Leaving Your Dog Alone and Preventing Separation Anxiety
Having to leave your dog on its own at home will happen frequently so both you and your dog need to feel comfortable. If your dog is not properly introduced to the idea of being left alone, you may experience the consequences of separation anxiety. This could manifest itself as destructive behaviour, barking and whining, toilet accidents in the house etc. To be able to prevent this happening you must encourage your dog to feel comfortable alone over time. For a puppy this training should occur when its 12-14 weeks old however if you are bringing an older dog into your home you should start this within 1-2 weeks.
- Make sure your dog knows its bed and this space should always be accessible when you leave them. This bed could be in a dog crate if you are using one.
- Make sure your dog is tired, not hungry and has been to the toilet before you leave them. This will encourage them to sleep and relax whilst you are away
- Decide on the environment you are going to leave them in, such as lights off, radio on quietly, and keep this consistent whenever they are left. The actions to create this environment will serve as a cue so your dog knows when it is about to be left.
- Your dog should always have access to fresh, clean water
- As you leave, speak in a normal voice saying things like “Good dog”, “I won’t be long” as even though they won’t understand the words they will recognise the tone and find comfort in that. You could also give them a pat before you leave or a small treat. Consistency is key so try to maintain the same routine every time you leave.
- To begin with only leave for short intervals, maybe even 5 minutes, just enough time for your dog to register your departure. It is best to stay unseen but within earshot so you can intervene if you can hear your dog becoming stressed or destructive.
- Continue to make several short departures a day making sure to follow the decided routine. Once you have reached a high success rate and you are happy with your dog’s progress you can begin to leave them for longer, maybe an hour at a time. This period can increase again as the training progresses.
- Practise makes perfect and every dog is different. Some dogs may take longer to get used to being left alone whilst older rescue dogs may adjust to it easily from past experience. Pay attention to your dog and use some common sense to work out the best training routine for your dog.