Updated: Mar 6
Preparing For or Fixing Separation Anxiety
We trainers often refer to this as separation anxiety (SA) and it is defined by an unwanted behaviour that only happens when the dog is being or is separated from its owner. This behaviour can cause distress for the dog and owner and sometimes cause rifts with neighbors. Some indicators that your dog isn't happy being left alone are things like:
Other less frequent signs (that can be more easily missed) include:
Trembling, whining or pacing
While we have spent a year at home due to COVID restrictions and lock downs or perhaps you have maybe been back and forth to the office, or you where lucky enough to get a new dog or puppy and haven't yet had to leave them for any length of time.
Prevention is better then cure!
Spend some time now (before our return to normal) to determine if your dog or puppy is comfortable being left alone. This is something very different to being left at night or in the kitchen when you are in the next room. This is an entirely different exercise or game to tackle the issue of SA. Even if your dog was fine before all this madness, if your routine has changed and any family member has been home more then usual, i would highly recommend doing this separation test.
Research suggests that 8 out of 10 of dogs will find it hard to cope when left alone, but half of these won't show any obvious signs, so it can be very easy for owners to miss. The good news though is that SA is preventable and treatable and by playing the Spy game you can see what your puppy/dog is up to when you leave the house.
This is the best time to answer that question of 'what does my dog get up to while i'm at work??..'
The Test & Spy Game
You might feel a little crazy and get some odd looks from your neighbors doing this but its all part of the fun! Get your Whole family involved and go through the motions of leaving your home as you would if you where going to visit granny, to a party, the zoo or shopping etc... Put your shoes on, your coat, pick up your bag, phone and keys, pop your dog in their spot if they have one, this could be your kitchen, crate (if trained) living room etc... then walk out the door, lock the door and walk down the road or get in your car and drive around the corner. Wait a couple of minutes and creep back to your house (remember dogs have extremely sensitive hearing) and peep through a window to see what they are up to, if they see you its game over! you will need to try again another day and find a new hiding spot.
Before now i have used my car mats to walk over gravel for this exercise and had my neighbors ask if they need to call the locksmith or men with straight jackets after seeing me stealthily peek in through our kitchen window after crawling past the front door, that's before the days of cameras and baby monitors. Of course if you can get one of those nifty cameras then i'd highly recommend it. My camera isn't great but didn't cost much and it does the trick, it also allows me to talk over the camera which is a whole other ball game. If you choose to use this function you will need to first speak over it while you are close by and put the action with the voice, our voices are very different electronically and our dogs may bark at it or just ignore it all together. So if you say 'in your bed' then go into the room and lure your dog to their bed and praise either in person or through your device.