The Cocker Spaniel is affectionate, energetic, and great with kids, and it’s one of America’s favorite dogs. One thing you might have heard about Cocker Spaniels is that they tend to suffer from separation anxiety. That begs the question; can a cocker spaniel be left alone at home? According to many veterinarians and dog experts, the answer is usually no, or if it’s strictly necessary level them only in periods of 4 hours maximum.
Of course, not all dogs are alike, and some Cocker Spaniels might be able to handle being left alone. If you’re adopting a Cocker Spaniel but worried about leaving it home by itself, keep reading below.
What Is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
If you’ve owned dogs before, you know that, when left alone, some can be destructive and disruptive. However, a dog suffering from separation anxiety will show signs of distress before you leave the house, including barking, drooling and anxious behavior.
Some dogs with separation anxiety will try to escape the house after you leave and, in doing so, injure themselves, sometimes severely. Even the most well-trained dogs can have separation anxiety because it has nothing to do with training and everything to do with a dog being upset that its owner is “gone.”
Do Cocker Spaniels Suffer From Separation Anxiety?
Unfortunately, yes, Cocker Spaniels suffer from separation anxiety. According to veterinarian Dr. Butch Mitchell, Cocker Spaniels are one of the four most common breeds to exhibit separation anxiety, including the Labrador Retriever, Chihuahua, and German Shepherd 1.
Cocker Spaniels suffer so much from this condition because they’re highly social dogs that don’t like being alone. Another reason Cockers get separation anxiety is that they’ve long been bred to be working dogs and form intense attachments to their humans. This attachment creates an extreme need to be around their owners and, when they leave, can manifest into the condition we know as separation anxiety. The issue can happen even if a Cocker Spaniel’s owner leaves the house for just a few minutes.
How Long Can a Cocker Spaniel Be Left Alone?
Many veterinarians recommend you don’t leave your Cocker Spaniel alone for more than 4 hours at a time. It’s also recommended that if you have to leave your pet at home for more than 4 hours, you ask someone to stay with them while you’re gone.
Unfortunately, for some Cocker Spaniels, even an hour might be far too much for them to handle. All dogs are different, of course, and some Cocker Spaniels will be just fine being left alone for a short time. However, leaving the typical Cocker Spaniel home alone for 8 hours or more is not advised.
What Are the Signs of Separation Anxiety in Cocker Spaniels?
Several signs will usually be present if your Cocker suffers from separation anxiety and can’t be left alone at home for long periods. Some of the following will occur before you leave, while others will happen after you’ve left. Also, some Cocker Spaniels may exhibit only one or two signs of separation anxiety, while others will have all of them.
Can You Train a Cocker Spaniel to Avoid Separation Anxiety?
While there isn’t a specific method for training a Cocker to not have separation anxiety, you can do a few things to prevent it or reduce it drastically.
1. Expose Your Pet to Being Alone at a Young Age
If you adopt a Cocker Spaniel as a puppy, one of the best ways to reduce the chance of separation anxiety is to train them to be alone right from the start. No, you don’t want to go away the entire day (what a mess that would create), but leaving them alone for an hour is a great start.
If your pet can handle an hour or two, you can gradually leave them alone for longer periods. You should note, however, that no matter how much you train them, some Cocker Spaniels will still have a problem with being left alone for more than a few hours at a time.
2. Prepare to Leave the House but Stay Home Instead
This may sound silly, but it actually works. Many Cocker Spaniels will pick up on subtle cues you’re leaving, including putting on your shoes, jangling your keys, and walking towards the front door. When they see these things happen, their separation anxiety kicks in, and the problems start.
To counter this, go through the acts of leaving, including everything you usually do with your keys, coats, shoes, etc. However, instead of leaving, stay home. If you do this often enough, your dog will eventually stop reacting, and its separation anxiety will decrease.
3. Gradually Increase the Time You Leave Your Adult Cocker Spaniel Home Alone
If you adopted your Cocker Spaniel as an adult and they have separation anxiety, you have your work cut out for you. One of the best methods to curb the issue is to leave your new pet alone for short periods gradually. How long? That depends on your Cocker and how intensely they suffer from this issue. For some Spaniels, you can start with as little as 5 minutes at a time. Others might be fine with being alone for longer, but patience and persistence will be necessary.
4. Provide as Many Distractions as Possible
This method is also a good one and involves making sure your Cocker Spaniel has lots of toys, bones, and other items that will distract it from the fact that you’ve left the house. Some Cocker owners play music when they leave, while others turn on the TV.
5. Crate Train Your Cocker
Some trainers suggest crate training can reduce separation anxiety in Cocker Spaniels and other dogs. That’s because, once used to their crate, it will become your pet’s “safe space,” where they feel comfortable and can relax. Crate training should start when your dog is a puppy for the best results. Also, giving your pet its favorite toys when crated is a good idea.
While a Cocker Spaniel can be left home alone, it’s best not to do it for long periods since the breed suffers greatly from separation anxiety. Hopefully, the tips and advice provided will help you reduce your Cocker’s anxiety and disruptive or destructive behavior.
If your precious pet has a big problem with being home alone, it will take time, patience, and persistence to reduce or eliminate the issue. You should also know that it might never go away completely. If you’re away from home frequently, you’ll need a pet sitter or friend to keep your Cocker from becoming stressed.
Featured Image Credit: Alkhaine, Pixabay