
  • defecating or urination in the home
  • howling, whimpering, and barking.

Dogs can also display more subtle signs of excessive salivation, trembling, vomiting, excessive licking/grooming, pacing and reluctance to settle.

These symptoms can be seen in other disorders; however, it is the onset of these symptoms following the departure of the dog’s owner that concludes it is separation anxiety.

PREVENTING SEPERATION ANXIETY 

The following practices are the same for prevention and training your dog to cope with being left home alone. I am merely trying to emphasise the importance of prevention over treatment! 

  1. Begin encouraging your dog to settle in their bed. A filled Kong is a great way to encourage this. Leave them for 5 minutes and go and do something yourself. Return to them BEFORE they become anxious, bark etc. If they are wait outside the crate/bed until they are quiet, then let them out.
  2. If your dog is very anxious take smaller steps. Encourage them into the bed/crate, walk to the door and wait a minute or two, return and reward them building it slowly until you can leave for 5 minutes. A radio on in the next room quite loud, on a talk station can assist also. Make sure your dog has a chewy type toy and a cuddly type toy in their bed/crate too.
  3. Continue the routine until you build up the time so you can leave your dog for about and hour. Remember do not react or let them out until they are calm and quiet. Begin to vary the length of time you leave your dog.
  4. Start to prepare your dog 5 minutes before you are leaving by settling them in their bed/crate with a filled kong. Get your self ready and leave the house. Do Not make a fuss or acknowledge you are leaving. Just leave for a short time. On your return Do Not enter and go straight to let your dog out. Put the kettle on, hang your coat up etc, When your dog is calm go over to the crate and calmly let your dog out.
  5. Vary the length and time you leave your dog. Do not only settle your dog when you are going out. Leave your dog settled when you are also in the house. Lots of people are working from home so a good opportunity to develop your dogs ability to be left is now!
  6. Once your dog is used to being left for about and hour you can begin to increase the length. It is unwise to leave a dog alone for more than 4 hours. If at times you need to do this utilise a dog walking service to let the dog out for exercise and toileting.

If your dog has severe separation anxiety, then please access support from your vet and/or a behaviourist. 

Whilst we are experiencing lockdown it is essential that we maintain or train our dogs to continue to be left alone. Our dogs are wonderful and amazing however they should not be with us 24/7. We need to build into their routine downtime. They need a break from us and visa versa. It is also important to remember that whilst the world is strange with Covid 19 and lockdown we hope that life and activity levels will increase and return to some type of normal. We need to ensure our dogs are ready for such changes.

To maintain any skills your dog must be given the opportunity to practice it! Enjoy the closeness and time lockdown had enabled but remember to plan for post lockdown.

X Lizz