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Caring - Avoiding seperation anxiety

Avoiding seperation anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of the most common reasons for the adoption of a 'rescue' dog to fail. If you are having a couple of days set aside to settle your new dog, make sure that you use it to his best advantage. Use it to establish a routine for him.

If possible, take him into your home in the morning, rather than later in the day and have ready the place where he will sleep.

No matter how much you are thrilled to have your dog, be sparing with attention initially. There will be all the time in the world to lavish affection on him once he has gained confidence in his new surroundings and has learned who his 'pack leader' is and what his boundaries are.

Take him for a walk, give him a small feed and take him out to spend a penny, keeping him on the lead in the garden for a couple of days. Then show him to his bed, perhaps with a biscuit, then leave him and shut the door. Do the same a couple more times during the day and by night time he will have some idea what he is expected to do. If he whines or scratches, resist the temptation to go in to him (unless he is extremely distressed). Try a few times staying out of the room and, when he whines, bump the bottom of the door with you hand and say 'No'.

Save any 'treats' for when he has done something you require of him - he will soon learn to associate the actions. Never chastise roughly (your tone of voice should be enough to make him realise that you are not pleased), or more than a few seconds after he has done something you would prefer that he didn't. He will not associate your anger with his action a few minutes ago.

Unless it is to always be the 'norm', it is not advisable to let him sleep in the bedroom to start with - no matter what you intend once he is well and truely settled. If he spends all the hours of the night in your company, he is going to miss you even more when you have to go out during the day. You then have a fretful dog, who can't be left without causing a problem.

If your new dog already has a separation anxiety problem, the answer lies in an indoor kennel and your adopting group should be able to put you in touch with someone who will hire one out. It is essential that you understand how best to use one - it must never be seen to be a punishment, rather a place for your dog to retreat to for a bit of peace and quiet and a treat. John Fisher's book "Why Does My Dog?" has an excellent chapter on the use of indoor kennels and, used properly, they are invaluable for anxious dogs, sick dogs, keeping dogs and toddlers apart and over friendly dogs off non-doggy visitors' laps, without banishing the dog to the kitchen or garden!

Acclimatising a suitable dog to be left on a regular basis

If you need to leave him on a regular basis, to go to work for instance, it's important that you discuss this with your rehoming group when starting the adoption process so that they can select a suitable dog for you. Obviously the process below only applies to a fit, healthy dog (not a puppy).

It is important to start setting his expectations as soon as possible. Leave him on his own for a little while from day 1, gradually acclimatising him to longer seperations. This teaches him to trust that you will come back. Leave him without fuss, treats or looking at him. Just go quickly and quietly. Similarly when coming back do not acknowledge him for a few minutes. This tells him that its normal for you to go out.

It's easiest to do this over a few days holiday, perhaps plus some half days. During this process even if you don't need to go anywhere you must still leave the house, if only to drive half a mile down the road and read a novel in the car!

Day 1 - leave him for half an hour.
Day 2 - 1 hour.
Day 3 - 2 hours.
Day 4 - 4 hours.
Day 5 - 6 hours.

You can extend this process making it more gradual if you have time, or if you think he might be struggling with it.

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