How to Prevent Separation Anxiety - Separation Training For Dogs
If you want to know how to prevent separation anxiety in your dog, give this article a read. Whether you have a new addition and want to know how to prevent separation anxiety in puppies, or you want to know how training can improve your dog’s confidence and independence generally - we can help!
Fixing behavioral issues like separation anxiety is always tougher than taking small steps to prevent them in the first place.
Especially if you’ve just welcomed a new addition into your home, it’s important to know how to prevent separation anxiety in puppies and adoptees to help them put their best paw forward when joining your family.
So let’s look at some of the key steps you can take as a pet parent to prevent separation anxiety.
How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Puppies
Let’s start with what to do when you welcome a young doggo into your life.
Don't Rush the Process
As we mention in our guide to The First 24 Hours With Your Puppy, new additions need a while to settle in. This means that for the first week or so, they’re going to need lots of reassurance, company, and cuddles.
Far from causing a separation issue, which some pet parents might fear would happen, this approach allows your puppy to adjust in a safe & humane way. They are allowed to understand that you are there to help, support, and nurture them and that their needs will be met. This sets the foundation for a bond built on trust.
Once your puppy has settled in well, which could take 1-2 weeks or more depending on their background and personality, then you can begin the next steps in their separation training.
Top Tip: It’s also worth noting that a lot of puppies become much more naturally independent when they reach 4-5 months old, so bear that in mind too.
Teach Them How To Behave In A Pen Or Crate
Instead of placing your puppy in a pen, leaving the room, and wearing your earplugs - it’s smarter to take the approach of teaching your puppy how you want them to react in these situations.
This starts with teaching them how you’d like them to behave around barriers, like their pen or a crate, as the first hurdle with separation training is often barrier frustration. Ie: Puppies are tiny fluffy toddlers who want to be with you 24/7 - so what the heck are these bars in the way!
To begin teaching them how you’d like them to behave, and the concept of alone time, start to devote some training sessions to barrier work.
Once they’ve had plenty of stimulation (and that all-important pee break) when they are feeling a little sleepy as opposed to wired, place or lure them into the pen or crate. From here, encourage them to lie on a bed or cozy mat (like their Potty Buddy), and reward them for doing so.
Then, start to take steps away from them, and reward them for staying put. Start with one and work from there. Eventually, you’ll build up to doing this with the crate door closed, or on the other side of the pen, and if you’re lucky they might even fall asleep during this game - especially if you place the treats down ever so calmly between their paws.
If your puppy exhibits behavior like whining, pawing, or following you, simply redirect them back to their bed and try again, taking a step back and making it easier for them to succeed.
You can read our guide to Handling Crate Whining for more information on how to tackle those early days of crate training the right way.
Teach Them Being Alone Is Cool
Once the above exercise is successful, you can move on to stepping out of sight. Take the same approach as above, and slowly build their confidence and duration.
The idea here is to have them understand that being alone for periods of time and staying chilled is an excellent idea that gets them lots of treats.
So when they succeed, make sure to give them lots of calm praise and deliver treats between their paws in a soothing manner. This will make sure they understand that crate/pen time is quiet time that’s to be enjoyed for napping and relaxing.
Practice Leaving The House Lots
Once you can successfully leave your little doggo alone in a room for longer periods of time, start adding in the process of you leaving the house.
Don’t underestimate the new variables here: you putting on outdoor clothing, putting on shoes, jangling your keys, and opening and shutting the door. All of these little extras can throw off your puppy! So if you need to, add these steps to your training before you actually leave, reinforcing the idea that these actions are nothing to worry about.
Top Tip: Sometimes giving your dog a special treat when you leave can help them have positive associations with alone time. A frozen kong filled with something yummy like banana, peanut butter, or natural yogurt is a great idea.
When you first start leaving, stay close by and perhaps even record your puppy on your phone, to see how they are handling the alone time. Start small, with increments of 5 minutes. Once they seem comfortable, you can start to vary the time - 30 minutes, 1 hour, 15 minutes, back to 30 minutes, and so on.
Never be afraid to take some steps back here if you notice your puppy gets freaked. Building this confidence is an amazing investment in your dog’s future, so it’s definitely worth the time and effort involved.
And remember setting your doggo up for success is key. So make sure they are suitably tired out before you leave them alone - or expect possible chaos and destruction on your return.
Top Tip: Throughout these exercises, and on your camera, if you have one, look for relaxed bloody language to tell you that you are on the right track. Lying down, soft blinking eyes, floppy limbs, and…well…snoring are all good signs your dog is feeling calm and relaxed!
How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Dogs
If you are welcoming a new dog into your home, either a rescue or adoptee, then you might want to follow the above steps anyway - even though they aren’t a puppy.
While you might not have to work on any barrier frustration (as thankfully they are less likely to chew everything in sight!), they may have had some past experiences that make them find alone time stressful. Or you may have no indication of how they will cope alone. So starting from scratch is never a bad idea! You can simply work up to being alone at the pace your new dog seems comfortable with.
With dogs, establishing a solid routine is often the best way to help them acclimatize to alone time, so get them started on one as soon as you can.
And as they say, if you don’t use it you lose it! So even if you work from home, perhaps take time to work from a cafe a few times a week, or simply put aside a few hours with your office door shut, to help them understand that alone time is a part of everyday life.
Leaving them with something fun like a stuffed, frozen kong is always a great way to make alone time special for your doggo. Make sure they have cozy space to curl up in too.
Separation Training For Dogs - The Wrap Up
Teaching your dog how to be alone is a crucial life skill that is well worth spending time and effort on. We hope this guide has provided you with a useful dog separation anxiety training schedule, to take the guesswork out of teaching independent doggos.
Let us know how you get on by tagging us on Instagram - @pottybuddy.co :-)
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