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We all know the bichon frise is the ideal companion. But, unfortunately, this means they can become too attached to their owner, so much so that it can cause canine separation anxiety. To help your dog overcome this anxiety, we need to delve deeper and learn more about the condition.
What Is Canine Separation Anxiety?
Canine separation anxiety can manifest in many ways. The most common signs of separation anxiety are destructive behaviors. Such behavioral changes can make it difficult to diagnose separation anxiety. That’s because they can also stem from a lack of training, too little exercise, etc. That said, when the behavioral problems (like being too feisty) coincide with being left alone for any period, separation anxiety likely is to blame.
Anxious behavior usually starts when you prepare to leave home. Suppose actions like the sound of car keys or the garage door opening trigger a behavior change. In that case, separation anxiety is almost certainly the cause. The condition is more prevalent in companion dogs, and bichons frises are particularly susceptible. Once alone, your bichon may tear up furniture, lose bladder control, or bark incessantly.
There is also the risk of a bichon frise seriously injuring themselves in a desperate attempt to escape. The dog’s sense of self-preservation is diminished by the extreme anxiety, leading them to try to escape no matter the danger involved.
An additional indicator of canine separation anxiety is usually obvious in the dog’s behavior when the owner returns. The dog will act as though its owner had been gone for ages. The extreme welcome may be adorable at times. Still, it probably means that your dog is suffering some degree of separation anxiety.
Are Bichons Frises Prone to Separation Anxiety?
Bichons frises are particularly prone to separation anxiety. This is because they are companion dogs, a sub-category of dogs that grow very attached to their owners. Bichons are on the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to this issue. Unfortunately, they are so likely to develop this condition that many bichon breeders prefer to sell only to people who can keep their dog with them all the time.
Fortunately, the bichon frise is also a very intelligent and trainable dog. That makes it easier to address the problem via professional training.
How Long and How Often Can You Leave Your Bichon Frise Alone?
It depends and varies from dog to dog. The degree to which your bichon frise experiences separation anxiety plays an obvious role in how long they can be left alone.
A bichon with no signs of canine separation anxiety can generally be left alone for 6 to 8 hours. However, one must remain vigilant, keeping an eye out for subtle behavioral changes that may indicate minor separation anxiety. A bichon frise can develop separation anxiety at any age.
For a bichon that clearly suffers from canine separation anxiety, there is no good safe amount of time that they can be left alone. You can only begin leaving an anxiety-afflicted bichon frise alone for short periods as reparative training begins to take effect.
To learn more, read my detailed article about how long you can leave your bichon frise alone.
What Will Happen If Your Bichon Frise Suffers From Separation Anxiety?
With the basics out of the way, let’s see what are some of the most common symptoms of separation anxiety.
Barking, Howling, and Moaning
If your bichon frise suffers from separation anxiety, their first response when they are left alone will likely be excessive, hysterical barking. They may also give a high-pitched howl or desperate moan. Sometimes, they might even shake.
When left alone, a Bichon with separation anxiety is liable to engage in destructive behavior. For example, they might chew on and tear up furniture and other household objects.
More concerningly, a bichon may engage in reckless, dangerous escape attempts. For example, while many dogs will scratch up a door to sign that they want to get out, a dog with separation anxiety might attempt life-threatening escapes. Such attempts can lead to the dog getting stuck, injured, or even falling from windows or balconies.
Defecation and Urination
After barking, these are the most common behaviors associated with canine separation anxiety. The behavior is only a possible symptom if urination or defecation occurs in home areas where it would not usually happen. It is important to note that they only indicate separation anxiety when they happen exclusively in the owner’s absence.
How to Reduce Your Bichon Frise’s Separation Anxiety
There are several ways in which you can reduce and hopefully alleviate your bichon’s separation anxiety. The two primary keys to helping your bichon frise’s separation anxiety is increasing their exercise and decreasing their hyper attachment through desensitization training.
This kind of training is not easy. Going about it incorrectly could lead to permanent damage. It is always best to use a professional trainer. At the very least, you should consult an expert on what methods are best for your dog and how to approach them.
What Does Desensitization Training Entail?
There are many different methods of desensitization training. However, the commonality between them is that they are all aimed at teaching your bichon frise that it is okay to be without you and that you will return. The process will require patience, and it may take time to see any improvements.
Regardless of the specific training style, your dog mustn’t experience any fear. Do not use any form of negative reinforcement.
The general steps involved in desensitization training are as follows:
The Stay Command
Before you begin any form of anxiety desensitization, you will need to teach your bichon the stay command. The stay command follows the same process as the sit command. With the stay command, you have to teach your dog to remain where they are as you gradually move further away.
Out-of-Sight Stay Command
The out-of-sight stay command is the natural extension of the stay command. Once you have trained your bichon to stay even as you withdraw, the next step is to teach them to stay when you disappear from view.
Place training may be the best method of teaching your dog to stay even when you leave their line of sight. Place training takes the action of the stay command and links it to a specific spot. The spot can either be a crate or a doggy bed. The spot must be located in a relatively quiet room. The fewer distractions, the easier it will be for your dog to learn.
During place training, the command also changes from ‘stay’ to ‘go to bed’ or ‘crate.’ There is a distinction between the two actions, which will confuse your dog if you mix them up. Both the stay and place training commands also need a release command so that your dog knows when they can leave the spot.
As your Bichon becomes confident that you will return every time, their anxiety about being away from you will start to decrease. In the beginning, you will only step out of view for seconds at a time. However, the duration will increase over time to the point where you can send your Bichon to their spot for prolonged periods.
The Real Deal
You can’t leave your Bichon Frise in their ‘place’ for hours on end while you are away. When your dog is comfortable with extended periods of staying in their place, they should fair better at dealing with you leaving for a while.
Starting with very short trips, continue to reinforce the fact that you always return. This step in the process is particularly challenging. It is also the most important to get right. Consult a professional on precisely how to go about it. Every bichon is unique, and many of the steps will need to be tailored to work for your dog’s personality and levels of anxiety.
Remember that training needs to work with increased exercise. A tired dog, that has plenty of stimulation, will have reduced anxiety about being left alone. You can also try pheromone dispensers and music to soothe your dog while you’re away. Make sure to always leave them with something to keep them occupied, such as a filled Kong, in your absence.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, no longer make a fuss when you leave the house or come back. No matter what, always leave quietly, and when you come back, take at least 10 mins before you acknowledge your dog. The reason is that by increasing excitement around coming and going, you can also increase their anxiety. It is better for your bichon if leaving and returning is always done calmly.
To learn more about how to go through this process, read my guide on how to train a bichon frise.
The Bichon Frise is a very good companion animal. This is one of its best traits but also causes one of its biggest challenges. Bichons are particularly susceptible to canine separation anxiety.
The exact methods will vary from dog to dog. Still, the general approach to dealing with canine separation anxiety involves professional desensitization training.