What can owners do?
Striking the right balance of time spent with and without your four-legged friend is often a personal matter, based on the individual personality, upbringing, and breed characteristics of your pup.
All dogs are highly social creatures with a pack mentality. If it was left up to them, they’d spend every hour of every day with you, whether or not it benefited their mental health. So, it’s up to owners to develop planned and scheduled separations, which are long enough to establish independence and reduce hyper-attachment, but not so long that they induce further issues.
Crate training/manufacturing time apart
Dogs thrive in stable environments where they can know what to expect, but a generally daily structure is preferable to a strict routine. In fact, an over-strict routine can actually pre-dispose your pup to anxiety, as it sets up rigid expectations that can cause alarm when broken.
For example, it’s important to feed your dog on a consistent mealtime schedule, but sticking to the exact same feeding time each day may encourage a fixation on that moment, and then panic when feeding time passes without dinner being served. The same goes for other common parts of the day such as leaving the house and returning home in the evening.
The key is to stick to a few daily principles, such as a walk, playtime, and a period of quiet alone time—with the alone time being just as important for your dog’s overall wellbeing as other activities. One well-known way to artificially introduce this alone time is through crate training…
If your home can’t accommodate an appropriately sized crate, or if you feel your dog isn’t ready to accept even short periods of crating, it can help to take these same principles and apply them in other areas. For instance:
- If you leave the house regularly, arrive home 5 -10 minutes later than normal to slightly disrupt your dog’s expectations. If you don’t regularly leave the house, ‘crate yourself’ by stepping outside, or closing the door to a room.
- Install a baby gate so that you and your pup can be separated while still remaining within sight. Make sure that your dog’s bed and food are on their side of the gate.