Preventing Separation Anxiety: Supervised Separation

As much fun as you have together, there will be times when you’ll need to leave your puppy at home unattended or times when someone else needs to take your puppy to provide grooming or veterinary care. Some puppies have problems when they are separated from their owners. In the extreme form, these problems can manifest themselves as what is often called separation anxiety.

In AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy classes, your puppy will learn to stays on a leash with another person (while you walk away and then return). The purpose of this exercise is to teach your puppy there are times when you need to leave and there is no need to panic or become upset. In AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy, the evaluator or instructor will have you hand your puppy’s leash to another person. You’ll walk ten steps away and then return to your puppy. Your puppy can show mild signs of distress, such as a little bit of whining, but there should be no extreme reactions.

Teaching your puppy to stay with another person
To teach your young puppy to tolerate staying with another person while you walk away, proceed slowly. If you have an older puppy and your dog does this exercise with no trouble, you can work on advanced skills. To teach this skill start with some soft, small treats that your helper can use to make the puppy feel comfortable. Tricky Trainers has the perfect treats for teaching new skills.

  1. Start by standing next to the person while you hold your puppy’s leash.
  2. Let the other person hold your puppy’s leash. The other person can talk to your puppy, offer a treat, and pet the puppy. 
  3. While the other person is holding your puppy’s leash and interacting with your puppy, step away one step, then immediately return to stand near your puppy and the other person.
  4. Next, take two steps away from your puppy and return. The other person can continue to interact with your puppy in a cheerful manner and offer treats.
  5. Take three steps away and return.  You will continue training in this manner, adding one step at a time until you can go 10 steps and return. If at any time your puppy appears stressed, begins to whine or frantically pull at the leash to come with you, go back to the previous step.
  6. When you can walk ten steps away and then return, continue to add steps until you can get to the doorway without your puppy reacting.
  7. Next, add the verbal command, “Wait.” At this point, when you leave the puppy, say, “Wait,” or whatever command you’ve chosen that you can use every time you leave. This command is not “Stay,” which means “stay in the position in which I left you.”  The “wait” command lets the puppy know that you will be back.
  8. Step outside the door, and immediately return. After AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy, when you get to Canine Good Citizen, your puppy will work on CGC Item #10, Supervised Separation. In this exercise, you’ll be asked to leave the room for three minutes while someone holds your dog on leash. So, to begin preparing for this, once you’ve mastered this AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy item, start leaving the room for one second, then three seconds, then ten seconds, and so on, until you can leave your puppy with someone for three minutes.

The most advanced version of leaving your puppy for most of us is when we leave to go to work all day.  When you get your puppy, arrange to get the puppy when you have a few days to establish routines. Practice going out the door, them coming in. Then, leave, stay gone a few minutes at a time, gradually extending the time. Use a crate if necessary to keep your puppy safe. And remember to reward your pup for a job well done. See Tricky Trainers for training treats.