Soon after they fetched Barney at twelve weeks of age, they went out for a short while. They had shut him safely in his crate where he seemed happy.
They came home to a distraught and terrified puppy. Urine and faeces everywhere. They, too, were extremely upset.
Never all alone since.
This first time he had ever been all alone may well have coincided with a sensitive time in a puppy’s life, the fear period.
Barney was in a new environment. He wouldn’t know that they were ever coming back and that he wasn’t abandoned – how would he?
He follows them everywhere.
Ten months have now gone by. Their adorable Labradoodle is thirteen months old.
Breeders have the power to help prevent future separation problems. They could give each puppy short periods all alone from a very few weeks of age. This is a valuable gift to hand them over with.
Preventing future separation problems is one of the most important things I cover in ‘puppy parenting’. I help people settle in their new puppy.
The aim of my work is for the couple to leave Barney all alone for reasonable lengths of time with peace of mind, knowing that he’s happy.
They have so far managed the difficult situation very well indeed. They juggle their work so that both, on shifts, are only away from home for part of the day. A relative picks Barney up and takes him home for the afternoons.
Bit by bit
Bit by bit he needs to become confident that they will always return. They will need to be very patient. It’s important not to push ahead too fast. It’s important to come back too him soon rather than too late.
Gradually over the next few days his humans will wind-down their general greetings until hellos are casual and calm.
Every time they walk out on him, even for a couple of seconds initially, they will drop food and say the ‘coming back’ words. (I say Be Good to mine when I go out!).
Returning, they will be BORING.
They should start with the easiest option – the man will briefly disappear upstairs. Meanwhile the lady is with Barney (he is most attached to her). Next, the lady can disappear leaving Barney with the man.
They will move on to brief absences when no second person is present.
Gradually they will increase the time he’s left all alone, a second at a time. When it becomes a minute or so, they will leave him something really special like a tasty Kong or chew.
Over the days (maybe weeks), they will work up to going out of the front door briefly.
Setting up a camera is the best way to make sure they always come back before Barney begins to stress. This is important.
Now they can add the triggers. These are things he will associate with their preparing to go out. Pick up keys, put on shoes on etc.
We also looked at how to make the environment as secure and peaceful as possible while he’s all alone, with special music and so on.
It’s important when they are out and left all alone that there is nothing to make him feel unsafe. To avoid post crashing through the door, they will install an outside mailbox.
They love Barney to bits and are totally dedicated to making him feel more secure and in getting some life back for themselves.
NB. The actual process and details will differ from case to case. In common is the need for breaking things down into very small increments and departures and not pushing ahead too fast. It’s likely to take a long time and lots of patience and repetition.