Prevention is better than cure when it comes to dealing with separation anxiety and its associated behaviours. Dogs that are anxious characters with true separation anxiety, will need to work with a Clinical Animal Behaviourst for expert supervision and to put in place a carefully tailored protocol and sometimes even medication. This is why its important to hire the correct professional from the start so they can help you in conjunction with your Veterinarian.
But in terms of prevention or starting to rehabilitate early in the journey, there is lots you can do. In order for puppies to feel independent, they need a secure attachment to their guardians. So that means you can't love a puppy into separation anxiety and leaving them to 'cry it out' for hours at night, might in fact causes separation anxiety, rather than build independence.
1. Micro Sessions of Absence
Start with short micro absences up until 12 weeks of age, so this means you might scatter some of their food across the floor every time you go to pee, take the laundry upstairs etc until your puppy can slowly build confidence to withstand longer periods of separation
2. Physical Exercise
Make sure your dog has a chance to have at least a 30 minute walk before you leave, not only will this provide some physical stimulation and encourage them to nap when you leave, it also gives them a chance to pee and poop. Nothing ramps up anxiety more than needing a poo and not being able to go. In order to help bring your dogs excitement levels back down after a fun walk, scatter some of their food in the grass to sniff out and scavenge, this helps to bring them 'down' after lots of fun.
3. Mental Stimulation
After your puppy or dog has had their walk, now its time for some mental stimulation, this can be in the form of food puzzles like kongs or kong wobbles and treat balls, or even better 10 minutes of fun trick training such as twists, beg, roll over and walk backwards. If you don't know how to get started with your trick training check out my online classes where I cover fun tricks https://www.laurajenningsdogservices.com/online-classes
Make sure you leave your dog somewhere that has limited visual and auditory stimulus. Basically somewhere quiet and that they can’t see out. It can make frustrated dogs more so and anxious dogs, more anxious. Leave them in a quieter part of the house with some low background noise, of course your puppy or dog will know that you are not home but it will help block out some noise that may worry them while alone. Some studies suggest dogs prefer reggae music the best.
When you come home, don't make a huge fuss of your puppy or dog. It should be very casual and calm. Also make sure that all the fun stuff doesn't happen after your return e.g. walks & training. This should be ideally be done before they are left or at least broken into two shorter sessions.
If you have found these tips helpful or you want to know more. You can sign up for my Preventing Separation Anxiety Workshop which is a two hour interactive live workshop help over zoom. More information can be found here https://www.laurajenningsdogservices.com/online-classes
Laura Jennings dipCABT, ICAN, CAPBT
Dog Ttrainer based in Swords, Co. Dublin but also working online with dogs all over Ireland online.
Text or Whatsapp 0857317129