5 Ways To Avoid Dog Separation Anxiety

For over a year, many people have been confined to their homes due to lockdown. Some used this unexpected free time to welcome a new puppy into their family, with the opportunity to focus on training methods.

As offices begin to reopen and socialising restrictions continue to lift, dog owners will likely be spending more time away from their furry friend. If your pup is accustomed to having your undivided attention, being away from you for extended periods may come as a shock.

Before returning to your former routine, prepare your dog for being alone to avoid causing signs of dog separation anxiety such as destructive chewing, whining, and accidental urination.

So that being without you doesn’t become a stressful ordeal, here are five methods to help your dog adapt to your lifestyle changes.

1) Leave your dog alone while you’re at home
Before you leave your dog at home alone, sit in a separate room to them while you’re still in the house. To begin with, leave them alone for a few minutes to see how they respond and, if they’re comfortable, slowly increase the length of time.

Adult dogs shouldn’t be left alone for longer than four hours, but the timeframe is between 30 and 60 minutes for puppies. Of course, gradually lead up to this period of time.

If your pup whines, try not to respond until after they’ve stopped, as this can encourage anxious behaviour. Instead, reward the pooch with a treat or positive reinforcement when they become calm. Whining could be a sign that you’re rushing the process and you may need to take a step back.

2) Create a safe space
Creating a den for the pup, such as a crate or outdoor kennel, can help them feel calm when you aren’t around. To ensure this space relaxes the pooch, make it as comfortable as possible by placing blankets, toys, food, and water inside.

Never place your dog inside the crate as a punishment, either, as they’ll associate it with negativity. Let the pup use it on their terms, and don’t disturb them when they’re using it either.

Follow a gradual crate training process so they can adjust to using it without feeling isolated. Once fully trained, crates can be used for mealtimes, sleeping, and when you’re not at home.

The kennel retailer, Benchmark Kennels, have a range of spacious, sheltered, and insulated outdoor kennels that you can customise to suit your dog’s needs. Don’t leave your dog in the kennel unsupervised, and always lock the doors to mitigate theft. A kennel is useful for getting your dog used to being alone while you’re still in the house.

3) Keep them entertained
If your pup is bored when alone, they may become anxious and demonstrate destructive behaviour such as chewing your furniture or using your rug as a toilet.

For mental enrichment, provide the pooch with puzzle treat dispensers, chew toys, and interactive toys. As well as this, keep the TV on playing videos designed for stimulating dogs’ senses, with common outdoor sights and sounds.

4) Install a pet camera
Even when you aren’t at home, you can still check on and communicate with your dog by installing a pet camera with two-way audio, toys, and treat dispensers. Using this device will help to keep your own separation anxiety at bay too. 

5) Socialise your dog
If you’re away from home for a large portion of the day, you may need to hire a dog sitter or ask a friend to pop in to feed your pup and take them for a walk. However, your puppy may be nervous around other people because of lockdown.

To help your dog get used to being near other humans again, invite one person who isn’t a member of your household to your home, your dog’s territory, for a short interval. Once they feel comfortable being with this person for longer periods, gradually introduce them to more people.

After implementing these tactics, your pup should be more independent and okay with being away from you. However, never leave your dog alone for longer than advised, and ensure they have enough food and water and have access to their usual toilet spot. If they do develop separation anxiety, seek advice from a dog behavioural therapist or a veterinary professional.

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