by Jenny Mee // June 2017
Leaving your dog alone
Teaching a dog to cope with being left alone is a vital skill for any dog, whether a new puppy, an adult dog or a rescue dog recently added to your family.
- Ensure your dog has somewhere safe and comfortable to go if they are feeling worried – maybe a crate, their comfy bed or even a little den under the table! Watch where and how they choose to relax.
- Teach them to settle when you are in the house but not giving them attention. Use food toys, chews, etc to help with this.
- Practise leaving the room (and then the house) for only seconds at a time to start with.
- Build up the time that they are left very, very gradually.
- Your dog will find it easier to settle if they are ready for a sleep! So try to ensure they have had a nice walk, or even a short training session in the garden, before you go.
- Avoid being too predictable! Humans are a very predictable species, and we often give a lot of subtle cues that we are going to leave – pick up keys, coat on, shoes on, check doors, turn the TV off, etc……try to vary your routine and not make a big deal to your dog about you leaving!
- And don’t forget to give your dog things to do (kongs, destruction boxes, chews, toys) and ensure they have access to fresh water (and shade or a cool floor on a warm day).
If not carefully introduced, a young puppy can develop issues with separation. In the case of an older dog, this may already be present. Separation related problems can show themselves as one or more of the following behaviours; destructive behaviour, soiling or urination in the home, persistent barking / howling, or even self-mutilation – that your dog does whenever they are left alone.
Other signs may include visible anxiety (panting, pacing up and down, etc) at the first sign that you are about to leave.
So, how can we help..?
- Don’t punish any behaviours that he shows – however unwanted they may be to you! Separation related issues are a sign of your dog’s emotional state, and NOT an intentional or “naughty” act by your dog. Punishing your dog on your return for anything that he may have done in your absence will only increase the amount of anxiety and confusion that he feels.
- Try and ensure the whole family gets involved (where possible) with feeding, walking etc so that your dog does not just become attached to one person;
- The treatment for this type of behaviour problem can take many weeks. You will have to be very patient. For the first two or three weeks you will have to make arrangements so that he is never left alone.
- Initially you have to teach him to relax when you are around him but busy doing something else (as described above) and take things SLOW.
- And if you are still struggling – don’t be afraid to ask for help!
For more information, why not book onto our Separation Anxiety Talk at Dogs Trust Loughborough?
Tickets are £10 per person and the talk is on Saturday 15th July 1.30 pm - 3.00 pm.
T: 01509 882316