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Separation concerns?


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Hi Everyone,

We have a 4 month old show spaniel, and we are pulling our hair out having a few problems with puppy barking/whining when being left in her crate for relatively short periods of time (10-15 mins). This is leading to us being house-bound and not able to leave when we want to.

She goes to sleep in her crate fine overnight, and we always give her treats and food in the crate.

When we leave her we always try to leave her with her licky mat or kong, but on most occasions she has got wise to this and it doesn't take long before we wants out. We don't make a fuss when leaving and don't give her any attention beforehand.

I've been told to leave her to bark, which we have done, but she gets so worked up and pants like mad (we do leave water). My wife is concerned that if we leave her to bark she will no-longer want to go into her crate and will undo our good work, e.g. toilet training, etc...

In addition to this, we have tried to leave her out of her crate - so she has free reign of the kitchen, which does help a little (she is a fidgetbum). However, she still whines & moans when we leave.

Suggestions welcome.
I'm afraid leaving a dog to bark or cry it out is old fashioned advice. And your wife is right, you could 'poison' the crate if you continue. It certainly won't make the crate the happy place you want it to be, and there is evidence now that so-called self soothing and leaving dogs to cry can cause neurological damage. The dogs that stop barking or crying don't do so because they suddenly realise everything is ok, they do it because they give up.

There could be two possible issues here; the crate, and the being left. If she is ok at night in the crate, I'd suggest working on helping her build independence. So, remember she is an infant who needs you to be there for her, if we, as humans, hadn't taken her away from mum and littermates, she'd have stayed with them for an awful lot longer.

So go right back to basics. If she gets distressed after 10 seconds, you need to be back at 8 seconds. An animal simply cannot learn to cope with anything that distresses them while they are in a state of distress. So, you return before that point.

In fact, before you leave her properly, I highly recommend practising the Flitting Game for the next few weeks. It is described about ⅔ of the way down this page .
I would favour leaving her out of the crate if she doesn't need to be in it. I agree with JoanneF that you've been given bad advice. As well as her suggestions, have a read of this article on separation anxiety, but do ask if you have any questions: Separation anxiety
Thank you both for your comments.
I will take a look at the sites listed - looks very useful and contradicts what we have been told in some areas.
We would prefer to try and stick with the crate where possible, but appreciate it may not work out this way :)

Thanks for your help!

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