Ep. 14: Avoiding Separation Anxiety in Puppies with Malena DeMartini

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Today we’re talking to Malena DeMartini Price, author of TWO books about separation anxiety, instructor of the Mission Possible separation anxiety course, and the founder of the certification for separation anxiety trainers. Malena has focused exclusively on separation anxiety in dogs for TWENTY years! She lives in northern california with her husband and her two dogs Tini DeMartini and Mabel.

Malena and I are going to talk about – you guessed it! Separation anxiety.

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This podcast is supported by the Puppy Raising Blueprint course, which you can find at journeydogtraining.com/blueprint. In this course, I guide you through everything from common problem behaviors like biting and potty training to the humane hierarchy of dog training. It’s always available on a self-study basis at journeydogtraining.com/blueprint.

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What is separation anxiety?

  • The fear and/or phobia of being alone. They are truly terrified about being home alone
  • It may seem irrational, but it is very real to the dog 

What causes separation anxiety?

  • We know more about what doesn’t cause it vs what does cause it
  • The idea of “spoiling” a dog is not correlated 
  • Genetics have a lot to do with it
  • Just because its genetic does not mean that the behavior is not modifiable 
  • New environments or big change can trigger separation anxiety 
    • Dogs that are constantly rehomed may be at higher risk of having distress on being left alone

Are there warning signs in a young puppy? If so, what can you do if you notice them?

  • Separation anxiety is evolutionary appropriate for young puppies
  • Whining, crying, barking, chewing, and eliminating when you leave them alone are the warning signs
  • Spend some time acclimating your puppy to alone time. Incorporate small absences in tolerable increments 

What can you do to optimize your puppy for success with being home alone?

  • Schedule short absences once or twice a day and give them a yummy food toy while you go, but only if they aren’t incredibly distressed about being alone
  • Morning Routine Blog Post
  • Comfort Food Blog Post
  • Make sure to watch the body language. You can use a camera to help see what they do when you’re gone.Compare what they are like when you are with them and they are relaxing vs how they are like when you leave. Determine if its actual distress or just mild discomfort

Do crates help or hurt with separation anxiety?

  • Conditioning the crate properly will be a positive experience 
  • However, confinement anxiety may come with separation anxiety if you do not condition it properly 

What are some of the biggest myths when it comes to addressing separation anxiety?

  • “You cause your dog separation anxiety”
  • “It is your fault”
  • “Puppies will grow out of separation anxiety”
  • “You need to tell your puppy they are wrong when having separation anxiety”
  • “Separation anxiety is not fixable”

Is cry it out harmful for puppies? If so, what alternatives do you recommend?

  • Its appropriate for them to cry, but letting them cry it out for a long time will teach your puppy that their needs won’t get attended to or it will increase their distress into panic
  • We can reward behavior but we cant reward emotions, so you can’t reward distress 

Talk to me about medication for severe separation anxiety cases?

  • It is a personal choice and must be consulted with your vet
  • Your vet is a great resource for separation anxiety 
  • Separation anxiety is a behavioral emergency 
  • The medications are not exclusive to certain age or level of distress
  • Medication is not lazy, its helping your dog lower their levels of distress while you work on the training

Where to find Malena:

Patron Questions Answered: 

At one point you mentioned that Niffler’s food drive wasn’t where you wanted it.  I’m trying to figure out my BC’s food drive as well.  He’s 9 wks old for context.  How old was Niffler when he exhibited food drive issues?  What did this look like?  How did you address it, and are you happy with where he is now?

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