We’ve been re-watching “Friends” lately, and its theme song by The Rembrandts is quite fitting for this week’s puppy blog update on preventing dog separation anxiety. From Rocket’s first arrival, we have made sure either myself or my husband is there for Rocket at all times. We made this commitment because we believe it is a vital investment in building the trust and relationship with Rocket that will follow through into his adulthood.
Separation Anxiety – a natural puppy behaviour?
It is normal for any young puppy to find it difficult being on their own, even for a few minutes. Building confidence alone takes time.
Before we brought Rocket home, he had been snuggling up with his mum and his litter mates practically 24/7. And even with a super breeder who will set up the space to allow puppies to find their own natural time alone, it will still be difficult when everything in their world suddenly changes.
Everything Familiar Has Gone
We have swooped him away from his mother, his litter-mates and familiar surroundings, brought him to our home where everything is new and novel. This is one of the key reasons we spent the last two weeks building relationship and confidence with Rocket. We were there for him as much as we humanly could, and spending those first few nights with him so he wasn’t alone at night was key in helping him to settle, but even stepping out to get his kong, or re-fill his water bowl or even popping to the bathroom seemed to be a big task.
We Are The Source Of Puppy’s Confidence
To build Rocket’s confidence in being alone naturally, we need to make sure that we are consistently available so that he does not feel worried when he is alone or become distressed.
If we rush this process it can become a problem later on, we want him to grow that confidence in being alone so that he can better cope with it later on. Luckily there are things that will help to achieve this.
What We Have Done With Rocket:
- Crate games and making it a special place.
- Spend those first few nights sleeping near him, either bringing him upstairs in a crate or we sleep on the couch next to his crate.
- Gated communities with pens and baby gates.
- Licki mats, kongs and chews if we need to leave the room for a while.
- Growing calmness and confidence in general.
- We have a web camera set up so we can see what he is up to.
But I’ve Got Things To DO!?
Of course we still need to get things done, so if we need to leave for a while or pop out then planing ahead is key. Before I leave, I will make time to do some calm training games with Rocket, play a bit of toy switch, then again some calming games. Let him have a wonder about the garden or maybe a new room. Then I will take him out to toilet again, make sure he has water and give him a long lasting chew or a Kong. Sometimes I stay with him until he settles and leave as he drifts off to sleep.
When Puppy sleeps, they can last for an hour or so. This is the perfect opportunity to get the chores done. Then try to get back before they wake up, or starts whining and take them outside to toilet.
Helping Puppy To Settle
Rocket still has a lot of moments when he whines if I pop out the room, or put him in his pen. Most of the time, he settles after a minute or two. When he doesn’t settle after a little while, I will go through a simple Puppy’s Need Checklist.
- Do they need the toilet?
- Do they need water?
- Are they hungry?
Often, just doing this would be enough to settle him down, other times a covered crate really helps as it is dark and cosy, and can get some good sleep with less distractions.
Love & Cuddles
It may be he just needs a bit more time with me before he is comfortable enough to settle. With all his biting it can be hard to have a good cuddle with him but if I hold a chew, kong, or favourite toy sometimes he will settle on my lap. I then transfer him over to his pen or crate to sleep.
We’ve heard some companies now offer ‘Pawternatiy Leave’ (BBC article), and we think it’s such an amazing idea. If you are planning on getting a puppy we suggest to take two to three weeks off work, or work from home as much as possible. When you do need to go back to work the best option is to hire someone to come in and look after your puppy so they are not alone for more than an hour or two.
Toilet Training Update
We have now seen some great progress, Rocket has started to wait until we take him outside to toilet. We are having much fewer accidents and have managed to put toileting on cue. At 12 weeks old this is very good progress already.