Separation anxiety is an emotional condition some dogs experience when they are separated for any period of time from their owners and can include barking, howling, trying frantically to escape from where they're enclosed and other frenzied behaviors. Symptoms are the same regardless of the cause, but the method used to cure it will change depending on the reason the dog has lost its confidence in being alone. Pack member by nature, a dog can only be happy when it knows and trusts the pack leader.
Mature onset separation anxiety can occur in a mature adult dog due to past trauma experience, or can be brought on by an obsessive owner who never allows the dog to have time alone, until the over humanized pet forgets how to cope with simply being a dog. Whenever this dog is separated from its owner, it barks, yaps and howls and may even tear up the house. This situation involves complex emotional responses on both sides, and should be managed with the help of a gifted professional trainer.
Puppy separation anxiety is thankfully more common and easier to fix. Symptoms can be the result of a puppy leaving the breeder, its siblings and all things familiar in its young life to go to its new home. The house and yard are strange and different, and the scents and sounds unfamiliar. At first, all is well, with the new family member lavished with love and attention. But no one can live their life in a way that totally revolves around a puppy, and inevitably the baby finds itself suddenly alone for the first time in it's life. This might be for one hour or for five minutes, but for that puppy, it's enough to be gripped with fear of the unknown.
Will someone ever come back? Why have I been locked away and out of sight from the one who's been loving on me and who I thought was my special human? Is this forever? Panic sets in.
Mistake # 1. A likely response from the owner could at first be one of concern and they rush to comfort their new infant. "Ahhh!" puppy thinks. "now I know how to bring them back!" Inappropriate behavior has just been rewarded.
Mistake #2. By now puppy's owner is getting frustrated and worried about neighbor complaints. So in desperation, the puppy is scolded or even punished. Now its worst fears have been realized - it's not loved any more but doesn't understand why. Grovelling or crying could follow so again we revert to mistake #1. We love this puppy. We just wish it would shut up!
These tips are not like part of a cake baking recipe. They don't need to be applied in any particular order but are mixed and matched according to YOUR convenience. You are pack leader, right?
TOOLS YOU'LL NEED
* Big beach towel or blanket
* Light weight chain tether about 1 1/2 metres long (attach to heavy furniture with a 2nd collar so as to not damage the furniture)
* A bed or mat and a couple of toys.
START when puppy is quiet and settled. This is not punishment! Make sure puppy has had ample time to potty outside first
1. In the same room as you (important) put puppy into the crate with a couple of toys. Shut the crate door. Tell him "Quiet. I'll be back" and seat yourself where he can see you. When he protests, walk calmly to the crate and say this - "I'm back, now QUIET" IF he's quiet for a few seconds, encourage in a low quiet pleased voice with just one word - good
He is sure to protest again! So here's what you do next
2. Take your big beach towel or blanket and cover the crate completely - all the way to the floor - no peep holes! Just before you cover the door, tell him " QUIET I'll be back" Stay in the room. He'll know if you leave even though he can't see you.
3. When there's quiet for at least ten full minutes you can lift the covering so he can see you again before you resume your seat. As you lift the blanket, caution with "QUIET, I'll be back"
It's easy to remember because it's always the same set of words! Say nothing else so as not to confuse.
4. You'll be surprised how quickly this will work. Gradually increase the crate time with and without the blanket. When you return to the crate always remind him that you're "back" Once they have confidence that you will definitely be back a dog will wait for you for hours, days or years because you've told them you'll be back and they trust you. You'll also progress to being able to leave the room for increasing lengths of time and finally the house.
5. When he's reliable in the crate without the blanket, progress to the tether and repeat the same steps -without the blanket of course :-) . Never leave a puppy unsupervised. If he gets tangled up Go to him and help him - without speaking one single word.
ONGOING - When you've been away from your dog for a while, resist the impulse to greet him joyfully when you return. Say "I'm back .... using his name" in a matter of fact voice on your way inside and otherwise ignore him for at least 15 minutes.
Good luck! And remember that your puppy is sensitive and intuitive. Nothing is more contagious than excitability and stress. Stay firm but calm and if you feel angry, go kick a rock and regain your own serenity before handling your puppy. You'll be "rewarded" with a mirrored reaction in your puppy or your dog.
Feel welcome to post and share your experiences with this issue.
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