Bringing home your new dog, whether this is a puppy or a rescue dog, is an exciting time. There are lots of ways in which you can make the settling in process easy for both of you, and your dog will be delighted to have the comfort, care and affection that he or she so richly deserves. During this period you’ll be getting to know each other and your dog will be learning the house rules. During the first few days your dog may follow you around a lot, which is normal (after all, everything is unfamiliar and a bit scary, and you’re the new source of security to your dog) but this usually settles very quickly. But sometimes a dog can become over-attached to his/her new owner, and can show signs of Separation Anxiety, an issue which is common to all breeds. It can help to know in advance how to help your dog through this if there are signs it could be occurring.
Dogs have evolved alongside us for thousands of years, and, as social creatures, need company in order to thrive. It’s not really surprising that many dogs find it hard to cope with being left alone while their carers are out at work, but there are ways to help your dog cope.
Some of the symptoms of Separation Anxiety are crying, whining, howling, and destructive behaviour, and it can be distressing for both you and your dog if it occurs. A puppy will have had the constant company of the mother and littermates. A rescue dog will have been used to living in kennels, with the sounds of other dogs around him, and many dogs quickly become attached to their new owners and find it frightening to be left alone. Right from the first day you can help your dog become used to being alone so that he doesn’t howl or become destructive when you have to go out and leave him behind.
When you go into another room, close the door behind you for just a minute so that your dog is separated from you. Don’t say anything or focus on your dog to see how he’s reacting – just act casual. When you come back in a minute later, say hello but avoid making a big fuss of your dog if he greets you excitedly. As soon as he is calm, call him to you and give him lots of praise and a treat. Prolong this gradually until he is alone for a few minutes at a time and understands that you will come back. If he cries, don’t rush in and make a fuss of him – that would reward him for the behaviour you’re trying to avoid and would set up a pattern that can take time to break. Instead, wait a few moments until he pauses to draw breath and is quiet, and immediately come in and reward him with praise and perhaps a small treat.
Before you go out, leave a radio on so that there is some quiet background music or chatter. Make sure his bed is comfortable and call him over to it. Give him a chew or a stuffed kong (a toy filled with treats that he has to work hard to get at) to keep him occupied, and settle him there. Calmly get ready to go out – don’t make a fuss about leaving him. Only leave him for very short periods initially – five minutes, then ten, then fifteen – so that he quickly learns that you will soon return. Just a quick walk around the garden or down the road and back will be fine at first.
The Through a Dog’s Ear CDs are designed especially for dogs, and can help your dog cope with being left alone. Whereas radio music may contain sudden shifts in volume and tempo, these CDs are of classical music played at a gentle pace on a piano, so your dog won’t be disturbed by sounds that may increase his or her anxiety. You can find the CD range here: http://throughadogsear.com/
A phone app called PetCube enables you to check in and interact with your dog while you’re out. You can find out more about this here: https://petcube.com/
It’s lovely to be greeted with joy by our furry friends when we walk through the door, but if you have bags of shopping, or if visitors call round, being mugged by a bouncing dog can be a nuisance. When you return home, if he jumps up and gets over-excited just say a calm hello and do something (put the kettle on, hang up your coat) for a few moments until he’s stopped leaping around, and then call him to you and make a fuss of him. This teaches him that you can come and go and he has no need to worry when you’re not around. He will soon realize that it’s no big deal when you go out, and will use that time for enjoying his chew or having a snooze. And, when you arrive home, you will both be able to enjoy a calm and happy reunion!