Bichon Frises, are cute, lovable, and make for a wonderful pet but do they experience separation anxiety? This is a question that many Bichon Frise owners ask themselves after getting one.
Can Bichon Frises Be Left Alone?
Yes, with proper training Bichon Frises can be left alone for up to 8 hours. Anyone who says that bichons cannot be left alone doesn't understand proper training methods. If your Bichon Frise experiences separation anxiety when you leave the house he can be rehabilitated with consistent training. Using positive reinforcement and teaching him that being alone can be a positive thing is a method of training that works well.
Bichons thrive in social environments. They need to be around people. They also need to be trained to be independent. It’s not realistic to have your dog go everywhere you go. In our society, we practice what Cesar Millan refers to as, “separation.” We have independence. We go to work, we go to school, kids learn to become independent as they mature into adults. It’s no different for your Bichon. He needs to learn how to occupy his time when no one is home.
Bichon’s Need Training To Be Left Alone
Bichon’s don’t like to be left alone, but neither do babies and small children. As small children mature they are taught that being alone is ok and a good thing. They are weaned from their parents. The same thing needs to happen to a Bichon that suffers from separation anxiety. They need to be trained with positive reinforcement and taught that being alone can be a good thing for them.
Dogs are pack animals, it's perfectly natural for them to follow their family around like they did when they were wild. They are wired to be in a pack. Unfortunately, humans are different, our society is different. Our pets need to be trained and coached to adjust to our way of life. This doesn’t have to be painful. You can start with baby steps. I believe that any Bichon that suffers from psychological distress when alone can be rehabilitated.
How To Train Your Bichon To Be Left Home Alone
Cesar Millan recommends that you start by counting the number of times your dog follows you around in a day. So pick a day and count every time your dog follows you into a new room. That could be 30 times in a day or a 100. Whatever that number is, Cesar, recommends that you start by cutting it in half. This will give you data that you can work with and track your dog’s progress.
You want to train your dog with positive reinforcement. He needs to be taught that being alone and staying where you tell him to stay can be just as rewarding as when you are with him. All dogs love treats so I recommend you use whatever your favorite treat is as a reward. Make sure it's something he loves and perks up when he sees it.
Start By Training Your Bichon To Stay In a Room By Himself
Start by bringing your Bichon into the area you want him to stay in. This could be a crate or a dog bed on the floor. Your Bichon should have an area that is his and does not belong to anyone else. I, personally, like to crate train because it accomplishes this and gives a dog a secure environment that can induce feelings of safety, but not every dog likes this.
Once you have him in the area you've designated to be his you want to give him one of the treats. Teach him to stay in this area. You can use the word “stay” as your command, or any word you want. It's also helpful to use hand gestures for different commands.
Have him stay in this area and start walking away with the bag of treats. If your Bichon is not used to this he may disobey you and follow you begging for a treat. This is ok because he is still learning. It may take a while for an adult Bichon, but that’s ok, be patient with him, but also be firm and clearly communicate what you want him to do.
When he obeys you and stays put and you can leave the room without him following you, even if it is just for 30 seconds, in the beginning, reward him with praise and treats.
You want to condition your dog not to follow you when you tell him he needs to stay put. So if you are in a room watching TV with him, you want to get up to leave the room and get your Bichon to the point where he obeys your command to stay when you leave the room. Take the number of times your dog follows you around in a day and cut that number in half or into fourths.
Repeat this process over and over, day after day, until your dog associates his area in the house as a positive place. It may take a couple of weeks but if you stick with it you will have success. The key is to be consistent.
I know that Bichons love their family. I also realize that many Bichons have a fear-based reaction to being left alone but I believe that any Bichon Frise is capable of being rehabilitated from this, at least a moderate amount.
Redirect Your Bichons Energy
After your Bichon is trained to stay in a room by himself for more than 30 seconds or so, then you want to introduce things that will redirect his attention and energy. You should give him something he loves to do that will occupy his time. This could be a kong filled with peanut butter, a bone, or a toy that he loves. You want to give him something he can entertain himself with long enough to stay calm.
Teaching your Bichon to stay in a room by himself while you are home is the first step in training him to be left home alone. Depending on how severe your Bichons separation anxiety is, I think the best approach is to treat it like a marathon and not a sprint, which is why I recommend you start with teaching him to stay put while you're home.
The speed at which you progress in training your Bichon is up to how often you practice with him Once he is comfortable being alone in a room by himself, that’s when you can start training him to be home alone for longer periods, preferably no more than 8 hours unless he has access to a dog door to go outside and relieve himself. Start small and work his way up.
Condition Your Bichon For When You Leave The House
The next step in his training is him staying put in his area while you walk out the front door for a few minutes. You want to make this a positive experience and shake him out of any anxiety he may have when he sees you head to the door or pick up your keys.
It helps to identify the triggers that cause your dog to experience fear. Any ritual or habit you have before you leave the house could trigger him and you may not even realize it. One of my dogs got triggered every time he heard my keys jingle. He associated the noise with my leaving the house and it caused him anxiety before I even left.
If you are planning to leave the house he will pick up on it and he may experience anxiety in anticipation of you leaving him alone. You want to associate these triggers with positivity. Sort of like Pavlov's experiment when his dogs would salivate at the sound of his assistant's footsteps at the expectation of receiving meat. You want to condition your dog to associate the sounds and habits you have, before leaving the house, with something positive.
So if you pick up your keys, your wallet/purse, or put your coat on every time you leave the house, your Bichon picks up on this. Something you can do to change the anxiety he may experience from this is to lavish praise on him and give him treats each time you do these rituals.
Do this each time you walk through the door both on your way out and on your way in.
This will take some time you may see him leave his area to look out the window; he may get nervous when he sees you leave, and that’s ok, he is still learning, so don’t give up on him if he does. I promise, if you stick with training, you will see some improvement.
How Long Can a Bichon Be Left Alone?
Now that we know that a Bichon can be left alone let's talk about the maximum amount of time he can handle by himself. An adult Bichon can be left alone for up to 8 hours. No dog should be left alone for more than that without a way to relieve himself. Emergencies happen and sometimes we have to stay late at work or run into traffic, and that's ok as long as it’s not a regular occurrence.
Anyway, I hope the tips I gave you in this article answer some of the questions you had about Bichons. They are an amazing breed!