Helpful tips to treat your French Bulldog with separation anxiety
Every dog owner thinks it is great that his four-legged friend misses him a bit. Because admit it, what nicer feeling is there than being greeted on arrival by someone who is really excited to see you and clearly shows this. Even if you were only a minute away. However, this missing should not get out of hand and turn into separation anxiety. Because no one wishes his dog to be nervously squeaky waiting for you to return and maybe even out of sheer desperation ruin the entire house.
A question I get asked a lot is can you leave a French bulldog alone all day?
To answer that the first part of this article contains tips to prevent your puppy from suffering from separation anxiety. In the second part are tips that may help you get rid of mild anxiety in a Frenchie that already has separation anxiety. If your French Bulldog has severe separation anxiety, it is best to work with a behavioral expert.
Teach your Frenchie to be alone
Prevent signals that you are going away
Dogs pay close attention to details. If you always perform the same actions before you leave, your Frenchie will learn to recognize this. Like, for example, putting him in the crate or placing him in a certain room. He can then start to develop a fear against that step, possibly trying to work against it, and in the worst case, get separation anxiety.
To prevent this, try to be unpredictable. For example, occasionally put your dog in the crate with a bone, if you just stay in the room yourself. And sometimes open and close the drawer that holds the car keys without leaving.
Increase the “being alone” part
Build it up quietly, ideally, take the first few weeks that your French bulldog puppy comes home off or arrange for a “babysitter”. If you intend to keep your French Bulldog in the crate, start training this until he can stay comfortably in a closed crate as long as you are in the room.
Then make the time that your dog is ‘alone’ take longer. Start by walking out of sight and coming back. Then get something from another room and build it up by, for example, folding the laundry or drinking a cup of coffee at the neighbors. Make sure that you are not only out of sight but also that your Frenchie doesn’t hear you, so if you stay in the house it is better not to make a phone call or something and sometimes go outside for a while to check whether your dog can handle that already. Preferably practice this spread out over the day. So instead of going through the door 5 times in a row and closing it behind you, you do it once and again later in the day. As long as your dog stays calm you can make the time that you are out of sight longer if he starts to moan or “cry” you are building it up too quickly and it is better to repeat the previous step a few more times.
As soon as your puppy finds it okay to be left alone for a few minutes, the time you can leave is usually limited only by his need to be let out. Allowing him to be left alone seems to take a lot of time in this way, but you save yourself a lot more time if you can prevent him from getting behavioral problems.
Tips for French Bulldogs who already have separation anxiety
Signals that you are going to fade away
Most French bulldogs that have separation anxiety will become restless before you actually leave them alone. This is because they can see from the things that you do and the way you behave that you will leave.
The first step is, therefore, to remove these signals so that your dog is not getting stressed before something actually happens.
These signals can be the smallest things, from taking your coat or the keys to putting on makeup. First, check before all actions whether your dog responds to it and make a list of the signals that your dog has already picked up on. Then temporarily change your ‘leaving routine’ so that none of these signals appear in it anymore. This may mean, for example, that you have to keep your coat temporarily in the kitchen so that you can leave the house through another door, or that your dog stays in another room when he is alone. Next, blur the signals on your list one by one by removing the link to leaving your Frenchie alone. You do this by randomly performing them throughout the day without leaving. For example, does your Frenchie react to taking your keys, then grab your keys several times a day, walk around with them, and then put them back. Repeat this until your dog stops responding when you perform that action.
You can work together on multiple signals as long as you don’t do them at the same time. For example, you grab your jacket first and then your keys and the next day vice versa. If your Frenchie does not respond to any of the signals anymore, you start working on them in combination, for example, you grab both your coat and your keys without leaving. Repeat this until you can perform your original leaving ritual without getting a response from your dog.
The fear of being alone is taken away
Then you can start working on your French Bulldog actually being alone. During the time it takes to teach your Frenchie that it is not scary to be alone, arrange a babysitter for the moments when you have to leave. This way you prevent your dog from having a relapse and all the work has been for nothing.
Depending on your dog, it may be smart to work with a crate temporarily. The advantage of a crate is that it is considered a safe place by many dogs with good training. The disadvantage is that you have to start with crate training which is a whole other training and it’s not smart to combine your French Bulldog getting over the fear of being alone as well as staying in a crate. If you do teach him to stay in a crate as a final step you have to practice that it is not bad to be left alone when the door of the crate is open. The structure of being alone is essentially the same as that for a puppy without fear of abandonment, but the steps are smaller. With a dog that stays in its crate, you start by taking one step away from the crate and immediately walk back. With a dog that stays free in the room, you start to grab the door handle and release it immediately. Then proceed by continuing to go further and further back to your dog. For example, if you work with the crate, you first take one step away before you go back, then two, then three, and so on. Build up the distance step by step. As soon as you are out of sight you wait for 1 minute, only 1 second longer, from 1 to 5 minutes 10 seconds, from 5 to 15 minutes 1 minute and then 5 minutes until you are on the hour.
There is a good chance that your dog will cry or bark at a certain step. As soon as he cries, wait until he has calmed down and go back to him. Then you pick up the training again at the first step of that session. So if you stayed out of sight for 5 seconds when you started, you start again, even if your dog only started to cry when you were out of sight at the minute. If your dog has not calmed down within 5 minutes and continues to cry or bark, you also go back and stop the training session. Next time try to make the steps even smaller. If this does not work and your dog continues to panic so much that he does not calm down, then this is not the appropriate training method for you and it is wise to get help. Practice several times a day for a maximum of one hour. Start each new session just a little easier or less long than you did the last time. What can help is give your dog something to chew on. For example, The Benebone Wishbone a safe toy that is loved by many dogs. As soon as your dog can stay home alone for an hour without any problems, he can probably also be alone longer.
Training a French bulldog with separation anxiety takes, just like with any other behavioral problem, a lot of time and patience There isn’t one best way to help your Frenchie, because every dog and every owner is different. If you have any doubt, or the method above doesn’t work after a couple of months of training, ask a behavioral expert who has experience with separation anxiety for help.