Building Independence

Building independence can be a tricky challenge with a puppy or newly adopted rescue dog at the best of times. It can be hard to teach a dog that they can be safe without you with them, however right now there is a bigger challenge. As a lot of people will be home with their dogs, their dogs will become used to their owners being home with them.

For some dogs this won’t make a difference. When normality returns, they will be keen to have a peaceful day at home, and a trip out with the dog walker! However for some dogs there is the risk they may find this confusing, or even hyper attach to their owners and feel insecure about their owners absences.

One of my own dogs has separation anxiety, so we will be working on maintaining independence alot, and have been doing so. Here are some tips and advice for helping maintain confidence about being alone/separated.

-If your dog is crate trained, try ensuring they have some crate time each day. Whether they are well behaved or not, it keeps them in the habit of staying in their crate, as well as having some time independent from you. Try “flitting” while they are in their crate.

-If your dog is not crate trained, try having them behind a gate, or you simply work from upstairs while your dog is downstairs (or Vice Versa) You may need to build up positive associations with being separated first.

-Flitting is worth doing alot of. This is simply you being around your dog in their chillout area, (a crate or gate for example) and leaving the room for short periods your dog can cope with before returning. Doing this a few times helps ensure that your dog can cope with you leaving.

-Several times a day try opening and closing the front door without leaving. This can help your dog get used to you using the door, and it not always involving them.

-Try leaving them with puzzles such as kongs while you flit and do house work, this will help keep your dog busy if they are particularly worried.

-Try setting up a treat scavenging hunt in the garden for your dog. Hide lots of treats, and then they have to search them out without your help. This helps them realise you don’t need to be involved in the game and they can problem solve alone.

-If your dog already has separation anxiety, now is the perfect time to work on it if you re home. As you don’t HAVE to leave them often, you can build up desensitisation to leaving rituals and more. This will pay off hugely.

-For a lot of people you might not be able to leave the house often. If you have a back garden,try spending some time there without your dog, as this will help some separation with you being out of the house.

-Ensure you are meeting your dogs needs. Each dog will have individual needs, but ensure that you are meeting them. For Arthur he needs sufficient physical exercise, scent based treat finding games, chasing games, training games and chews along with time with me as well as away from me. This will vary dog to dog, and how you go about it too. But a huge part of preventing separation issues is for your dog to know their needs will be met, and they can feel secure.

-DO spend time with your dog though, don’t suddenly start ignoring them, as this will create anxiety and further problems. Instead build up independence thoughtfully.

-For some dogs, their owner being around might be alot to take! They might be anticipating fun alot and struggling to settle. With dogs like this I suggest lots of rewarding calm, and ensuring their needs are met, lots of fun but tiring enrichment games and training games. Combined with somewhere quiet they can chill without being bothered. Often dogs like this struggle with comings and goings in a busy household. Try and get these dogs working for some of their daily amount of food, as well as trying to slyly reward them with a treat dropped next to them when they are calm and relaxed.

Always ensure your dog is not distressed when you are flitting or creating absences. If they are, get in touch to learn how to help your dog in a more comprehensive way.