Dog’s Eye View: Part 3 — Separation disorders
Temperament of the female during pregnancy and nurturing during the neonatal period can pre-empt the development of separation disorders. Lack of this care can compromise the behavioral development of the puppy.
Bringing that new puppy home transfers the responsibility to the new family. Structured, consistent routine and short confinement helps the pup to develop the coping skills needed to stay safely “home alone.” The puppy is removed from his comfort zone when we take him from mom and litter mates, and yes, this is a stressful time.
There is no way to prevent the stress and frustration the puppy feels. If he’s already been exposed to short periods of stress during that three- to eight-week period of development, then removing him from litter mates is easier on him if he has developed those coping skills.
Early planning for when you bring that new puppy home and how well prepared you are to integrate him into your life will help to lessen the stresses of environmental change.
Love, care and comfort will help the new puppy begin to bond with your family and start to feel safe. Seeing to his needs, supplying good quality food and play time and providing early structured kennel crate time will help him to view his sleeping area as safe.
Introducing short periods of confinement (kennel crate time) while you are at home will help him to learn that time out doesn’t last forever. Using a kennel crate also lessens the amount of potty training mistakes in those first few months.
Start by leaving your puppy confined in his crate or “safe area” for several minutes. Be sure to leave him with something to chew, such as a sterile femur bone stuffed with canned dog food and placed in the freezer. This will keep your puppy busy for quite awhile. Manage the amount of food depending on his size and weight.
Be sure you take him outside to potty as soon as you come home. All toys and treats should be age appropriate. Stuffed toys might get him in trouble if he starts unstuffing them while you are gone, so food dispensing toys and bones work much better and also help with teething.
It’s important to work up to long periods of confinement and alone time. How long depends on the age of the puppy, so planning ahead on how you will manage leaving your puppy at home is a must.
The fastest way to traumatize the puppy and set the stage for anxiety and separation distress is leaving him confined and alone for long periods of time. That will turn his kennel crate into a fear-provoking holding cell.
You can see the importance of how this new puppy starts his life and the care needed to successfully take him from his litter mates to his new home and how this can affect his early development. It will set the stage for either a confident easy-going dog or a worried, traumatized basket case.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25+ years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.
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