Puppy Training Advice That Will Change Your Life!
So, you decided to take the plunge and are now a new pet parent. Congratulations! While bringing a new pup into your life and your home is sure to be an exciting experience, it also comes with it's fair share of training, too. Socializing your dog, potty-training them, and correcting bad behaviors might be on the top of your puppy training list, but what about preventing separation anxiety? Read on to discover the puppy training advice that changed my life- and could change yours, too.
Living With An Anxious Dog
Many years before I brought home my lovable companion (and CEO of our company), Dante, I had another wonderful dog named Sam. I will never forget the day my parents surprised me and brought me to a backyard with a playpen full of adorable Bichon Shih-Tzu puppies. Sam greeted me first and from that day on, we were inseparable.
We also had a family pet at the time- a beautiful German Shepard named Sasha- but I was told that Sam was to be my dog and my sole responsibility. It was a big commitment for me at eight years of age, but I was excited to be a dog mom for the first time and vowed to be the best one that I could be.
Looking back now, I did a pretty good job of training my puppy- given my age at the time. As soon as I arrived home from school, I would rush over to Sam with excitement and we would never leave each other's side. What I did not realize was that our clingy behavior towards one another was actually encouraging unhealthy behaviors in my dog that would result in long-term stress for us both.
As the years went on and the two of us grew up together, Sam's separation anxiety became more apparent. While he was rarely left completely alone due to our large family, my siblings and parents would tell me while I was away, Sam would refuse to eat and would dismally wait by the door for my return. His behaviors only worsened if nobody was home. He would bark endlessly and destroy anything in his path.
His separation anxiety was heartbreaking for me to witness and it made it difficult for me to leave him at times. I turned down many sleepovers as a kid because I worried about leaving him alone for the night. Yet, despite his issues, we shared a wonderful ten years together before he crossed over to the rainbow bridge.
Bringing A New Dog Home
Flash forward to the fall of 2015 when I decided I was ready to be a dog mom once again. I was eager to bring a new puppy home, But I had this lingering fear that they would struggle with separation anxiety just as Sam had and since I was now an adult living on my own with a full-time job, I knew it was a situation I had to prevent if I wanted things to work. So, I logged onto my laptop and set off to uncover what I had wished I had known all those years ago when I first brought Sam home.
Common Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
According to the ASPCA website, some common symptoms that a dog may have separation anxiety include:
- Urinating or Defecating when left alone or separated from Guardians
- Barking and Howling
- Chewing, Digging, and Destruction of objects, furniture, and carpets
- Escaping or attempting to escape from an area when alone or away from Guardian
What Causes Separation Anxiety In Dogs?
According to an article by ASPCA, "While there is no conclusive evidence as to why some dogs develop anxiety, there are some situations that have been associated with the development of separation anxiety, [such as the change of a guardian or family, change in schedule or residence, or the sudden absence of a family member."]
Preventing Anxiety Before It Begins
While there is a plethora of information out there about various methods of easing your dog's mind when you leave them alone, there is one source that I trust more than anyone- Cesar Millan. While conducting my research, I came across an article on his website which I implemented the very day I brought home a 3-month-old, Dante.
Start Off Small
When you leave the house, it should not be a fearful or distressing experience for your dog. While they may not like being apart from you, they should recognize that you are coming back. You can start conditioning them by leaving them alone for small periods of time and then gradually increasing that length of time as your dog starts to feel more comfortable and calm during each absence.
I started this training early and left Dante alone for ten minutes in our apartment while I took a walk around the block. I kept increasing the time by about ten minutes every day after observing that his demeanor remained calm during each absence.
The No Interaction Rule
This is the most valuable advice I have ever received on puppy training and the proof is in the pudding (and by pudding I mean Dante). Whenever you leave your home, do not make a big deal about it to your dog. This means refraining from touching, talking, and making eye-contact with them. Leaving your dog at home should be a normal routine- not a stretched-out farewell as though you may never see each other again. When you make a big fuss about leaving, it can excite your dog and the last thing you want before you go to work is an agitated pooch.
The "no interaction rule" also applies to when you come home to your dog. When you walk in the door, do not make eye-contact, talk to, or touch your dog until they are in a calm state. I have shared this trick with my dog-mom friends and they usually look at me with horror when I tell them I have been using this rule with Dante for the last five years. Of course when I come home I want nothing more than to embrace my dog, but it is not mean to make him wait a few minutes while I take my shoes off, set my things down, and then greet him in a calm manner. In fact, when I walk in the door, without fail, Dante is always sitting on the couch, calmly waiting for me to come over to him. He never barks when I enter our home or rushes over to me in a hyper state. He always sits collectedly on the couch, happy to see me, but patiently waiting for me to make the first move.
I would also like to add to this rule by suggesting that you inform guests coming over to also practice the same rule with your dog. The only time Dante will not wait calmly on the couch when I open the front door is when I have a guest with me. While he is more than welcome to sniff out this new person entering our home, I try to remind my guests not to interact with him until he has calmed down.
I really hope this information serves you well in the early stages of your pup's development. It has been a life-saver for me knowing that I can leave my dog when needed and he is calm, safe, and comfortable in my absence.
What was the best piece of pet parent advice you have ever received? We want to know! Let us hear about your experiences or tips in the comment section below. And be sure to check out Cesar's video below for more tips on preventing and helping a dog with separation anxiety!
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