Pawternity Leave

Recently there was an article being passed around about companies that offer “pawternity leave” for new pet parents. This time off from work (usually a day or two but in some cases up to a whole week) allows people the opportunity for extra bonding time, to settle the pet in the home, spend time socializing the pet with friends and family, and start training.  I think it is an interesting and positive concept if used constructively.

Previously I addressed deprivation in training, or the Nothing in Life For Free approach. This included crate training, earning rewards and impulse control. It is our nature when we bring a new pet into the home, especially one from a shelter or rescue, to want to give that animal everything it may have been lacking before. Besides the obvious resources, such as food and water, toys and shelter, this also includes affection, attention and freedom. We shower the new pup with a very valuable resource: our time. This is wonderful until the dog realizes that this is only temporary. That’s when trouble can start and separation anxiety can develop.

Luckily there are a few steps that you can take with a new dog or puppy that may ease the stressful transition from total family immersion to alone time.

  1. During those first days home, give the dog some crate breaks at random times during the day. This helps prevent the dog from learning that the crate means you are leaving him to go to bed or go to work. The crate or kennel should be a place he feels safe and relaxed. When you cannot directly supervise the dog with active attention, put him somewhere puppy-proofed such as the crate, a pen, or behind a baby gate in a small room. Giving a new dog the run of the whole house can be too overwhelming. He is likely to make bad choices about what to chew or where to go potty. Freedom should be earned gradually over time.
  2. Practice leaving the dog alone for a few minutes, building up to a few hours depending on how long he can go between potty breaks. While you want to socialize the new dog with your friends and neighbors, it’s a good idea not to take him everywhere with you all the time in those first crucial days. Help him get used to the idea that if you leave, you are eventually going to come back!
  3. Finally, try not to make a big deal about coming or going. It may be difficult at first, but practice ignoring the dog when you first return home, and not giving him a long good-bye before you leave. Dogs are great at picking up on patterns and he will soon learn the little signs that mean you are leaving for the day.

With an ounce of prevention, new pet parents can avoid a stressful behavior issue. If you need assistance with separation anxiety, the Louisiana SPCA training team is here to help! Simply email us at askthetrainer@la-spca.org or call 504.368.5191 ext. 329.