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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello All,

I'm new to this forum and puppy ownership in general. I have a 4 month old Havanese puppy named Milo who is super sweet and adorable! AND, I'm somewhat overwhelmed by this journey I'm on so I'm glad to have found this forum and community.

I have two questions I'd love some insight on. First is separation anxiety. Milo cries and howls whenever I leave him. I've experimented with different things when I leave and nothing seems to make a difference:

So far I've tried crating him, putting him in his pen, and leaving him with free range of the living room.
I've tried leaving while he is sleeping and while he is awake
I've left him with kongs and other food treats and toys
I've left the TV on and off
I've bought the Adaptil diffuser

I've only left him alone a handful a times ranging from 15 minutes to 2 houws and I've either recorded him or have a live camera on him to observe. He howls, cries, and/or barks off and on the whole time. I'd love any advice or insight from folks as to whether I need to just keep leaving him so he gets more used to alone time or if there are other things I can try.

I'll post about my second question separately to meet the 2 post requirement for new members. Thanks!

-Dee
 

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When you come back, is he howling when you open the door/ open his crate? If so, definitely try to time it so that you enter the house/ open his crate during the minute (or 10 seconds :) ) when he's quiet. You don't want to unwittingly reinforce to him that his howling is what's brought you back.

The other thing is to make sure you're not making a big deal about being home. If he quiets down in his crate when you're in the house, go about your business for a few minutes and then let him out when he's totally calm.

Perry is perfectly content in his crate when someone is in the house, but once we leave he barks and howls. It's hard for me to deal with it though because as soon as he hears the car in the driveway he stops :). He does act very anxious when I walk into the room though (after being gone) so I leave him in his crate until he calms down again and relaxes, then I take him out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I live in an apartment so he usually stops as soon as he hears my key in the door (I have a puppy cam app so I can see what he's doing before I get to the door). He's usually pretty calm as soon as I get home. I havent made a big deal of returning and usually wait a few minutes before letting him out of his crate/pen area or acknowledging him. When I am home, I can be in a different room and he's fine (same deal when we were at my mom's house with multiple floors). Sometimes he follows me around but sometimes he doesn't. He also prefers the floor in my kitchen so often he'll be laying/sleeping there while I'm in my office or living room.

I'll continue to experiment with leaving him and letting him cry it out and hope that he learns how to self-soothe over time. But would love to hear from others if there are other things I can try. Thanks!
 

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We went through separation anxiety when Charlie was young and worked with a behaviorist on desensitizing him to absences. The first thing they helped us establish was whether it was actual anxiety versus attention-seeking. In his case, it was anxiety- on video he was very tense, alert, or pacing in between howls, and often drooled too, which he does when stressed/anxious. The behaviorist said that a dog lying on one hip, on their side, or frog legged is generally relaxed, versus pacing, sitting stiffly, or laying upright like a sphinx. Once the training kicked in, we saw Charlie’s body language change to more relaxed poses, even before the howling was completely eliminated. At that point, the howling was more of a ‘hey! I’m alone! Come back and play with me!’ but the same training (especially ignoring when we got home for a good 5-10 mins) helped that part.

The training was very slow, but it worked. Ignore him before leaving, then leave for 30 seconds, then come back (only if he’s not crying) and ignore for a few minutes. Then a minute… and so on. Take your keys or bag (so they think you’re really leaving), lock the door, and walk away— they can tell when you’re standing right outside the door! We were in an apartment building and spent HOURS hiding in the stairwell over the course of his training. We also introduced something called a Manners Minder, which is a remote operated food dispenser…. So when we were practicing longer absences, if he was relaxed, we could remotely give him a reward without returning (we’d put kibble in it). It also has a random setting where it will just give food every once in a while which was great because it gave him something to focus on other than the door. This was years ago at this point, but we’ve actually restarted some training as he regressed a bit during COVID with both of us working from home, and some of the signs of anxiety are back when we leave, now in the form of drooling and licking his feet (not good bc he’ll give himself hotspots). He’s catching on quickly to our retraining, though, and when we bring a new puppy home, separation training (both with and without Charlie at home) is going to be a big focus!
 

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Honestly, I think cameras are the worst thing ever invented when it comes to puppies. ) Only half kidding. I would NOT be leaving him alone for long periods if you can avoid it right now, if he is struggling, but I would DEFINITELY be leaving him for 10 minutes at a time. I would NOT leave him loose. That is asking for trouble. And changing things is just confusing to him. Decide where you want him to be when you re out, and let him get used to it. For my puppies, I have always had them in an ex-pen with a comfy bed water bowl or bottle, a chew or kong, and a potty. Put them in, give them quick quiet pat, do NOT make a fuss and leave.

When you get back, put your things away, get organized, and then, when the puppy is CALM g to the pen and CALMLY and QUIETLY greet the puppy. Do NOT make a big deal out of it. Over a period of time, slowly increase the length of time you are out of the house.

He will get used to it. My little guy is just about the same age as yours. He's not even ALONE when I leave... His MOTHER lives here, and he is STILL making a fuss when I leave! They will learn! They are still babies! LOL! Here is Ducky's pen set-up. (he's behind it, not in it right now, because I'm not going anywhere!)
175212
 
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Honestly, I think cameras are the worst thing ever invented when it comes to puppies. ) Only half kidding. I would NOT be leaving him alone for long periods if you can avoid it right now, if he is struggling, but I would DEFINITELY be leaving him for 10 minutes at a time. I would NOT leave him loose. That is asking for trouble. And changing things is just confusing to him. Decide where you want him to be when you re out, and let him get used to it. For my puppies, I have always had them in an ex-pen with a comfy bed water bowl or bottle, a chew or kong, and a potty. Put them in, give them quick quiet pat, do NOT make a fuss and leave.

When you get back, put your things away, get organized, and then, when the puppy is CALM g to the pen and CALMLY and QUIETLY greet the puppy. Do NOT make a big deal out of it. Over a period of time, slowly increase the length of time you are out of the house.

He will get used to it. My little guy is just about the same age as yours. He's not even ALONE when I leave... His MOTHER lives here, and he is STILL making a fuss when I leave! They will learn! They are still babies! LOL! Here is Ducky's pen set-up. (he's behind it, not in it right now, because I'm not going anywhere!) View attachment 175212
Definitely second the x-pen!!! Having a small, comfortable area that he was left in was extremely helpful. @krandall is that a doggy xylophone?!? Is Ducky a budding musician?

So funny about the cameras 😊 I Can see how they would be a problem if it’s leads to leaving the puppy for hours on end, but i did find it helpful for training bc I could be certain he was calm when I came back in so I wasn’t inadvertently rewarding his carrying on. We were in a tiny apt at the time, so even avoiding him we were still basically in the same room, which was plenty for him!
 

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Definitely second the x-pen!!! Having a small, comfortable area that he was left in was extremely helpful. @krandall is that a doggy xylophone?!? Is Ducky a budding musician?

So funny about the cameras 😊 I Can see how they would be a problem if it’s leads to leaving the puppy for hours on end, but i did find it helpful for training bc I could be certain he was calm when I came back in so I wasn’t inadvertently rewarding his carrying on. We were in a tiny apt at the time, so even avoiding him we were still basically in the same room, which was plenty for him!
I didn't mean that it would lead to people leaving their dogs longer... I meant that it made people worry about their puppies more, if they saw them fussing! ;)

The little musical toy was something a friend sent me for the litter. The litter played with it a LOT... Ducky plays with a little, but I think he's outgrowing it! The "piñata, OTOH, is like the "squirrels in the stump" toy and several like that that are a LOT more money, except this came from "Big Lots", which is a local cut-rate place. I got it for about $5, and it is his FAVORITE!!! He LOVES pulling the "squeaky candies" out to play with. Then I put them back (or other little toys) and he pulls them out again!
 

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I found the camera useful for finding breaks to return when he was “calm,” or making sure he didn’t reach a certain stress point. However this was a lot further along in the training process because mine has isolation distress. A lot of the training and shaping of behavior can happen at home for 5-10 minutes at a time right now before it’s reinforced and reaches that point. Going to different parts of the house or outside works well, and that’s harder in an apartment! Is there someplace nearby, or a friend in the building, where you can go several times a day for a few minutes for the next week or two? I think multiple times a day for short periods works better than once a day for longer. The period you’re gone doesn’t matter much, it’s the beginnng and end they need to practice and get comfortable with.
 

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The stuffed toys like the squirrel in a log are favorites here and have been since day 1, but the squirrels are his least favorite version. I think they’re camouflaged by the floor. Sundance’s all time favorite in the Penguin Igloo and Strawberry Waffles. He still plays with the penguins and is probably on his 4th. They really kept Sundance occupied for a few minutes as a puppy and they tired him out! They’re also fun for fetch because the pieces are small for a puppy to run around with. I usually get Zippy Paws because I find them at Home Goods all of the time, but sometimes when a cute new one comes out I buy it full price on Amazon because I can’t help it ;)
 

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The stuffed toys like the squirrel in a log are favorites here and have been since day 1, but the squirrels are his least favorite version. I think they’re camouflaged by the floor. Sundance’s all time favorite in the Penguin Igloo and Strawberry Waffles. He still plays with the penguins and is probably on his 4th. They really kept Sundance occupied for a few minutes as a puppy and they tired him out! They’re also fun for fetch because the pieces are small for a puppy to run around with. I usually get Zippy Paws because I find them at Home Goods all of the time, but sometimes when a cute new one comes out I buy it full price on Amazon because I can’t help it ;)
Perry loves loves loves the hedgehogs - the "log" for them isn't that great (much smaller than the squirrel log), but he pulls them out too fast anyway so he just plays with the hedgehogs. I cut the ears and "feet" off before I give them to him (they provide too much leverage and hasten the destruction process) and then just sew tears as he makes them, but the hedgehogs are mostly round so he has a harder time getting a good enough grip to really tear them apart.

 

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Mando loves the hedgehog version and the monkeys in a banana version the most. The squirrel version takes a backseat to them. I might need to buy the penguin version!
I think Sundance couldn’t see the brown monkeys well on our wood floor because they are very close to the same color. I’m glad we had the penguins first because if he ignored them the way he did the monkeys I might have thought he didn’t like them and I wouldn’t have tried any other versions!
 
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