Teaching your new puppy it's ok to be alone!
Are you worried about your new puppy coping with separation?
Right now, puppies are winning! The have us at home more than ever before, but what happens once this craziness is all over, and we are all back to work?
It’s definitely a valid concern, dogs are social animals, but there are lots of things we can put in place now, to help our pups cope better in the future.
Puppies, just like kids, are less likely to suffer from Isolation (separation) distress, if they have a secure attachment to their primary caregivers (us humans). If they have a solid bond and relationship with their people, separation feels safe and their independence grows.
How do we build that secure attachment/ bond with our new puppy?
Well, it does feel counter intuitive, especially as we are talking about separation… but, we do need to be available and frequently accessible to our puppy. We no longer prescribe to the idea of ‘letting them crying it out’. How can we possibly build a bond with our pup, if he cries and we don’t comfort him? Then separation really does feel stressful for them.
Initially, we want to build our little pups confidence and THEN slowly increase separation, and even then, at a rate your pup is comfortable with. Forced separation where the puppy is left to become distressed, is detrimental to their development and your relationship with them.
What we are looking for early on, are some short, safe separations you can achieve in your own home, so your pup starts to associate being left with really awesome stuff happening!
So what CAN we do?
Here are some simple ideas for separations you can start on immediately:
- Leave an exciting or rewarding thing for your puppy to find and eat in the other room while you eat dinner, work on the computer or watch TV every day. It’s a smart idea to even tie a filled Kong or edible chew in the other room, so your puppy stays with the chew/Kong, then when he’s finished he can just wander back to you. Using boxes filled with treats is also an excellent way to build short fun separations (click on the picture below for a tutorial video)
- Simply shutting the door when you go to the loo! It provides a short amount of time for the pup to get used to not being able to follow you everywhere! To begin with, naturally, puppies want to follow us everywhere. If your pup follows you to the loo, simply keep a little pot of treats in the loo and drop one of the floor, as you close the door for your pup each time. It won’t be long before they look forward to that door closing.
- Have a safe puppy pen in the room you spend most of your time in. Start to give your puppy his breakfast in a feeding toy in his pen, whilst you’re at a distance from the pup. Then let him out once he's finished his breakfast.. don't forget to take him straight outdoor after he's eaten, for his toilet training too.
- Other than these and similar small inoculations of absence, you must be accessible and allow your puppy to follow and be close. Independence will grow naturally as your puppy feels secure in their relationship with you.
Building that important bond with your new puppy:
- So we know it's important to be readily available and comfort our pups to build that bond, but, training together is also a powerful tool. Mat or bed training is the perfect exercise to start working together on with your pup. It also has the added bonus that you're teaching your pup to chill at the same time. Win-win!
You will need lots of soft treats, your pups bed or mat and your little pup. I would advise doing this training during the day when your pup is naturally tired already. Keep sessions short and sweet, maximum 5 minutes for young pups.
- Begin by encouraging your dog to go to their bed and stay there for a short while with you present. Reward your dog for remaining quietly in their bed by placing a treat on the bed. Ensure you place the treat on the bed in a calm manner and not directly to their face. Our end goal is for our dogs to be calm and having them sniff for the treat and lower their head will encourage this.
- Once your dog is comfortable, start to take a step away, if your dog remains calmly in his bed, return and place another treat on his bed.
- Continue this routine, moving progressively further away, you can use the number of step away to track your progress. The distance and length of time that you increase on occasion will depend on your dog.
- If your dog reacts or moves off their bed, don't reward them and NEVER punish them - instead just lure back to their bed with a treat and rewarder getting back on their bed. Then go back a stage and make it easier.
- Progress the training and start leaving the room before returning. Please note that the first time you go out of sight will likely be hard for your pup, so keep this stage short initially.
- Next, go out and shut the door behind you before staying outside for longer periods of time. Once at this point, start to vary the length of time that you are out.
Using games to teach your pup to focus on you is another excellent way to build on the relationship. It has the added bonus of building real value on ignoring distractions and paying attention to you... very valuable when out on walks. I've added a link below to my favourite focus games to start with. Again, keep sessions short and sweet for young pups. Click on the picture below to access them.
If you'd like support with your new pup or just a place to ask any questions you like, join me on "Super Woofers Training Talk" Facebook group, by clicking the picture below, and feel free to ask away!