A separation plan. First the ‘why’ – next the ‘where’ and then the ‘how’.
The couple need a separation plan so that they can go out and leave Lily for a couple of hours at a time.
Lily is a sixteen-week-old Cocker Spaniel. Like the majority of puppies of that age, she likes to have some company.
At night they can leave her alone in her crate but they have never left her crying. The lady slept on the sofa and they took it slowly. They gradually weaned her into being left so they had their own separation plan for it.
This is how it should be done during the day also. Night time may be easier because she will be sleepy anyway.
The first thing a good separation plan needs is an accurate diagnosis of the type of separation issue. We need to know exactly what we are dealing with. The distress can be due to different things and sometimes a mix of things.
Some puppies will experience abandonment and be in total panic.
Others may simply by lonely and any company will do.
Very commonly, a puppy objects to being left when he knows people are somewhere in the house. This will largely be fear of missing out.
Others are over-attached to one individual and the company of nobody else will do.
It’s possible boredom could be a cause. With an older dog maybe fear of sounds or things in the environment. Some dogs may suffer claustrophobia and be desperate to escape from a crate.
Lily is very friendly. It sounds like she would be happy with any human company. She’s very curious and follows the lady around everywhere, so she would undoubtedly also not want to be missing out on anything.
So we need a separation plan designed specifically for Lily.
Firstly in our separation plan we need to decide WHERE to leave her, and to make that place the very best place in the world – well before shutting her in there. I suggest a puppy pen.
All good things happen and live in the puppy pen.
The ‘how’. The separation plan
Next the lady will add briefly shutting the door while Lily is happily eating or chewing something.
The rule is to open the door before Lily stresses.
Next in the separation plan the lady can add shutting the door and walking away but not out of the room. Next she can disappear from sight momentarily. Next briefly shut the door. Next out of the front door. Next wait a moment before coming back in….. and so on.
Returns should be nothing to celebrate. Departures will be associated with good things and returns fairly boring!
They will now need a camera.
The separation plan will include adding a special verbal cue when shutting the pen door like ‘back soon’. They can also leave a visual cue when going out of the front door, removing it when they come back in.
This way puppy can always check whether she’s alone or not. There will be no creeping out on her or trying to fool her.
The vital thing throughout the whole process is not to leave her alone and break the separation plan by going out and leaving her before she’s ready.
Perhaps their neighbour could look after Lily for now if they do have to go out for some reason.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help