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Separation Anxiety

Leaving Your Shih Tzu Home Alone

Separation Anxiety

Shih Tzu home alone
"Please don't leave me home alone!"

Overview

Wouldn't it be great to be able to bring your dog to work with you? Or otherwise never have to leave him or her again? However, the time must come when you must take steps to help your Shih Tzu handle being home alone. 
Not only must you address the issue of possible separation anxiety, you must also train your dog to behave appropriately while you are gone.

Whether you leave the home for 5 minutes or 5 hours, life will be a lot easier if you are confident that your Shih Tzu behaves properly while you are gone. A dog that is stressed may begin peeing in the house, chewing on things and more.

To have a well adjusted dog that is emotionally content and non-destructive when alone, this will involve preparation and repetitive training techniques.
girl holding a Shih Tzu

Age Appropriateness

Handling the aspect of being alone comes with a gradual development of self-confidence and the learned abilities to both self-sooth and to play independently. For this reason, very young Shih Tzu puppies often do not handle the stress of an empty house simply because without these learned skills, the situation is far too overwhelming.

You will want to stay home with your puppy as long as possible in order to work on some of those skills before leaving him on his own. However, even if the dog must adjust from day 1, there are steps you can take to ease the isolation. 

In regard to housebreaking, a Shih Tzu will need to be about 9 months old before being home alone and holding his/her bathroom needs. Young puppies simply do not have strong bladder and bowel muscles; and this is coupled with the fact that it can take 2 to 3 months to be fully trained.
So, at what age can you leave a Shih Tzu alone? In a perfect world, it wouldn't be until the Tzu was 8 or 9 months old. However, since you most likely need to work/go to school/run errands, a puppy of any age can be left for the day... 7, 8 or 9 hours. And some work will need to be done to teach coping skills as that pup matures.

If you can go home during your lunch break, this will help. Alternatively, it certainly can be a benefit if you have a helper who can come over at some point while you are gone to walk your Shih Tzu, allow for a bathroom break, offer some relief to the isolation and to check up on things. This can be a neighbor, friend or family member.... And you don't really know the answer unless you ask.

With an adult Shih Tzu, things may be a bit easier as an older Shih Tzu will have a better understanding of what is expected in regard to behavior and elimination; though in a new home they must be given adequate time to become accustomed to their new environment and the schedule of their new owners.

In the case of adopted, rescued Shih Tzu there may always be some level of abandonment issues no matter the age. However, most of the following steps will help to some degree.

How to Prepare

If an owner is to keep their dog in a crate all day, it forces one to wonder why they would decide to have a dog in the first place. A canine such as the Shih Tzu or any other dog deserves to be in a comfortable, clean, happy and healthy environment. 

Since the Shih Tzu is most certainly not an outside dog, a plan must be made to keep him or her inside while the owner/s are away. No matter what the weather and temperature, this breed should never be left outside. Weather can change quickly: what starts off as a warm sunny day and end as a drizzly cold one! 

So, to recap that, being crated all day or being outside are not options. The Shih Tzu must have a comfortable area inside the home. It is suggested to find an area that will be the dog's designated comfort area both when home alone and when owners are there, as a place to relax and retreat if desired. While it is noted that not all owners are going to have a spare room to designate as their dog's room, effort should be made to at least reserve a 1/2 of a room or corner specifically for this dog.

The area can be gated off with baby gates or canine gates or another great alternative for this breed is an indoor playpen. These are made of materials that are easy to clean, are very portable and will offer enough room so that a Shih Tzu home alone will not feel quite so confined. No matter which of these 2 options are chosen; the key is that the dog has plenty of room to spend his day.

The space that you choose should have the following features:
  • A spot for food and water, set up in sturdy no-spill bowls. You may opt to put water into a dispenser instead of a bowl and some food should be reserved to be spooned into treat-release toys.
  • An area of newspapers for elimination - a puppy will not always hit the target, however if it is set up away from the food and resting area, there is a good chance that it will be used.
  • A basket of toys; a dog will actually learn to keep his toys in the basket and choose which ones he wishes to play with. For prime happiness and to stop boredom issues the toys should be original, fun, colorful (dogs can see colors!) and be interactive. Those that make noise, offer treats and comfort toys that emit soothing heartbeats are perfect to combat separation anxiety issues.
  • A place to rest. Dogs with separation anxiety often do best with quality cozy beds that have side and a small baby blanket; this offers comfort and a feeling of security. 
The area must allow room to move around freely and not feel confined. The stress of confinement/claustrophobia increases separation anxiety by ten-fold.

Before You Leave

To have things flow as smoothly as possible, an owner should set aside time for affection and attention before they leave the house. The most important activities to do (without rushing):
  • Take your Tzu for a brisk 15 to 20 minute walk
  • Allow your dog to eliminate
  • Play, hug and give kisses - To stop separation anxiety, it is important to do this early and not close to the time that you are leaving. Have this sort of attention given no close than 20 minutes before you are to leave. 

Leaving and Returning

it's hard to say goodbye, not only because you'll miss your Shih Tzu, but also because you may be exceedingly worried about your dog becoming so stressed out that he does damage to your home, eliminate inside the home and/or bark incessantly. 

And when you come home, there may be out of control excitement. Some dogs that suffer anxiety when owners are away simply can't handle the overwhelming emotions of when they finally return. The dog may have excitement urination and/or have a hard time working himself out of a state of excited frenzy.

You can help your Shih Tzu handle your departure and arrival with grace. The key to this is to never allow your dog to think that your presence or lack of presence is a huge event. 

Hugs, kisses and play time should be done well before it is time to leave. After your dog is tired from the brisk walk that you give to him and he has had plenty of your attention, you should leave your Tzu to occupy himself in his designated area while you prepare to leave. Act casually around your dog as you get dressed, have breakfast and go about your daily activities.

When it is time to leave, do not say the word "Goodbye" , "Bye" or any word that implies something sad is about to happen. When you depart, distract him with a fun toy and leave while the pup is paying attention to it. Some owners struggle with this.... feeling that perhaps it is 'wrong' to not say goodbye. However, if a dog can be desensitized to when an owner leaves and when she returns, this can help stop the buildup of stress.

Do not worry that your dog will spend the day wondering where in the world you disappeared to; he will simply not go into a state of anxiety based on the fact that you slipped away. If you make your dog aware of the moment that you are leaving, this can trigger a response that can put the dog into immediate panic mode.

Arriving back needs to be handled without fanfare as well. Against all human instinct to run over to your dog, enter the house, take about 5 minutes to read your mail, have a drink, straighten up and then greet him. Your arrival back should be a peaceful and calm event. After this 5 minute slow introduction back home, you may go for a walk, play games and give your dog as much attention as you wish. Your Shih Tzu will then not connect your arrival back with attention and helps a dog control his emotions.

Helpful Tips

1. Experiment to see if a window view helps or hurt your dog's stress level. Some do best when being able to view the outside world. With others, it triggers barking and a longing to run out there.
2. Use music or calming voices to help keep your Shih Tzu relaxed. There are two basic options; you can leave on a TV or radio, so that the house is not empty and quiet; however be mindful of which channel or station you choose. You'll want to avoid any loud arguments, shouting and whatnot, as this can make an already stressed dog even more anxious.

The better option is to play music or a music & speaking combination that is specifically made to help a dog stay calm. Since canines have remarkable hearing, they hear tones and notes that our ears cannot pick up. In addition, certain tempos, beats and voices work much better than others to create a sense of safety and security. Below are our tops choices, available in audio CDS, MP3 and streaming. 
3. Lights can make a big difference. If you will be arriving back home after the sun begins to set, leave a light on. When a dog is alone in an empty house that becomes dark, this also can add extra stress.
4. Give your Shih Tzu the gift of companionship; but, you do not have to bring home another dog. The important element of not feeling along can be obtained via a companion toy that mimics a living pet. The Smart Pet Snuggle Puppy emits a soothing heartbeat and has the option of emitting a comforting warmth and is specifically made for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. 
Would you like your Shih Tzu to be more confident?

Learn easy yet effective steps for your Shih Tzu puppy or dog to gain self-confidence, when alone, with visitors, strangers, around other dogs and in new situations.  This and so much more is included in the AllShihTzu Book, simply the most comprehensive Shih Tzu-specific book that exists. Now in both hard copy & eBook.
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