Dear VetBabble: Understanding and Easing Separation Anxiety in Dogs
The Underlying Concern
Dear VetBabble, we are new pet owners and we came across a concerning situation. Just recently, we left our beloved puppy in his crate for about an hour. Upon our return, we noticed his bark sounded strangely weak and his breathing seemed unusual. Based on his behavior, we fear that he might have been distressed due to being separated from us. We understand that the training to be left alone is essential, but how can we do this in a more gradual and comfortable way for our pet? Any help you could provide will be greatly appreciated!
Answer: Implementing a Gradual Approach
Firstly, I would like to reassure you that your concerns are quite common among new pet owners, and there are effective methods to ease your pet’s transition into being comfortable while you are away from home.
Initiation of Crate Training
Gradual introduction to crate training is a friendly approach that has proven effective in most cases. As emphasized in our guide on crate training, start by placing your puppy in the crate for just a couple of minutes with a distraction, preferably a high-value chew toy. This not only familiarizes your puppy with the crate but also creates a positive association that the crate is a pleasant place where good things happen.
Making the Crate a Comfortable Place for Rest
Over time, you can gradually increase the duration that your puppy spends in the crate until he is comfortable enough to nap in there. It’s essential that your pet becomes familiar and comfortable with the crate while you are still present in the house. This slow, careful introduction helps prevent feelings of abruptly being abandoned when you eventually leave him there alone.
As is to be expected, the first night home can be particularly daunting for dogs. The new environment can be a bit overwhelming, and your puppy might take some time to adjust. Ensuring that the crate feels like a safe, comfortable space can help significantly ease this transition.
Breaking Down Separation Anxiety
Another important aspect to consider is the potential for separation anxiety. This commonly occurs when a dog gets overly attached to its owner and becomes anxious whenever left alone. Signs include excessive barking or howling, going potty indoors, and destructive behaviors. However, implementing the strategies mentioned above can drastically reduce the risk and severity of separation anxiety.
Preparing Your Dog for Your Absence
Finally, a critical part of this transition is preparing the puppy for times when you’ll need to leave the house for longer periods, such as returning to work. As mentioned in our article on preparing your dog for your return to the office, the goal is to establish a predictable schedule that involves regular exercise, feeding and play times. Make sure your puppy is well exercised and ready for a nap before you leave, this will help calm them down.
All things considered, we understand that these are significant milestones in your puppy’s life, and it’s important to tackle each of them with patience and understanding. As always, if you’re ever uncertain or if your pet’s behavior continues to worry you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a professional for advice.