Weims get a bad rap for separation anxiety. And while I don’t believe that it is a breed trait, I do believe that this breed has a stronger tendency towards it. When you think about it though (and read a bit of Weim history), it really all makes sense. Weimaraners were developed as companion hunting dogs and specifically bred to work in cooperation with their master. They are people-oriented, and let’s face it, we love this trait! — so it’s really easy to accidentally nurture separation anxiety. But it’s also very easy to prevent. This is a prevention article. If you already have an issue try going here and here.
Alone Training as a Socialization Exercise
Being pack animals, it is abnormal for dogs to experience too much isolation. Isolation in the wild means high risk of death, so when you think of the dog’s heritage, it is understandable that isolation is so distressing!
Since our modern lives require most Weimaraners to spend time at home alone, alone training should be considered a preventative step and an integral part of your training regimen when you bring a new Weimaraner into your pack.
Just as we socialize our new puppies and dogs to all the stimulation that a modern dog needs to accept as normal, we also need to teach our dogs to cope with the lack of stimulation and bouts of alone time.
Some people just naturally interact with their dogs in a way that prevents separation anxiety:
- They don’t coddle their dog
- Their dogs get plenty of physical and mental exercise
- They separate themselves from the dog
- They reward their dog for being calm
(Most Weimaraner people just aren’t this way naturally!)
How to Alone Train (For Those with 9-5 Jobs!)
Consider this very typical scenario. In anticipation of bringing home a new puppy, you take a couple weeks off of work and proceed to spend 24/7 with the new pup. (Who can help it, he’s soooooo cute!) Unfortunately the day to go back to work arrives, and suddenly your puppy has to cope with a big black VOID for 8+ hours.
In the wild, a puppy would be vocalizing to get back to the pack, his life would be in danger. He’ll be screaming in your house in the same way. And he may be tearing the place up while he’s at it. You can’t expect a puppy to just accept isolation, you need to ease him into this. And rewarding your pup for being calm in your presence is a great place to start. I also like Ian Dubar’s suggestion of alternating play and calm times with your puppy.
All you need to do to prevent separation anxiety is to start your new Weimaraner on a schedule that allows for lots of coming and going on your part, so that he knows this is normal. With repetition of your short and varied absences, he will learn that you will always return.
The crate is the best tool to help you. Start by crating him for a few minutes while you go to another room. Next time, go outside while he’s crated in the house for a few minutes. Extend the time each time. When you first start this, be sure to return before he starts getting anxious. Putting him in a crate when he’s tired after playing would be a good time.
As you start leaving your Weim in his crate longer, be sure to leave good chew toys in his crate so he can stay occupied. A Kong with peanut butter frozen in it, some chewies, or a kibble dispensing toy are all good choices.
Before you go back to work, you should have extended his alone time to the full length of time he will be alone when you are at work. You’ve also just crate trained your puppy. You gotta love the efficiency, and moreover, you gotta love being able to leave the house knowing your pup is safe and relaxed. For a young puppy, remember that he cannot hold it all day and will need a mid-day break out of his crate at least.
A Word of Warning About Using the Crate Along with Alone Training
Ever hear those stories where a well-meaning owner dutifully crate trains, and ends up with a Weim that still has separation anxiety?
I’ll bet ya dollars to donuts that these people only put their Weim in a crate when they left the house. Crate training can be sent to a backwards spin if the crate is only used during alone training! Almost all crate training problems I have heard of with Weimaraners have been caused by this association.
A properly crate trained Weimaraner that has had its exercise and potty needs met should sleep all day while you are at work (again, with appropriate breaks). For many adult Weimaraners brought up this way, full house benefits when you are work is definitely in their future as a trust worthy adult that happily relaxes knowing that you will return later.