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Confusion of Separation Traning


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Morning all,

Firstly thankyou for taking the time to read this post. I'm sure this question has been covered before but a quick search with a sleep addled brain came up with nothing, so apologies.

In short we picked up our Cockapoo (Murphy) last week and although I have no yard stick by which to measure, it seems to be going okay. He has a crate which he'll occasionally sleep in of his own volition, he'll sleep in it with minimum fuss (other than 5-10 minutes crying) when I place him in it and he sleeps from around midnight to 7am (although last night was a notable exception!), he's about 80% toileting outside and we're working on flitting so he gets away from being a Velcro dog. Oh, and we play fetch with his toy doughnut!

I do however seem to be letting him down in one very specific area, that being separation anxiety, as all of the above only occurs if I'm in the room with him, or in the case of flitting, where he can see me in another room. This means someone has spent the last 8 nights on a mattress in the lounge (where his crate is), which isn't sustainable.

The issue I have is that I've read so much around the subject, and there are so many conflicting methods, that what I've actually done is created a haberdashery of methods that even I can't follow, never mind Murphy.

The crux of the issue is that Murphy will basically cry/whine/howl/defecate (if not in crate) from the moment I'm out of sight.

So if I follow the first method of leaving if for a few seconds/minutes before returning I'm basically rewarding this behaviour. The second method is to leave him for a few minutes after he's settled before I return. In theory this sounds like a plan but he's not settled yet (I've given him up to 30mins) so even then I'm reinforcing his behaviour. The final method, advocated by no trainer but by every person I know who has had a puppy in he last year, is to let them cry it out, no matter how long it takes.

As I mentioned at the moment I'm doing all and none of the above, and I concerned that my lack of action may lead to more problems as time goes on. More importantly perhaps, the situation (along with the lack and location of sleep) is beginning to affect my mental well being and I find myself less enthusiastic when we play and more frustrated when the things I try fail, which doesn't seem to be fair on Murphy, although I'm fully conscious that this is my issue rather than his. So while I appreciate there isn't a quick fix, it would be nice to at least be on the right highway.

Anyway, it's been a useful exercise to write that down and any advice will be gratefully received.

Thanks all
At this stage, remember he is a puppy who has just been uprooted from mum and littermates and it's perfectly normal for him to want to be with you. And, at this stage it's fine to let him. So, not SA, just normal.

However. You mention the Flitting Game - keep on with that but remember, the whole idea is that he gets to follow you until he decides not to.

You also mention crying in the crate - you wouldn't be rewarding his behaviour by returning when that happens, you would meeting the fundamental emotional need of a baby. There's a big difference between crying when he is distressed and crying for attention because he wants you to play. If you wait until he stops, all you are doing is reinforcing that the crate is scary, and when he cries, nobody comes to help.

Have a look at these pages, see if anything resonates, and please come back if anything is unclear or if you have more questions.

Useful Links & Recommended Reading
Welcome to the forum. First up, don't lose sight of the fact that this is very early days, and many owners have that feeling of frustration and that they're not enjoying puppyhood as much as they should, so you are not alone.

A dog can only grow to feel secure and independent if he starts from a base of feeling secure, and able to trust you that you won't put him in situations where he feels unsafe (i.e. where he can't see you). So my advice would be not to let him cry it out - unless you know it will just be a token whinge for a few seconds and then he'll settle.

For nights, can you move his crate into your bedroom rather than you sleep in with him? It doesn't have to be forever - you can gradually move him out of the room once he's more settled. And for daytimes, keep up the flitting game, but I would let him follow you if he wants to. If he has a nice chew, and/or is tired and/or snuggled up in a sunny spot, he'll decide it really isn't worth the effort of moving - after all, he knows you'll be back, and he knows he can follow you if he wants to. In the meantime, you can start working on the 'going out' triggers - putting shoes on and taking them off again, opening the front door and closing it again, building up to taking the bin out and coming straight back again... always working at a level that your pup is comfortable with.

There's more about separation anxiety here: Separation anxiety Hope that helps!
Thanks both, really appreciate you taking the time to reply.

What you've both said makes perfect sense and I'll take it on board and read through the links. I think the problem is just the thought in the back of my head 'what if this never changes?'. I'll blame the lack of sleep.

Anyway I have one small win this morning. I started some flitting and he followed me from the kitchen to the lounge and settled. Then I went back to the kitchen (from where I'm working today) and he stayed put without batting an eyelid. He clearly knows how dull my job is!
Yay, progress already! :) I know how you feel - I once 'flitted' with my pup for two hours straight, by which time we were both exhausted, stressed out and miserable (and he still followed me) :oops: It really was a silly and counterproductive approach, but I'd also fallen into the trap of worrying that it would last forever.

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