Preventing Separation anxiety for when we come out the other side.
When the lockdown lifts and we are return to whatever is our normal it will be all too common for us dog trainers to be called out for more help with separation anxiety as little thought has been put into setting a routine to prevent it beforehand.
So what can you do now to prevent future stress and strain on both you and your beloved hounds?
Start a routine now where your dog is in a separate room from you, regularly and in the day.
Even if your dog is used to being kept in another room or crate while you are sleeping at night. I would suggest you still do this. This is very different to your dog – daytime is different.
Think about what area of the house your dog would be when you leave the house or go to work normally. If for example your dog is normally left to free roam the whole of your downstairs you may need to schedule watching a film upstairs each day, or working on your laptop upstairs. Leave your dog downstairs with a chew or treat toy to keep them occupied.
If you would like to change where your dog is left in your absence then use this time as an opportunity to change it to what you would like in future.
Commonly the first contributing factor I see to separation anxiety with clients is that when they are present and at home the dog has constant access to them, other than when briefly in the garden to do their business. It’s so important that a dog learns to relax in a separate room from you, with doors or gate shut so there is a physical barrier between you both.
I am not saying you should shut your dog away from you all the time at all, just short periods each day, and being more mindful of it while we are on restricted movement and in lockdown.
If this is a new concept to your dog, being shut away while you are at home then:
· Build these sessions up gradually, short periods to start with and less than ten minutes.
· Don’t make a big fuss of them when leaving them or returning to them.
· If they start to struggle, then go back to them quicker the next time, before they have started to become distressed, and extend the time gradually while setting them up to succeed
· Give them something to do such as a chew or an activity when you leave them.
· Make it a routine, each day you work on this and more than once each day ideally.
· Ensure their needs are met before you practice – They have eaten they have had some form of exercise mentally and/or physically and they have toileted.
· If you have children in the house, then a time of day when they are more quiet would be most helpful to practice this with your dog. Maybe if the children are watching tv etc. If the children are out having fun in the garden your dog will want to go and join in the fun and this will not be fair on your dog to expect them to settle at this stage while exciting and loud things are happening in other areas of your house/garden.
Remember to discuss this with everyone in the family and agree on times that you will practice this so they don’t walk into that area of the house and disturb or inadvertently reward your dog while you practice.
It’s so nice to be able to spend more time with our dogs than normal and they are an amazing comfort in such uncertain times however for their sake and yours please do put some ‘non routine, routine’ protocols in place to help them with the future transition back to normal.
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