It’s a tough decision to make, but it may be time for you to head back to work after taking some time off with your new puppy. Quarantine puppies can have separation anxiety when left alone, and this article will help you avoid that all-too-common problem. You’ll learn how to prevent separation anxiety and keep your pup happy while they’re home alone!
Today, we’re going to talk about tips and tricks on how to prevent separation anxiety, or if you already have an anxiety ridden dog, what you can do to help alleviate any hiccups or destructive behaviors that come up.
Start With Short Intervals
Our first tip is to start with short intervals and build up. We’re not going to be hanging out with our dogs for eight hours a day outside of a crate and then say, “Hey, Spot, we got to go back to work, have free access to the house for eight hours.” This is a recipe for disaster! Instead, plan to leave them while you run short errands. Start with 5-10 minutes, then check on them. If they do well, increase the time to 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 2 hours, etc. If they chew up the couch, remember that they can only do so much damage in the limited time that you leave them alone — it’s not like you’re leaving them for 8 hours.
One thing to remember is that if you come home to destruction, do not get mad at the dog. They won’t know “what they did wrong,” and will not understand why you’re yelling at them. Instead, remain calm and neutral, and reduce the amount of time that you leave them loose and supervised.
Crate Your Puppy
In order to prevent couch chewing, your best approach is to crate your puppy while you’re gone. Dogs are instinctively denning animals, and the crate will create a safe space for them. This also prevents any bad habits from forming, such as getting into the trash. It’s also a great way to continue potty training your puppy.
In order to make the crate a safe space, feed your puppy in the crate. Put them in there while you’re in the house, ideally with a Kong, toy, bone, or mind puzzle. This allows them to associate good things with crate time, and reduces their stress. Stuff the Kong with peanut butter and kibble, kibble and beef broth or chicken broth, then freeze it. That way, it’ll take the dog a little longer to work out, and they’ll automatically be rewarded for being calm and working on it. By working on the Kong and getting food out, they’ll learn those oh-so-important positive associations and self-soothing techniques. In fact, if you start with the short intervals (5-10 minutes), they might not even be done with the Kong when you get back!
Alternatives To Crating Your Puppy
Eventually when your puppy is older, when they learn how to not be destructive and are potty trained, then you can let them out of their crate. Once you let them out of the crate, you can build up to letting them free in a specific area of the house. Put up some baby gates, or put them in a puppy pen. You can use these to keep them from venturing off and to finding things to get into, because that’s really important. These puppies will get into everything. You think they won’t, but they will. And then they’ll find more things to get into and you’ll wonder where they even found it. I definitely suggest limiting their access to all of the house. Maybe have a couple of rooms sectioned off just for them.
In fact, we use baby gates at our house! We have six or seven baby gates, maybe more. We just section off parts of our house to give access to the dogs. We’ve also turned our entire dining room into a dog training area. Talk about dedication to the dogs!
Once they’ve shown that they can be trusted in that larger area, you can let them have free roam of the house when you leave. At first though, you definitely want to keep them contained in a crate.
If you feel strongly about the crate and the crate’s just not something that you’re comfortable using, and you think, “oh my dog will break out of it, oh they will destroy any crate we put them in,” understand that you may be projecting your thoughts onto the dog. Start by putting them in the crate for 5 minutes while you’re home so that you can supervise them, then gradually work your way up. Another solution is to confine them to a specific area of the house with a baby gate.
At Dogology, we are all about structure, consistency, and control. The dogs make mistakes, but again, in a controlled way, in a controlled setting. If you put a bed in the crate with them and they rip it to shreds, maybe we shouldn’t allow them access to the couch or living room area.
Instead, let’s give them something to do.
Give them a bone. Give them a toy. Give them mind puzzles. I don’t know why we don’t talk about mind puzzles more often. Those little games where they have to figure out how to earn their treats and their rewards. That’s money. That is money right there. Let them work it out. Let them get mentally exhausted. Seriously guys. The Kong stuffed with their kibble. Mix that up with some chicken broth, some beef broth. Maybe some peanut butter.
Don’t Make A Big Deal About Leaving & Coming Back
When you leave your pup alone, don’t make a big deal about it. People will go “Oh Fido, give me a kissy, I’m leaving! Bye-bye! Oh I’m going to miss you SO MUCH!!” If you do, this will heighten the dog’s anxiety, and make them more fearful of your departure. Instead, put them in their crate with a Kong and leave quietly — that’s it.
When you come back, don’t make a big deal of it either. No high-pitched “OH MOMMY AND DADDY MISSED YOU SOOO MUCH!!!” If you do, they’ll learn that your return is a big deal as well. When you do come back, don’t even acknowledge your dog. Just take them straight to the backyard, allow them to go potty and then acknowledge and play and love on them. This will help them to be calm when you return, and not jumping all over you when your hands are full!
To learn more about how to prevent separation anxiety with your quarantine puppy when you’re headed back to work, check out these resources:
Treating Canine Separation Anxiety
Prevent Doggy Boredom When They’re Home Alone
It’s important that we do what is best for our dogs (and for ourselves), as we want to continue to improve our inter-species relationship. The relationship is the basis for focus-based training, and a happy dog means a happy home. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help you, reach out. We’d love to help you and your pup!