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Separation Anxiety

Maltese Separation Anxiety

Overview

Leaving your puppy or dog home alone is never pleasant; however, it is so much worse when you know that your Maltese really struggles with this. Experiencing distress when alone is referred to as separation anxiety, and it can be both physically and emotionally draining for a puppy or dog.

In this section we will cover:
  • Signs and common behaviors seen with this
  • Steps you can take to help your Maltese better cope when home alone

Signs of Separation Anxiety

Each dog handles things a bit differently, some becoming sullen, some panicking, and some displaying behaviors in between these two extremes. 

In general there is:
  • Excessive barking
  • Whining, crying, and/or clingy behavior before you leave
  • Distressed or panicked behavior such as excessive pacing or jumping 
  • Destructive chewing
  • Self chewing or biting (often at the paws, but almost always at one body area)
Additionally, some dogs do not have a quick recovery when owners come home. They can be frazzled for quite some time afterward. 

Continual distress can take its toll on a puppy or dog; and you may notice a gradual downhill change in behavior and mood. 
man-with-maltese-dog
Spunky, photo courtesy of Eldri

How to Help a Maltese That Has Separation Anxiety

Regardless of which degree your Maltese struggles with being home alone, there can be quite a bit of improvement. 

The main idea of this is to 1) set up the right environment and to 2) equip your Maltese with what he needs when he is by himself.

If only some elements are incorporated but not others, you may find that your dog still struggles. 

So, the idea will be for all elements to work together in combination, to truly provide support on all levels. 

Having the Right Set-up

There are a few parts to this, so we will go over each. As you will see, each element helps in a particular way. When they all come together, this creates the foundation for a dog feeling both comfort and security. 
#1. Use a canine playpen. There are several important reasons why most toy dogs with separation anxiety do best when within an appropriately sized pen.

1. Having free reign often makes things worse. A tiny dog roaming inside a big house usually has increased feelings of isolation. And with a toy breed dog as small as the Maltese, even a gated off room is often too large. 

2. Crates are too small. Tiny pet crates are just as bad, but in the opposite way. These are terribly confining, and often increase a dog's stress level. They can be both physically and emotionally upsetting. 

3. Pens create the pleasant feeling of having a 'den'. All dogs, no matter the breed, are ruled by canine instinct. One of those very strong instincts is to seek what a 'den' offers. To a puppy or dog, a 'den' immediately signals safety and security. 

4. A good-sized pen keeps all of your Maltese's necessities in one spot. And this is key, since those items (which we will cover next) work to keep him calm and happy, and help erase feelings of loneliness. If a Maltese has a whole room to himself, those items can end up too far away from him for them to do their job. 

Note: You may be wondering about using gates to block off a section of a room; if you can do this while keeping roughly the same dimensions that a pen would provide this is another option for you. 
# 2 Have a small yet quality canine bed. Every Maltese should have his own bed, even if he normally rests on his owner's lap or takes naps on the floor. Here are a few points to keep in mind:
  • Sleeping or resting on the floors can take its toll both on joints, and on the coat (most often noticeable on the elbows)
  • A good bolstered bed will increase the 'den' attributes that we spoke of regarding the pen, that helps offer a feeling of safety and security. 
  • Since you will want your Maltese to love his bed, if he sleeps in your bed at night, he may have an intolerance to sleeping on his own bed during the day. 
Bolstered beds are best for most Maltese puppies and dogs; only if a Maltese insists on being at floor level would you want to look into flat mattresses. Adults 6+ years should have an orthopedic bed. 
#3. Place the pen in just the right spotMost dogs do best when their pen is in a room that is normally used by the family. You'll find that a pen also works fantastic for when you are housebreaking a Maltese puppy, and for any times that you need your Maltese to be within a safe area (lots of guests over, etc.). 

Typically, the living room is a good choice, as is the kitchen. You will also want to experiment with a window Vs a non-window view (if this is near sliders in the kitchen, etc.). 

Lastly, in the winter check to make sure the area is not too close to cold drafts and hot heating that may be coming from vents, and in the summer checks for drafts from the AC.
#4. Have pee pads. Even for housebroken dogs, pee pads are always a good idea, because sometimes bathroom needs cannot wait until an owner gets home.

Dogs can only hold their needs so long. Therefore, whether your Maltese puppy is still learning or your older adult knows the rules, messes can be deposited onto the pads. 

You do not really need your dog to be pee-pad trained for this. The reason is because his other items will be taking up real estate in the pen, and since dogs rarely soil their own belongings, pee and poo will most likely end up on the pads. 

#5 Select the right toys. Without careful thought to which type of toys your Maltese has when home alone, they may do very little good. 
A few generic ones will often not be touched, and a mountain of inferior toys doesn't change that. 

Toys need to be thought of as tools that meet specific purposes. 

There are 2 types:

1. Those that provide entertainment.  Lonely dogs that may also feel frustrated, upset, or solemn need a couple of toys that prompt interaction. 

Not only should they draw a dog in, but also keep him busy and happy. 

Some great ones for this are those that speak.Toys that let out funny human catchphrases and those that make spirited animals sounds are always favorites. 

No matter which ones you choose, be sure that they both engage and mimic interaction, via noises of some kind. 

2. Treat dispensing. Having one of these is often extremely helpful, because if you are gone for the day most likely you'll be away for at least one mealtime. 
white-maltese-female
Snow, at 9 years old,
photo courtesy of Linda Martin
While you can always leave food in a bowl, this can be tipped over; but more importantly, a properly sized treat-release toy will also serve as a means to keep a puppy or dog occupied.

You may have noticed that many treat dispensing toys are sized much too large for the Maltese breed. 

Fortunately, there is at least one that works well for most Maltese. The Busy Buddy Barnacle Toy Size Extra Small consists of 3 small balls, each that hold treats, so while the overall size is moderate, each molded globe is just about right. 
#6 Offer a companion toy. No doubt, these are one of the best tools to fight separation anxiety. 

The Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy is amazing. It is a good sized, sturdy yet soft stuffed animal. It sends out a calming, rhythmic heartbeat to mimic a living creature. In addition, it can also emit a comforting warmth (this is an optional setting).  With this, your Maltese is no longer alone. 

#7 Play a loop of canine-specific calming music. While you can leave on a TV or a radio, common problems with this are that you will have no control over which type of commercials come on (which are often irritatingly louder than shows), and while you may choose a great channel or station before you leave the house, programming may change as the day progresses.
A great option is to play music (MP3's, streaming, or CDs) that are specifically tailored for canine ears. These can provide happy sounds and music that help create a really nice environment for a dog that home by himself. 
Below, are all of our recommended items that we've mentioned that work together to help resolve separation anxiety. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. On mobile, you may need to turn your phone horizontal to see all 8 images.

*** Note that these pens have a door, and this is the type that we recommend so that a Maltese can come & go at times when you are home. 

More Helpful Tips

Once you know that you have created the perfect set-up for your Maltese, these are some additional tips.
1) When you are home, leave the door open to your Maltese's pen. 

Keep some favorite toys there, and encourage him to curl up on his bed if he seems to want a nap.

The playpen should be accessible at all times, not just when you are away. 

2) Before you leave, plan for plenty of time. You will want to take your Maltese out for bathroom needs without having to rush. 

A good 20-minute (or up to 30-minute) walk in the morning is ideal, as this will allow a puppy or dog to stretch their muscles after a night's sleep and can somewhat tire a dog out. 
You will also want there to be enough time so that you can place your Maltese in his area a good 20 minutes before you leave. 

3) When you are leaving, have your goodbyes and hugs already done. Doing this right before you exit can induce some panic. 

4) When you arrive back home, do not rush over to your Maltese with gushing words or attention. This can reinforce the notion that your absence was terrible and that your arrival back was a miracle. 

Try to play it cool for about 5 minutes; check your mail, get a drink of water, casually walk around without making eye contact. And then, open the pen door and lather your Maltese with love. 
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