Written by: Kassie Dickson, CPDT-KA, K9 Koach
How do you start? When should you start? It’s important that your pup learns some independence and to be alone, because the reality is, there will be times in your pup’s life where they have to be comfortable doing this. So as pet guardians, it’s our job to set them up for success.
How Do You Start Leaving Your Dog Alone For The First Time?
That’s easy. Puppy proof and choose confinement that’s appropriate for you and your family, whether that is a crate, play or exercise pen, small puppy proof room, or the like. Typically you want to use whatever confinement you plan to use overnight for your pooch and start there. Short fun sessions with long lasting treats in those areas.
Then slowly start leaving the area (not necessarily the house) for short periods of time when possible. Gradually begin lengthening your time away and creating positive associations with long lasting treats/toys until you’re able to actively leave your dog for long periods without them stressing out!
Crying It Out
Science is evolving and beginning to tell us those old methods of “cry it out” crate training and conditioning your dog to being left alone aren’t all that helpful! Remember it’s not possible to reinforce an emotional response, they are involuntary.
Involving cues such as their favourite treat or toy, which they already have a positive emotional response to, can make leaving your dog at home alone easier. Consistently repeating these tactics on your part as an owner, can help greatly in getting your dog used to being alone.
Knowing what separation anxiety is and isn’t is very important as Separation or Separation Type Anxiety has become a catch all term for any unwanted behaviour dogs may display when left alone. Anything from pacing and barking, to chewing inappropriate items, or having accidents in the house. So it’s important to look at specifics and understand that context matters.
You may not be dealing with separation anxiety, you may be dealing with isolation distress, Alone Distress Disorder, kennel stress, or one of many other types of Fear Anxiety and Stress. So, don’t assume!
How To Find Help For Separation Anxiety
If you feel Separation anxiety is a problem for you, seek out assistance from your Veterinarian as well as a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer). There are many common myths surrounding separation anxiety and ways to treat it that, simply put, can do far more harm than good. So if you’re worried about Separation Anxiety or any other stress, reach out to a professional, certified trainer.
There are a few main things to look out for, vocalization, destructivity, and elimination. If your pup has these issues when left alone, seek help. It’s important that you have people in your corner. This type of anxiety can be difficult if your dog truly suffers from it as this is a disorder or phobia, not just a problem behaviour. But, back to those problem behaviours.
Chewing and Destructivity
We briefly mentioned it but, what is it? What exactly are we talking about here?
I am speaking specifically to inappropriate chewing. Chewing is a completely natural and normal behaviour. It serves to self soothe, solve boredom, and even make a teething pups mouth feel better.
So it’s important that your pup has access to safe chew items regularly and are encouraged to chew on appropriate items. This can help reduce the risk of your pup chewing on your new coffee table or favourite armchair. It’s important to remember as well, that if your dog is bored, whether they are with you or alone, chewing is likely to be one of the first things they try to do, so if your dog becomes destructive with their chewing and targets the wrong items, redirect them onto more appropriate ones.
If they do it while alone, make sure you know the difference, are they just chewing on what’s available or are they destroying large items? Take care not to punish this behaviour but instead “up the offer” and give your dog more enticing things to chew on, like the new Kong toy or the from your Super PawBox! It’s both mentally and physically stimulating for your pooch, so keep them interested and engaged and away from your Air Jordans!
If you want to work on leaving your pup alone, practice independence! Work at your dog’s pace and remember that there’s always hope for a stressed out dog. Check out treats and toys we have available by getting your paws on a box today!