The Best Cane Corso

How do I help my dog adjust to spending time alone

After a period of being with your dog all the time, such as holidays or during ‘lockdown’, it can be a great wrench for both you and your dog to have to be apart. You will need to start preparing before the big day comes if you can. It may be that your dog came to you during your time away from work – so now it’s time for them to learn it is okay to be alone.

Think about where your dog is to be left
If your dog is new to this, an area of your home needs to be selected that is safe for your dog to start their training. Avoid areas where your dog will see you going out, as this will heighten their anxiety level. Also, avoid areas where your dog can see out of the window as this will disturb them. Think about how things may change through the day – sun, cold, outside influences such as deliveries, neighbours etc. Try to use an area with as little disturbance as possible and not in direct heat, cold or damp.

Dogs like a cosy quiet corner or an area that makes them feel secure
Crates/indoor kennels are a great idea if your dog has already been trained to use one. They have the added benefits of helping your dog to be clean. Your dog will not want to foul their bed area, and if restricted to their crate, they will be more inclined to hold themselves until released. Crates also prevent your dog from running around and getting overexcited, and from having access to chew the wrong things.

However, if your dog is not already used to a crate, introduce your dog slowly and carefully with positive reinforcement. When purchasing a crate you must ensure it is the correct size for your dog. Your dog should be able to stand up and turn around within the crate and their bedding needs to fit inside, alongside a water bowl. It is important to note that your dog can do itself quite a bit of damage with a crate if not properly introduced.

If not using a crate, select a smallish area where your dog can be left to their own devices and cannot do much damage (to property or themselves), and if their bladder lets them down (or worse), the area can be easily cleaned and no one will be annoyed.

Preparing the area
Place your dog’s bed, blanket (or crate with comfortable bed/blanket in it) there. It is a good idea to prepare to leave the house as normally as possible.
A radio or the television can be left on for your dog, this helps to blank out any external noises that might worry them and also helps to disguise the void that the family has left behind. It is beneficial to leave music on, there is evidence to suggest that calm music can promote calm behaviour in dogs, or just white noise from a radio. Close curtains or blinds to block out changes in weather or any visible external disturbance.
Set up a camera so that you can see and communicate with your dog during the training and later, even when you are not there. This is useful and there are many available online.

Place training

Step 1 – making a good association
A keyword needs to be chosen that in the future will mean to your dog ‘go to this place’, e.g. ‘place’, ‘bed’, ‘crate’, or ‘blanket’
A treat can be used as a lure to get your dog to the positive place. You can do this by throwing it into the crate/bed so that the dog goes to it readily. You could also place it on the dog’s bed so that the dog wants to go there, if the bed is the place you want them to be. Using treats gives your dog a positive association with the place
At the end of each training session ensure that your dog knows that the training is over. Stay calm and matter of fact, don’t make a fuss. Leave a high-value treat (the kind of treat your dog loves and cannot refuse) on their bed when they are not looking, so that when they go back to it they will have a nice surprise. Let them find it of their own accord – it doesn’t matter if they don’t go there straight away, it’s useful that they make their own choices to go to their bed too. Remaining calm and matter of fact will help them to deal with the separation to come

Step 2 – staying there longer and learning to separate
During step 2 training, you should stay relatively calm and matter of fact – the reward should come from the place rather than from you. As you are trying to train your dog to relax on their bed, a good time to do this training is when your dog is tired, and they can be encouraged to lie down and perhaps sleep.

Choose a treat or chew that will last a while, e.g. a stuffed Kong. Sit nearby but ignore your dog until they have finished the treat. If they try to come off the bed with the treat, encourage them back with another treat. Once they have finished and before they choose to move, release them yourself by giving them a terminating cue (e.g. that’ll do). This way you are gaining more control and they are starting to understand that it’s good to go to their bed when they are told, and okay to come away when told.

While your dog is eating you should sit quietly on a chair near them and read a book (preferably on dog training!). If the dog is in a crate, the door can be closed, as this will encourage the dog to settle. If your dog is on an open bed, they could be kept on a lead so that you can help them to stay where they are and prevent them from wandering off. If your dog pesters you, ignore them – eventually they will lay down and go to sleep. Leave your dog to sleep for a while (if you can) and then wake them and give a small reward on their bed. Alternatively, just leave a treat with them so that when your dog wakes up, they are automatically rewarded.

Repeat the whole procedure a little later. It can be repeated several times a day to build up a good association with this place and being sent to it. It is not imperative that your dog stays there – it is not a ‘stay’ exercise, just an exercise in finding a nice place to rest and chew!

Step 3 – lessening your dog’s dependency
Once you have released your dog from its bed area, you should go about your business, staying in the vicinity, but ignoring them to lessen the dog/owner dependency.

The whole procedure can be repeated often until your dog starts to become accustomed to the exercise.

Step 4 – moving away from your dog
Encourage your dog to their place, e.g. their bed, and get them settled using the above steps. Then place another treat or chew toy and move away. Try to ignore your dog so they don’t have the desire to come with you.

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