A few words on avoiding separation anxiety

IMG_5947So, you got a new puppy, and you’re really in love, right?!  Of course you are.  How could you not be?  Just look at that face.  So what do you do as soon as you get home to him?  You squeal with excitement and really get him going!  What do you do before you leave?  You talk to him in a very sweet voice, and tell him you’ll see him really soon and to be a good boy and that you LOOOOOOVE him!!

All of that is highly likely and totally understandable.  All of that is also a good way to foster separation anxiety in your pup.  You’re doing what makes sense to you and what feels right.  The thing is, your dog doesn’t speak or understand the same language you do.  When you get him super excited upon getting home, you make a giant event of your presence.  You make your entrance very important, and he will certainly respond.  Your excitement will feed his.  It seems harmless, but this can easily lead to everyone’s coming into your apartment being met with too much dog.  If during his entire puppyhood he was encouraged to engage you exuberantly each time you entered your home and rewarded with sweet sounds, loving touch and affection, he will continue as an adult.  If this behavior is not desired as he gets older it will be much harder to break than to simply avoid.  If on the other hand you come in and ignore him for the first 5-10 minutes, you’re not denying him your love.  You’re simply sending the message that it’s not a big deal for you to come in.  You will be able to enter without it being the Doggie Show for the first 5 minutes every time you get home.

On the other end of this is your departure.  If each time you leave, you make a big deal of letting him know how much you love and will miss him, you’re making an event of your departure and drawing attention to it.  You are also getting him worked up and excited and then abandoning him in that state.  Now he is excited and alone, acutely aware of your sudden absence.  This often leads to the dog that barks and howls when you leave.  You may not mind (as you are not there), but your neighbors do.  Your pooch isn’t thrilled either.  Once again, a good approach to avoiding this starting while he’s a puppy is to ignore him for 5 to 10 minutes before you leave.  If he is crate training, put him in before you go, wait until he is calm, do not engage him again, and just go.  He will be relaxed upon your exit, and it will not be an event at all.  This will lead to a well adjusted adult dog who can handle you coming and going.

Obviously, nothing is fool-proof, but barring a special case of a very needy dog, these good habits can really help you avoid your puppy developing separation anxiety down the road.

Hope that helps!

Mike.