Leaving a puppy alone - Havanese Forum : Havanese Forums
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-13-2020, 07:51 AM Thread Starter
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Leaving a puppy alone

So things are going well with Otto who is 4 months now. The only thing I think I have messed up is leaving him alone. It doesn't matter if it's 5 minutes or 40 minutes, he cries/whines/barks the ENTIRE time I leave him.

Now that my kids are back in school (even if it's virtual school) we can't be with him every waking moment. He does not like it if no one is there (yes, I knew this was common when I got him, no I don't plan to leave him for long stretches but if I have an hour long Dr appointment he needs to stay home.) My husband is working from home due to the pandemic so if I leave him crying/barking while my husband is on a work call (most of his day is spent on calls) it's obviously very distracting and will disturb the others on the call as well.

He has an ex-pen with a crate/bed, litter pan, water and toys. It's near a sliding glass door so he can look out at the back yard. He has spent tons of time in there since we got him. I even got a Furbo camera to see him that can throw treats to him if he's ever quiet, which he is not! :-) I know he barks and cries the whole time because I can watch him on my phone.

My question is, how do you make them tolerate it when you're not there? I have tried the obvious (feeding his meals in there, leaving him with a special treat/stuffed Kong in his pen, scattering his kibble in the pen, leaving music on, timing it so I leave when he's tired, and I'm sure more that I can't think of.) We are careful not to give him attention when leaving or coming back, quick goodbye and a treat on the way out, and go about our business/wash hands, etc for a couple of minutes before we let him out when we come back.

He is sleeping in my kitchen right now, my daughter is in there but not near him. He will nap in his pen if one of us sits with him or in the same room, but if he's by himself or we leave him before he is asleep he barks/cries.

My Vet suggested I see a behavioral Veterinarian so I left a message for her on Friday. Waiting to hear back from the breeder as well. Thought I could get some good advice here in the meantime... Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-13-2020, 08:08 AM
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Unfortunately, once that has gotten started, itís something that requires some concerted effort. And understanding on the part of all family members. You need to just leave him, whether he cries or not, for short periods. (1 minute to start with, then working up). I think cameras cause more trouble than they solve, because he then upsets YOU over this, and it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL that YOU remain completely calm and relaxed.

Just continue leaving and returning making the times short, until he LEARNS that making a racket does NOT gain him anything. Unfortunately, your husband is going to have to put up with this training period. It is the only way he will learn.

I know that it feels overwhelming right now, and Iíd bet my bottom dollar that MANY ďpandemic puppy familiesĒ are going through the same thing. But do remember that he is still VERY young. If you work on it, he will learn.


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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-13-2020, 10:40 AM
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I think our adult dog is going to have more trouble than the puppy. She'll at least nap in the downstairs crate/ ex pen if I leave her. The biggest issue is if she SEES me or hears my voice. If she catches my eye, it's over. I agree with Karen. You just cannot look at him, react, etc. They can feed off your anxiety. But I feel you--our dogs haven't been left totally alone in 6 months. Because we have a large family, even if I went to a drs appointment, someone was here. Next weekend we want to take our son to a movie (where we obviously can't bring dogs) and I'm so nervous.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-13-2020, 12:12 PM
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I think since Covid-19 we are all experiencing this a little. Since more of us are working from home our fur kids are getting used to having us around often. I totally agree, put Otto in his ex-pen or crate, and don't make a big deal about it. The whining and barking will seem to drive you insane but he will learn. He's still a baby.

I don't think you need a specialist for this normal behavior. My daughter went through this when Koda was a puppy. Every morning Koda would whine when my daughter got ready to leave for work. Her vet told her to put Koda in her crate and not make a big deal about it. My daughter was anxious too because she lived in an apartment and didn't want her neighbors disturbed. It didn't last long. Koda learned that "mama" would come home eventually.

Think about this just like with your children. When my daughter was a baby, she was overly attached to her pacifier. This kid could find a pacifier in the dark with her eyes closed. I took it away and I thought I would go insane. She cried and cried especially at night and I had to work each day. It got better. She forgot about her "Binkie". You and your family will survive this. Can your husband close his door while working? Trust me I am sure he is not the only one going through this. Our dogs here bark each time they hear someone even at the neighbor's house and I am working remotely on calls as well.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-13-2020, 12:25 PM
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Melissa, same here. The dogs here haven't been alone for a long time. The only difference is my elderly mom lives with me and she is usually at home even before COVID-19. When my daughter moves out again, Koda will be home alone again.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-13-2020, 05:17 PM
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My dog was terrilble alone when I got him @ 10 months. He had never been alone without another dog, dogs or maybe humans. It was a very rough ride but he got to the point where it was ok. 3 years later comes the pandemic... I live alone, have no family(other than the Hav) except in Canada. Although I had nowhere I could really go for many months, I did not want a relapse of those early months. So everyday, I put him in his crate for 30 minutes. I'd go for a walk, bike ride, or drive over to the park and sit there or one of the rare trips to the grocery store.
I wish I could say that it has worked. Now I go out almost daily for about 2 hours. He is smart enough to realize that it is longer than 30 minutes and wants nothing to do with me departing. He will refuse to potty, refuse to enter the house, refuse to enter his crate even for a bowl of his food(which he adores). It has been a big problem but the last few days have been better. His routine changed and he did not care for it.
You have to persist and take baby steps.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-13-2020, 05:57 PM
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My dog was terrilble alone when I got him @ 10 months. He had never been alone without another dog, dogs or maybe humans. It was a very rough ride but he got to the point where it was ok. 3 years later comes the pandemic... I live alone, have no family(other than the Hav) except in Canada. Although I had nowhere I could really go for many months, I did not want a relapse of those early months. So everyday, I put him in his crate for 30 minutes. I'd go for a walk, bike ride, or drive over to the park and sit there or one of the rare trips to the grocery store.
I wish I could say that it has worked. Now I go out almost daily for about 2 hours. He is smart enough to realize that it is longer than 30 minutes and wants nothing to do with me departing. He will refuse to potty, refuse to enter the house, refuse to enter his crate even for a bowl of his food(which he adores). It has been a big problem but the last few days have been better. His routine changed and he did not care for it.
You have to persist and take baby steps.
I think all of us, no matter the age of our dogs, have probably seen some "Covid fall-out" in our animals as well as ourselves. We certainly have seen it in THIS house! NO ONE'S schedules are the same, and that is as true for the dogs as much as the humans. And they can tell that it is wearing on _us_ emotionally. It really shouldn't be a surprise to us that it affects them too.


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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-14-2020, 02:25 AM
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Originally Posted by stephsu View Post
My Vet suggested I see a behavioral Veterinarian so I left a message for her on Friday. Waiting to hear back from the breeder as well. Thought I could get some good advice here in the meantime... Thanks in advance!
Yes.

I really believe separation issues are beyond what most of us can address on our own. And you have additional challenges in that you really aren’t returning to a typical schedule for a while longer. Part of the reason for this is the behaviors can reinforce themselves over and over. Even in milder cases, I really believe help is most effective because we need the support and reassurance that we are doing the right things. Otherwise our own stress contributes to the problem.

Another issue is that methods for preventing separation anxiety and methods for correcting anxiety are slightly different. It’s very individualized in order to gradually increase tolerance to being alone. Otherwise those extreme anxious behaviors reinforce their fear. For instance, not paying attention when you walk in. This is really important in most cases, and a really useful tool in teaching a puppy to stay home alone. Our puppy was an exception to this rule. We found when we returned home, his anxiety would continue to escalate until he was panting and peeing all over the place, and even 30 minutes later he was still frantic. So we switched to greeting him immediately, picking him up, but in a really neutral way, no excitement or drama. I put him right back down and he’ll wait while I bring things in or whatever. Another thing the trainer helped with was identifying the best place for him to be on his own. We initially had a different puppy zone set up but found he did better alone with a window. The trainer also tried to help us teach him to play independently and self soothe, but we didn’t do very well following through on that. There are also different issues that can be at play, such as whether or not the anxiety is related to the place they’re in (such as a crate), being isolated from people or from one specific person, etc. Technically. mine has isolation distress, and knowing this helps us a lot. He does really well at daycare and with dog sitters.

IMO, cameras are most useful for monitoring to gradually increase the time alone while stopping just short of his anxiety threshold. Once they reach a certain point, time is all the same, though. I haven’t tested this in a long time because of covid, but last I checked, it took mine about 40 minutes to stop pacing. After that he remains alert watching for us the whole entire time we’re gone, but he’s not actively distressed. This is somewhat of a regression compared to when we were actively working on it and made a point to leave him alone every day, even if it was just within the house. In the beginning, he NEVER settled, so I don’t complain. He would cry, pace, pee, everything, the entire time we were gone. Yours might respond to the treats better down the line once he has some other skills in place. Mine is hugely food motivated but won’t touch ANYTHING while we’re gone, so it’s really individualized.

It doesn’t necessarily take months of work to become bearable, I don’t mean to overwhelm. Once you have identified his needs and have a plan in place, you can most likely get it manageable enough to leave him for short blocks pretty quickly. The most important thing is to maintain it by consistently leaving him alone, even if you don’t need to go anywhere that day. That’s the best way to see long term growth vs. managing the behavior. This I absolutely know from experience, because we have made this mistake several times now.
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Last edited by EvaE1izabeth; 09-14-2020 at 02:31 AM.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-14-2020, 11:05 AM
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Melissa, same here. The dogs here haven't been alone for a long time. The only difference is my elderly mom lives with me and she is usually at home even before COVID-19. When my daughter moves out again, Koda will be home alone again.
There is usually someone here, because we work from home. Before COVID, Oliver was home in the morning for a couple of hours while we went to the gym, while the older kids were in school. Or on the weekends, I bring the dogs anywhere outdoors, but I'd leave him if we were going out to eat in a restaurant. I have teens as well as young kids, so not everyone goes every time. I always had a part time nanny because I'd be in and out for my own school, errands, etc. Or writing, which I hate being interrupted during. So even when (if?) things go to normal, they won't be left a LOT. Especially since this is my last semester, and I'll be working exclusively from home. STILL, dogs can't go EVERYWHERE. And currently, they are never home alone. Maybe we'll all take a drive and leave them home for 15 minutes at a time or something.
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-15-2020, 10:04 PM
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I am sorry to hear this.

I was going to say we always turn on classical MPR/NPR for Shama when we leave, but then I reread your post and saw that you're already trying music.

We have never had a camera, but we think that when we used to leave Shama at 6 AM to go to school, she would sleep until the dog walker came around 11 AM. The dog walker was very indulgent and would let Shama decide when to come out of her pen. Sometimes it would be as late as 1:30 PM! Then, whenever the dog walker left, we think Shama would sleep until DH got home around 4:30. We worked to avoid separation anxiety (doing all the things you've been doing!) and we consider ourselves very lucky.

DH is currently teaching from home. Shama still sleeps all morning, but then after DH lets her out at lunchtime, she doesn't seem to like being penned up again. For a few days, she was crying/howling, as if to say, "But you're HERE! Why can't I be with you?" (She can't be with him while he's video conferencing with his students because she does occasionally start barking at things.) I know he said the other day he realized he should be turning on the radio, and I think she's gotten used to the new routine. I should check with him again ...

I don't know what to suggest other than to stay persistent and consistent. Good luck, and keep in touch!
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