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  • Writer's pictureSara Scott

Separation Anxiety 101 - Proactively Teach Your New Dog Home Alone Skills

Separation anxiety is a common problem that many dogs face, causing them to feel distressed and panicked when left alone. This distress can lead to various undesirable behaviors, such as incessant barking, destructive chewing, or going to the bathroom indoors. However, there's good news! By being proactive and teaching your new dog how to feel comfortable alone from the very beginning, you can prevent separation anxiety from developing altogether. The key is to start training your dog to enjoy their own company as soon as you bring them home, rather than waiting until signs of separation anxiety appear. With patience, consistency, and the right strategies, you can help your dog become a confident and well-adjusted companion who feels secure even when you're away.


The initial days after bringing a new dog home are crucial for setting the foundation for a healthy relationship. When you first bring a dog home, they aren't bonded to you just yet. This is the perfect time to begin separation work. Take advantage of this opportunity to start separation training before your dog becomes overly attached or dependent on your presence.


It's important to note that dogs adopted from shelters may not show signs of separation anxiety in the shelter environment, but it can manifest once they are in a home with their new people. Don't wait for that to happen. To prevent this, begin gradual departure training from day one, even if your dog seems content when left alone initially.


Many new dog owners make the mistake of assuming that their new dog or pup will naturally be comfortable when left alone. However, just like any other skill, being relaxed while alone is something that needs to be taught and practiced. By incorporating home alone training into your dog's routine right from the start, you can help them develop the necessary coping skills to prevent separation anxiety from developing.


Don't wait until your dog starts exhibiting problematic behaviors before addressing their ability to be alone. By being proactive and teaching this valuable skill early on, you can ensure a smoother transition for your new dog or puppy and prevent separation anxiety from becoming an issue.


In this blog post, we'll explore five essential tips for preventing separation anxiety in your new dog. These techniques will help you create a positive, secure environment for your pet and lay the foundation for a happier, more harmonious home life. Whether you're a first-time dog owner or an experienced pet parent, implementing these strategies consistently will set your dog up for success and prevent separation anxiety from becoming a problem.



Tip 1: Decide on a safe spot for your dog


Decide on their safe spot, somewhere they will live most of the time that keeps them safe. Some dogs will be able to enjoy full reign of your entire home, while younger dogs or adult dogs learning how to live in a human house may need a curated space that prevents them from practicing behaviors we don't want. Common options include using a baby gate to block off a certain part of the house. X-pens can be used to block access to another room or to prevent access to a bookshelf or entertainment center.


When deciding on a safe spot for your dog, it's important to give them as much space as possible while still ensuring their safety and preventing any unwanted behaviors. Most dogs thrive when provided with ample room to move around, as it helps them feel more comfortable and less confined.


Consider your dog's individual needs and behavior when choosing their designated area. If your dog is generally well-behaved indoors, you may be able to give them access to a larger portion of your home. On the other hand, if your dog is still learning how to live in a human household, you may need to start with a smaller, more manageable space and gradually increase their freedom as they prove they can handle it responsibly.


Remember, it's about what sort of behavior your dog is likely to do when you are there. Even if your dog has a history of doing poorly home alone, we are after training sub-threshold departures where the dog remains relaxed and calm when you aren’t there. That means training will not allow any departures that stress the dog to an unhealthy level.


The key is to observe your dog's behavior when you are present and use that as a guide for determining the level of management required when you're away. If your dog is typically well-behaved and calm in your presence, it's likely that with proper training, they can learn to be just as comfortable and relaxed when alone.


Tip 2: Start practicing leaving your dog on day one


Begin practicing brief departures from the moment you bring your new dog home. Start by simply stepping out of their sight for a few seconds, such as going behind a door, closing it, and then returning. Pay attention to your dog's reaction during these short absences. Throughout the first day, continue this process of coming and going, disappearing for brief periods, and then reappearing.


At this early stage, it's essential not to push the duration of your dog's alone time. The primary goal is to accumulate many successful departures where you leave, return, and your dog remains relatively unbothered. This process helps your dog learn that your absence is not a big deal and that you will always come back to them.


Tip 3: Use a webcam to monitor your dog when home alone


A webcam is an invaluable tool for observing your dog's behavior when you're not at home. It allows you to see how your dog reacts to being alone, which is essential for assessing their progress and identifying any potential issues. Ideally, you want to see your dog mostly sleeping or resting calmly when you're away. Without a camera, you can only guess what your dog is doing, which makes it harder to address any problems that may arise.


Webcams are incredibly affordable, with many options available for around $20 or less. They are a must-have piece of equipment for anyone who is bringing home a newly adopted dog or puppy and wants to ensure a smooth transition to being alone.


By using a webcam to monitor your dog's behavior when you're away, you can quickly spot any signs of distress or anxiety. This information is crucial for adjusting your training approach and creating a personalized plan that meets your dog's specific needs. If you see your dog resting calmly, it will give you peace of mind and boost your confidence in your separation training progress. On the other hand, if you notice any signs of distress, you can take steps to address the issue before it escalates into full-blown separation anxiety.


Tip 4: Gradually increase the duration of your absences


Once your webcam is set up and ready to go, start leaving through the front door for progressively longer periods. Begin with just a few minutes and monitor the video feed live on your phone. If you notice any signs of anxiety in your dog, such as pacing or whining, return immediately before the behavior escalates and your dog experiences even higher levels of anxiety.


The goals is to return before your dog becomes anxious about your absence. By watching the webcam, you can observe your dog's behavior and determine the best moment to come back, such as when they are settling down for a nap or calmly playing with a toy.


The primary objective is to accumulate multiple successful instances of your dog being alone and remaining relaxed, as if you were still at home with them. It's crucial not to push your dog too far too quickly, as this can lead to increased anxiety. Instead, focus on gradually extending the length of your absences while ensuring your dog stays calm and comfortable throughout the process.


Tip 5: Extend your absences and plan for longer outings


Once your dog is comfortable being alone for 15 minutes, which you can practice by spending time in your front yard or playing on your phone in your car, it's time to try longer absences. Try a 20-minute trip to the store or take the opportunity to go for a solo walk around the block.


As your dog successfully handles these longer absences without exhibiting signs of distress, gradually plan for even more extended outings. Increase the duration to 30 minutes, then 45 minutes, and eventually work up to 1-2 hours. After a couple of successful home alone sessions lasting over an hour, your dog will likely be ready to handle longer periods of solitude with ease.


Throughout this process, continue monitoring your dog's behavior using the webcam to ensure they remain relaxed and comfortable during these extended absences. If you notice any signs of distress, such as pacing, whining, or destructive behavior, take a step back and work on shorter durations again before progressing. Additionally, if you observe any persistent or escalating signs of anxiety, reach out to a certified separation anxiety behavior consultant to address these issues before they become a major problem. Early intervention is key – something that might be a quick fix in a few weeks could turn into 6 months of hard work if allowed to fester before getting professional help. A certified consultant can provide personalized guidance and support to help your dog overcome their separation anxiety more efficiently and effectively.


Conclusion


Preventing separation anxiety in your new dog is a crucial aspect of their training and well-being. When bringing a new dog or puppy into your home, it's essential to assume that they do not come with the skills to be comfortable alone. Just like any other skill, being relaxed while alone is something that needs to be taught and practiced. By incorporating home alone training into your dog's routine from day one, you can set them up for success and avoid the potential stress and challenges that come with separation anxiety.


By following these tips, being consistent in your approach, and seeking professional help when needed, you can help your dog become a confident, well-adjusted dog who enjoys their alone time just as much as their time with you. Remember, every dog is different, so be patient and always prioritize your dog's comfort and happiness.


With the right mindset, strategies, and support, you can prevent separation anxiety from becoming a problem and enjoy a loving, stress-free relationship with your new dog. By investing time and effort into your dog's home alone skills from the very beginning, you'll be setting them up for a lifetime of success and happiness, both when they're by your side and when they're enjoying some much-needed alone time.


 

Do you need help teaching your new dog home alone skills with a focus on preventing separation anxiety? You're not alone. Many new dog owners face this challenge, but with the right guidance and training, you can help your dog become a confident, well-adjusted companion who enjoys their alone time.


That's where my separation anxiety coaching comes in. As a certified separation anxiety behavior consultant, I will work with you one-on-one to create a personalized training plan tailored to your dog's specific needs. You'll learn proven strategies for gradually increasing your dog's comfort with being alone, as well as how to identify and address any signs of anxiety before they escalate.


Don't let separation anxiety put a damper on your relationship with your new dog. Click here to learn more about my separation anxiety coaching and start your journey to a calmer, happier home life for both you and your beloved pet.

1 Comment


Narcisse ADJOKPO
Mar 26

Joli a voir

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