Lots of puppies and rescue dogs – adolescent and adult – are described by their people as “Velcro dogs”. This is not unusual and not necessarily a predictor of persistent separation distress behaviors. Of course, these young or disadvantaged animals are not yet secure in their new or changed environments.
Ultimately, we must move about our space and leave while our dog remains at home. Most people have the goal of giving the dog free roam of the house. We all want to feel comfortable the dog will not chew or soil while alone.
One step at a time. Can we walk out of a gated area or leave the puppy/rescue alone while doing a task in another area of the home?
What is needed for puppies and rescues to relax when alone?
Accepting it is a process
A plan is needed to move away from your puppy’s or rescue’s distress when you are absent. This can happen gradually with some and very gradually with others – depending on the nature of the dog. It can help when there is more than one family member who is the designated caregiver.
Crates, playpens, and gates are all good containment options. I recommend introducing crate training as early as possible, acknowledging that it is not the best option for all dogs. It is the most reliable means of containment.
One start to this process can be a phrase that becomes relevant – “I’ll be back”. The expected outcome for the dog is a brief absence paired with a fun activity for him.
Early training builds confidence, connection to the new humans, and increased cognitive abilities. Training in “sit and wait” cues, then applying those to this context provides a tool and directive for exiting the space. “I’ll be back.” The handler needs to learn to adjust criteria and set the puppy/rescue up for success.
A meaningful reinforcement schedule is important. This is another opportunity to teach your puppy/rescue the joy of working for food.
When the puppy/rescue is mentally occupied with a human’s absence, there is no room to relax. This is where enrichment activities are helpful: chews and food foraging toys/devices. A red or black Kong Classic, snuffle mats, and lick mats are all great options. Introduce these activities before expecting your puppy to engage while you are absent. A level above novice is needed.
Wondering how to implement these elements of training, conditioning, and cognition? I can guide you down the path to resolution and the best outcome for your dog. Visit my website at www.kimberlymandel.com/solutions or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-358-4783.
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Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC