Separation anxiety disorders in dogs often start in puppyhood. If your pup comes from a litter or a place where they were with other dog companions and then they are removed, they can feel alone.
Because puppies need to be confined more than adult dogs, even if you have another dog for companionship it might not satisfy the puppies' needs.
If you have a pup that is subject to separation issues, it can manifest itself by barking, whining and pottying. Try making a few changes:
• Do not say "goodbye" when you leave or say "hello" immediately upon return. Too much attention adds to anxiety about your leaving. Keep your voice flat and not excited when you do communicate.
• Change your routine when you leave so the pup does not see or hear the same triggers, like putting your shoes on or taking your keys.
• Put the dog into the crate or playpen at varied times before you leave, not always just before you leave.
• For some dogs, leaving on the TV or radio can occupy their brain. The TV should be right in front of them and a show with people on it, like a talk show or an animal show, is good. Music should be calming like classical or country, where they can actually hear voice and words (no rock music, please).
• Leave special things with them to eat, like a stuffed, frozen Kong with peanut butter or cream cheese or spray cheese to keep busy, or a sterilized bone stuffed with healthy items. (Contact me by email for my personal stuffing recipe favorites).
• For the most part, items that require chewing don't work because they require too much self-calming to enjoy, while licking is self satisfying to an anxious dog. This turns a negative behavior into a positive one.
• Consider having someone come in during the day to walk or play with your pup. Doggie daycare is a great alternative, since they don't associate being left home alone.
• If you have another dog, try to leave the pup in a space where the pup can see the dog while you're gone.
• Leaving the house for short periods of time then coming back is essential so the pup learns to be confident alone. Try doing it over and over again, randomizing the amount of time you are gone, and always leaving something special to eat or lick. The amount of time you leave should be related to their age in terms of needs and potty times.
In general, a separation anxiety dog can be helped by giving less attention rather than more. Less fussiness and babying helps to build confidence. Try more separation by providing a dog bed away from you, or a crate in another room for short periods of time during the day, not only while you are gone but while you are home as well.
Do not pick up your dog when he demands attention; rather, pick him up or invite them up on your terms and not theirs. Do what you can to assure your pup grows up to become a confident and secure dog.
Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com