I was over in Dawsonville yesterday working with one of our Home Dog Training clients and their Morkie named Daisy. Daisy is about three years old and had come to my client through a rescue group about three months ago. She suffers from separation anxiety and was barking and being destructive every time my client left the house. After practicing the homework I had assigned, Daisy is doing much better. She can stay in the house by herself and stay quiet and calm while my client runs his errands or goes to work. This process took about six weeks, but the problem is now resolved. I thought it would be helpful to share my explanation and technique with all of you.
First of all, it is important to understand what normally causes our dog’s separation anxiety. This behavior is normally caused because our dog doesn’t see us as the leader and caregiver of the family (or pack). He might feel fine when we are in close proximity, but when we go, there is nobody to protect him or the environment in which he lives. We must change that perception so that he knows that whatever we do or ask him to do; he will be safe and everything will be just fine.
Now, we come to the “teaching part”. All teaching is based on starting at a point where a teacher can successfully communicate a lesson to the student. Once the student successfully understands the lesson, the teacher can move on to a more advanced and complex lesson. The teaching continues as the lessons steadily progress until the subject matter is effectively understood. Remember the term “baby steps”? That is what we are going to do.
- We start our lesson at a point where our dog is just fine with the separation between us. This might be on two ends of the sofa or half way across the room. We pay minimum attention to our dog and let him get used to us being there, but not interacting with him. If he comes over to us and tries to demand our attention, we ignore him. We continue this process for several days until he no longer is coming over and demanding our attention. We have accomplished the “I’m OK here with you over there from half way across the room” lesson.
- Now, we stand up and move to the far side of the room, near a door. We repeat the process we previously performed. We stand near the door and pay no attention to him. If he comes over, we don’t pay attention to his action and direct him away. We continue this until he no longer really cares that we are all the way across the room.
- Here comes a big step. Now, we step through the door. We initially only stay out of sight for about one to five seconds. We step back into the room so he can see us. If he runs to the door, we give him a correction sound and guide him back into the room. We repeat this process until he no longer comes to the door to see where we have gone and we can step out for fifteen to twenty seconds. After a few successful days of this, we are ready to move on.
- When on the other side of the door, we will now make footstep sounds as we move to the door leading outside. This is adding an invisible, yet audible trigger to the mix. We want to make sure that this won’t cause him to run after us. We repeat this until he remains on the other room, not venturing towards us. After a few days of nonchalance on his part, we move on.
- Now, we reach the outside door. We rattle the door knob and slightly open the door. This adds an additional invisible, yet audible trigger. This is “a biggie” because it is a clear indication that we are going out. We repeat this exercise in the exact same manner that we did with the prior exercises.
- With everything going well to this point, we are ready to step outside and close the door. As we do this, we give our stern correction sound as the door closes. This gives your dog one more indication that we are in charge and things are OK. We remain outside for about five to thirty seconds and then enter the house to repeat the exercise. If he runs to the door, we need to correct him with the low, correction sound. We repeat this until he no longer pays attention to our leaving.
- One more step. Now we leave the house for several minutes and make a lot of noise outside that we are “really going away”. We need a “partner in crime” to stay back by the front door quietly listening. If our dog starts to bark or make a commotion, our partner will make the low, stern correction sound. This gives us “the magical ability” to be there even though we aren’t. The purpose of this little ruse is to defuse any last minute adrenaline our leaving may cause and redirect our dog back to his prior state.
- Congratulations, you have solved Separation Anxiety.
One final note: If, at any time, our dog just isn’t getting a particular step, we simply need to go back to the prior step and reinforce. Sometimes we might get excited with our dog’s progress and move too fast. As long as we quickly recognize our error and step back, things will work out just fine.
Separation Anxiety took a lot of time to build up in your dog. It will take some time to correct. The good news is that you have a clear path to follow to correct the issue.
We highly recommend that you call us at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help. We have a large collection of dog training tips at Best Dog Trainers Dawsonville Georgia. Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Dawsonville Georgia.