Sadie, our 18-month-old Havanese, came to us at 12 weeks at the start of pandemic lockdown. Well, I know it’s my fault for taking her everywhere with me, for putting her in her crate at night and staying until she settles.
With three adults in the household, she focuses on me ALL the time. If I go out without her she’s a mess until I return. How can I help her to stay alone for a few hours without losing her mind?
You’re so right in referring to Sadie as a pandemic puppy! You’re not alone. I was writing and telling people at the beginning of the pandemic, “Get out and get puppy used to being alone,” and how to do it. My guess is that 40 to 50 percent of the (hopefully) “post pandemic” questions I’ve been getting have to do with separation anxiety.
The first thing I’d suggest is that you start making Sadie less dependent on you by asking the two other adults in the house to help. If they feed her for a couple of weeks instead of you and take her out for occasional walks, it will broaden her worldly view. You’ll always be her sun amongst many stars, but by decreasing her “neediness” for you it will make her more confident, which is exactly what you want and a good start. It would be great if the other two adults in the house called her from time to time and when she arrived, she got a treat. Sadie will appreciate it too.
Henceforth when you leave the house, de-emotionalize leaving and arriving. If you appear sorry to go or overly excited to return, you’re emphasizing the separation. Your goal is to make Sadie happy to see you go because that’s the only time she gets fantastic treats, like a hollow marrow bone with chicken or ham wedged in the middle of it. Remove it when you get home! The best toys only happen when you’re not home. Then there’s exercise — I’ve been saying it for many years, “A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.” In my book, “Dog Training Diaries,” aside from my crazy experiences and stories, the do’s and don’ts of separation anxiety and aggression are given a great deal of attention.
The Dog Charmer