How to help your dog cope with separation anxiety now you've gone back to work

There’s nothing quite as exciting as getting a new puppy that will hopefully grow to become your loving and well-adjusted best friend.

But the pandemic has sparked many problems for dog owners, whether it’s a new puppy or odd behaviour in an existing pet.

Separation anxiety is one of the most common, and as people return to work and head off to foreign climes for the first time possibly in their young pup’s life, it’s becoming an issue for more and more people.

What should you do to prepare your puppy for the first time they are left alone?

Since lockdown even mature dogs, now used to being in the constant company of their families, are suffering. How can you reassure them?

If you feel your dog truly has separation anxiety and becomes distressed and upset when you leave them alone, you should seek tailored professional help.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Louise Glazebrook, who runs the Darling Dog Company, which specialises in training puppies and dogs through every stage of their lives, says nothing is as effective as a personal consultation.

‘You need to understand what is going on with each dog individually,’ she says. ‘What it is that is making them anxious, or fearful? But you can make sure you are not creating issues, or reinforcing behaviours that might be developing or
haven’t yet begun.’

Louise stresses that every dog is an individual. Here are some of her top tips to get you started.

Little and often doesn’t always work

Don’t consider leaving them alone ‘for five minutes’ and gradually building up the time spent on their own.

There are many YouTube videos giving this advice, but this is an outdated system that does not work and actually creates anxiety and fear.

There are far more modern ways of doing it. You need to focus on making your dog feel safe and secure first before you consider teaching them about being left alone. Louise typically works with a client for three-six months to achieve this.

A breed apart

You need to understand that your dog’s breed, their breeding and the way the breeder raised them will have an enormous impact on what is achievable for your dog or puppy.

Do not start off thinking all dogs are the same and will respond in the same way. The top three breeds I see with separation anxiety are cockapoos, cavapoos and the miniature shorthaired dachshund.

Breeders are creating dogs that sometimes can’t even function if their owner goes to the loo.

This should be something you really think about when looking for a breeder as the impact on your life could be huge. You don’t want to have to pay for daycare every time you leave the house.

Task Master

Give your puppy a couple of independent tasks each day so they can get used to doing things on their own.

You might leave a chew in their bed, or a treat-dispensing toy in the hallway.

A snuffle mat, which forces your pet to search for food among its fleece strips, can be a good diversion. Be careful you choose a toy appropriate to breed and size.

What is suitable for one dog might choke another.

Louise says: ‘You are looking to make sure your dog is happy to complete a task without you watching them like a hawk.’

Practice at home

Buy a baby gate – these are crucial to helping a dog learn about separation in a kind way. Do not just shut doors on them.

It depends on the layout of your house, but some of my clients have these on bedroom or kitchen doors, or doors into the hallway.

The ideal situation is that your puppy can be on one side and you on the other, but they can still see, hear and smell you.

These are also essential if you have children living at home with the dog. No dog or baby should ever be left alone with each other.

Double trouble

Do not buy another dog to keep a dog company. If you haven’t resolved the original issue throwing another dog into the mix won’t fix it.

Anxiety can be deeply rooted and adding another dog might actually increase the anxiety levels if you don’t choose the right dog, with the right personality.

For further information about training with Louise and online assistance, visit
thedarlingdogcompany.co.uk

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