How to prevent separation anxiety in dogs

Jo Bennett, My Family Pet vet at Bridge Vet Centre in Wales, reveals how to train your puppies to enjoy their own company…

“Separation anxiety can be a real struggle for both owners and their dogs, and once it manifests itself as an existing condition, it can be difficult to train your dog out of it. 

The best method of dealing with separation anxiety in dogs, as with so many aspects of being a responsible and truly loving dog owner, is to prevent it before it has the chance to become a problem. Training your new puppy to enjoy their alone time is easy, especially if you start when they’re young. It doesn’t take a great deal of time and the rewards can be huge!

Why do dogs suffer separation anxiety?

Dogs can experience separation anxiety for a number of different reasons. It most commonly occurs when dogs are left alone in the house for the first time (without ever having the chance to get used to it). This could be the case if they had a canine companion that passed away. Dogs can also suffer separation anxiety if there is a change to their environment; trying times such as Bonfire Night and Christmas can lead to separation anxiety. And sometimes, dogs can suffer separation anxiety because aren’t getting enough mental and physical stimulation (also known as: when they’re bored).

The training process

First off – set up a location that will one day be the place your young puppy spends all of their alone time. They should associate this space with positivity and comfort, so make sure to give them a treat before they go there. You can use their crate too – it’s also great for your puppy to associate their crate positively. 

Place your puppy in this location for a very short period of time. If you can, use a safety gate, rather than shutting the door, so you can still see them (and they can still see you). Leave them with their treat, lots of their toys and comfy blankets, for a few minutes, then come back to greet them. 

Simply repeat this process again and again, increasing the length of time your puppy spends alone, until they can comfortably go for half an hour. Once you reach this stage, you can start leaving the house for very small periods of time. 

Your pet will then be used to their own company. You leaving will be a standard process – as will you coming back!

Once again though, this process only really works for puppies. If your dog has an established or serious phobia of being alone, always seek the help of a vet, qualified canine behaviourist or both. 

Good luck!'

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