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Caring For your Pomeranian featured Pomeranian Training

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety

Owners are concerned that leaving dogs home alone can cause problems. Pomeranian separation anxiety (SA) is worse for your Pom than just missing you. It causes mental and physical stress but there are ways to reduce stress and improve the situation.

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety Indicators.

Before You Go.

• Nervous pacing up and down.
• Trembling.
• Acting clingy.
• Reacting to your keys jangling

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety
Pomeranian Separation Anxiety

After You Have Gone.

  • Barking excessively until he’s exhausted. Then he rests so he can bark again. A Pomeranian of any age can bark for hours or until he’s hoarse. Neighbours will let you know what they hear.
  • Frantic behaviour. While he may only feel mild anxiety when you shut the door, if you’re gone for the day, it will build to a point where he becomes frenzied. He might literally bounce off the walls, claw at the gates and try desperately to escape. Toys may be tossed around, food and water may be spilt and he might scratch the walls, causing damage to the house and to himself.
  • Destructive chewing. It’s different from boredom chewing. He’ll chew anything within reach, often destroying things.
  • Urination and defecating. Regardless of how well-trained he is, if he’s extremely stressed and panicked because he’s home alone, he may urinate and defecate anywhere, anytime, with no apparent control. SA can also make him eat his own faeces.
  • Depression. If he’s left at home alone, every day, he may become deeply depressed and not want to do anything until you return.
  • Excessive licking. It’s a nervous behaviour used to calm himself. However, too much licking can cause hot spots, thin the coat, or create bald patches, potentially causing an infection.

When You Arrive Home:

When you get home, your dog will behave/feel different things including: trembling, trouble remaining calm, emotional exhaustion, excitement, and a rapid release of pent-up energy and emotions (jumping, excessively clingy, circling you, etc.). Some dogs can’t “snap out of’ their depression” and will continue being moody and withdrawn.

Time VS Level of Distress – Each dog is different. Some Poms experience severe separation anxiety minutes after being left home alone. Others will be fine for short periods (1 or 2 hours), but they’ll have a certain line that, when crossed, panic and fear kicks in. Training is always the same.

What Causes Pomeranian Separation Anxiety?

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety
Pomeranian Separation Anxiety

It’s unknown but it doesn’t vary with gender, age, whether cared for or maltreated, or anything else.

Puppies may be ok and then face SA as they age. This is because puppies usually live in the current moment and their minds flit from thought to thought as cognitive recognition isn’t fully developed. As they mature, self-awareness, understanding of time, and the ability to know when they’re alone become stronger.

Senior dogs can face SA, often due to health problems making them feel vulnerable and they rely on owners for care more than younger dogs. Sight and/or hearing loss is a common problem, amplifying separation anxiety.

A high percentage of adopted shelter dogs experience Separation Anxiety, often due to experiences as a puppy.

If a dog suddenly has separation anxiety, it’s usually because of a life change such as:
• Moving to a new home.
• Getting a new owner.
• A change in his routine or yours.
• The loss of a family member, whether canine, human or another pet. If the person was the main caregiver, the loss will be deeply felt.
• Health problems may vary with age and include: kidney disease, UTI, Cushing’s disease, incontinence, leaking bladder, bladder infection and bladder stones.

If your dog has any problems, take him to the vet for a thorough check-up before training for SA. Ask the vet if his medications can cause incontinence.

If he does his business in the home while you’re away, check it’s not just poor house training. If you leave him alone for 10-12 hours, it’s impossible for him to hold on. However, his puppy age can tell you how long he can hold it. 3 months = 3 hours. 4 = 4 hours and so on.

How to Help Pomeranian Separation Anxiety.

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety
Pomeranian Separation Anxiety

The solution has several elements. Change the way you leave home, ensure his environment is ideal and have practice runs. You may also need SA aids. Each element has numerous sub-elements but using only a couple won’t do much. If your Pomeranian has separation anxiety, commit to doing as many things as possible.

Pre-departure Training.

Whether your Pom demonstrates that he knows you’re leaving, or if he’s calm as you exit, all dogs sense their owner is preparing to leave.

These are actions and sounds to change before opening that door. They include:
• Putting on your shoes and coat.
• Picking up your keys.
• Opening the door to check the weather.
• Pouring your “to-go” coffee.

The first stage in training is to show your Pom that these things won’t always mean you’re leaving for a long time, or for any time. On days you don’t need to go out, do some of these actions randomly during the day and then carry on with what you were doing. For example, pick your keys up, jingle them, and then sit and read a book. Another time in the day, open the front door and look at the weather, then shut the door and return to watching TV.

Keep doing these things randomly when you’re not going anywhere, because you’re gradually desensitising your Pom to not see those “cues” as indicators you’re leaving. Once his nervousness fades, still do one thing each day to keep him calm.

Pomeranian Dog Separation Anxiety
Pomeranian Dog Separation Anxiety

When you do have to leave, here are guidelines:

• Don’t put your Pom in his designated space (playpen or enclosure with doggie gates) just before leaving. He needs to enjoy his area without believing something “bad” will happen when he’s placed there. When you’re home, leave the gates open and encourage him to go inside to find fun toys and treats. 20 minutes prior to leaving, put him in there and close the gate.

• Take him outside to his bathroom before leaving, even if you doubt he needs to go.

• If you have time, spend 15-20 minutes playing with him outside. (If it’s only 5 minutes, still do it). Running around in the yard or going for his morning walk will help him release energy so he’s more likely to rest/nap when you’re gone. This helps thwart the dog equivalent of cabin fever.

• Never shower your Pom with hugs and kisses and promise you’ll return. It’s natural to desire this but it tells him you’ll be gone for a substantial period. Instead, lavish your affections on him 20-30 minutes before you leave. When you’re ready to go, be matter-of-fact. If he seems nervous as you exit, don’t come in to comfort him. The training to come will build his independence skills and you’ll only counteract them if you come back in to comfort him.

• Never scold him for bad behaviour caused by SA. This only increases his stress levels.

Properly Setting Up His Space.

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety
Pomeranian Separation Anxiety

If somebody put you in a small room with nothing to do, you’ll likely also experience separation anxiety. These tips will ensure he’s safe, keep him occupied, fed, and soothed,

Ensure the pen or gated area is secure so he can’t escape. It needs to be big enough so he can move around. There should be separate sections: for rest/sleep, for eating and drinking, for playing and, lastly, for his bathroom needs.

It must be in a warm comfortable room with A/C in Summer and a heater in Winter.

Learn his likes and dislikes. Some like a window view while others get stressed by it.

Items To Keep In His Area:

Toys – It’s CRITICAL to have plenty of the right toys to help your Pom cope with all the time he spends alone. Some dogs love their favourite companion toy that helps as it helps him cope with separation anxiety.

NOTE: See the ‘Care Items – Poms of All Ages,’ ‘Toys’ section for more information.

Best Pomeranian Dog Separation Anxiety Toys

Water and Food. Use a dispenser instead of a bowl if your Pom keeps spilling the bowl. It’s handy to leave treat-release toys with his food. A mix of kibble and smooth peanut butter can work well. If you’ll be absent during a scheduled meal time, ensure the treat-release toy has enough food for a meal and a snack. If you’re only gone during a snack period, just leave a snack-sized portion. When he gets hungry, he’ll work for the food, helping him to pass time.

Doggie Bed. Have a well-cushioned, safe, quality, clean dog bed in his area so he can rest/sleep. If the bed is low quality, making him uncomfortable all day, this will negatively affect him.

Pee-pads. Your Pomeranian may be completely house-trained. However, if you’re absent longer than he can realistically hold everything in, you’ll need pee-pads. Even if you doubt he’ll need them, it never hurts to place some “just in case.”

Clothing with your scent. Include a recently worn item of clothing that holds your scent. Whether it’s a shirt, socks or something else, it shouldn’t be too dirty but unwashed prior to giving it to your Pomeranian.

Another Essential Factor – Setting Up The Home Environment.

Pomeranian Seperation Anxiety
Pomeranian Seperation Anxiety

Lights. If you compare an empty well-lit house with an empty dark house, obviously the lit house offers a better environment. This applies even more if you get home as the sun sets or after dark, or if they forecast clouds or a storm. However, all Poms prefer a well-lit house.

Soothing Noises/Sights. Have a radio or TV playing in the background. Some Poms like it because it resembles noises made when owners are home. However, some Poms stress if they don’t know where the sounds come from. If this describes your Pom, place a TV within his eyesight. Studies show that dogs watch TV and actually recognise images. Your ideal shows are “old school” or family-themed shows such as the Dick Van Dyke show or I Love Lucy. Avoid channels with loud upset voices, e.g., talk shows airing family arguments.

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety Practice Runs.

It’s important to do practice runs. If your Pom has severe separation anxiety, train him in baby steps. Using the above guidelines, start training your Pom to adjust to being alone.

Step 1 – Not Actually Leaving.

On days you’re home – follow the departure and environment guidelines and don’t leave the house, but DO leave the room.

Your Pom will be in his designated area with all necessary items. Go to any room where your dog can’t see you…but he can hear you.

No matter how much he whines, cries, jumps, paces or anything else, stay hidden for 5 minutes and then, very matter-of-factly, re-enter the room. Wait 3 – 5 more minutes and then let him leave his area.

When your Pomeranian learns to be fine with 5 minutes, increase this to 10…then 15, then 20 and so on. When he shows no signs of separation anxiety at the 20-minute mark, you’ll be ready for Step 2.

Step 2 – Actually Leaving for Timed Periods.

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety
Pomeranian Separation Anxiety

On days you’re home – follow the departure and environment guidelines. Leave the house just for 10 minutes. Dogs are very intelligent, so it’s best to actually drive away. Do this randomly for 1 week. On week 2, increase it to 15 minutes. On week 3, increase to 20 minutes. On week 4, increase it to 30 minutes.

Follow these times as closely as possible. The goal will be to show your Pom that he IS capable of being alone – and not being panicked- for 10 minutes. When he’s confident that he did okay for 10 minutes (which will be greatly helped by following pre-departure guidelines and setting up the right environment), he’ll learn to do just fine for 15 minutes and so on.

Tip. Each dog is unique and you’ll need to read your Pom’s behaviour to see if it’s time to increase these sessions. For some dogs, an increase can be done every few days; for others, it may be every couple of weeks. Just keep in mind that while this training can take a while, the end result will be a confident dog that can handle being home alone, will be able to self soothe (through use of the toys and methods mentioned earlier) and will no longer have separation anxiety.

Also remember that, during the training period, there will be lots of days when your Pom will be home alone for those 7, 8 or 9 hours. You can’t do anything about it if you work away from home or are in school, so keep training this way. Once done, these short training sessions will start to affect how he feels on those long days.

How to Handle Things When You Get Home.

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety
Pomeranian Separation Anxiety

When you finally come home after a long day at work, you’ll naturally want to greet your dog and give him big hugs, kisses and tons of attention. However, when a dog suffers from separation anxiety, making a big deal out of arriving home can be counterproductive. If you rush inside and straight to your dog to really pour it on thick, it’s the same as sending a direct message that says “I can’t believe I made it back home! Oh, this is a miracle, let’s celebrate!” This tells your dog that he was right to be worried.

So, what should you do? When you enter the home, don’t greet your Pom. This will be difficult until you get used to the routine. However, it’s best to casually enter, quietly walk to the kitchen, pour a drink of water, check your mail… and then, after 1 to 3 minutes, calmly approach your dog and, in a matter-of-fact manner, say “hello.”

After this, take your Pom outside for bathroom needs. Once that’s done, it will be time to hug, kiss and play! If the weather permits, spend time outside running around with your Pom, allowing him to release pent-up energy and enjoy quality time with you. Remember, training for separation anxiety doesn’t mean withholding affection from your Pom at all times. It means holding it back when it does more harm than good.

Additional Help for Pomeranian Separation Anxiety.

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety
Pomeranian Separation Anxiety

If you’ll be gone for extended periods of time, it can be helpful to offer your Pom a break in his day. If possible, go home during lunch time. Even 10 minutes of play and a bathroom break for your Pom can be very helpful. If this isn’t possible, you may consider asking a family member, friend or neighbour if they would like to visit your Pom once a day. Sometimes older, retired friends, family or neighbours welcome this request. They have the pleasure of spending time ‘doggie sitting’ and will be more than happy to help out. If you do this, ensure they follow the guidelines for when they leave and that they ensure the designated area holds all of the needed items.

If you’re normally gone for long periods, you may consider hiring a dog walker. Older neighbourhood children would love to do this job. Alternatively, you could ask your local high school’s guidance counsellor for suggestions of suitable candidates. If you do choose someone, invite them over when you’re home (3 or 4 times on different days) so your Pom can become used to them.

Ensure they know to follow all of the rules and give them your emergency contact number. A mere 30-60 minutes per day where someone comes to your house (to take your Pom outside for a bathroom break and to play with him) will make a huge difference. Many Pom owners with separation anxiety ask if a Doggie Day Care would help. The answer is usually that it all depends on your particular pet. Some dogs love the company of other dogs. Others aren’t yet socialised to other dogs enough to enjoy play time; and/or the stress of being away from home overpowers the stress of being home alone.

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety Supplements & Aids.

While they don’t work for every dog and the degree to which they work does vary, some dogs respond very well to calming collars and/or calming supplements. Our recommended calming collar slowly releases a lavender/chamomile fragrance that naturally relaxes some dogs.

In regard to supplements, those that contain L-theanine and colostrum work very well for some dogs and are safe. L-theanine is an amino acid that has relaxing effects; it doesn’t cause drowsiness; However, it increases dopamine, an organic chemical released in the brain to regulate mood and relaxation. Colostrum has relaxing properties that reduce stress.

If All Else Fails.

Pomeranian Separation Anxiety
Pomeranian Separation Anxiety

Some Pomeranians won’t handle being alone, regardless of what you do. In such cases, medications may be prescribed. However, side effects aren’t worth the benefits except in severe cases. Discuss this with your vet. There are two types of medications most commonly used.

Benzodiazepines (tranquilisers). Negative side effects include: sleepiness, increased appetite and a possible increase in anxiety. Studies show that these can affect the ability to learn and memory.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (anti-depressants). Some MAOIs can have dangerous side effects for dogs that have recently ingested cheese products. One well-tolerated drug is Clomicalm.

Although not available in all areas, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviourist (CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviourist may help a dog via one-on-one desensitisation and conditioning training. This is often expensive but has worked with some dogs.

Should You Get Another Pomeranian Dog?

In most cases, when a Pomeranian has another dog for company, this eliminates separation anxiety. However, it’s possible that both dogs won’t cope and/or they may have an adjustment period while they’re not getting along enough to offer companionship and comfort. We never advise someone to take on the responsibility of a second dog for this reason alone. However, if you’ve wanted another dog and have given careful thought to the cost and time involved with having multiple pets, this does often help.

Copyright Pomeranian.Org. All Rights Reserved.

References and Further Reading:
[1] Denise Leo “The Pomeranian Handbook”.

Pomeranian Dog Separation Anxiety Toys

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