Robin and I were talking to a new client in Buckhead about Clarence, his Jack Russell. He told us that Clarence would go completely nuts every time they left their house. He would bark like crazy, chew up the baseboards, and pull everything off every table he could find. They tried putting him in a crate every time they left, but they were afraid that he was going to hurt himself inside the crate. They read a lot of articles, but nothing seemed to be working. Did we have any ideas on how to make Clarence calm when they left the house?
We told our client that their dog is experiencing separation anxiety. When he leaves, his dog becomes anxious and will cry and bark for long periods of time. His dog will nervously pace and wait by the door or sit on window ledges hoping he will soon be home. Sometimes this behavior can turn destructive. The dog could start chewing on the baseboards near the door or on pillows and other pieces of furniture. In one wild case, we saw two dalmatians actually eat their way through a wall. (No kidding!)
Separation often starts with anticipation. When the dog has the ability to anticipate the client’s departure and his being left alone, it builds up the adrenaline and can make the matter even worse. What we tell our client to do is that he must remove his dog’s anticipation of his departure.
We are creatures of habit and often have set routines for things we do. This can easily take place when we leave the house. We go for our keys, make sure that the doors and windows are locked, turn off the lights, get our wallet, etc. We may even start this process up to thirty minutes before we actually leave. Our dog watches us all day and has a clear idea of what we are doing, the order, and why. When our dog starts to see the “Getting ready to leave the house” routine, his adrenaline and possible anxiety begins to spike. To litigate our dog’s anxiety, we need to “hide” our “Going away” routine from our dog.
We suggest the following:
- We tell our clients to write down everything they perform when leaving the house. They should start the list about thirty minutes before they really leave. After four or five days, we ask them to take their lists out and to look for patterns in their leaving routine. The patterns will indicate their actual “I am going away” routine.
- From now own, we tell our clients to mix up their routine every time they leave. All they need to do is to look at their list and change the order or even leave one or two of the actions out.
- To make things more interesting, we ask them to start to perform their “I am leaving” routine”, but don’t leave. Get all ready to leave, walk out the door, come right back in side, and sit down to watch TV. They should do this several times a day for the next four or five days.
What we have told our client to do is to show their dog there is not a pattern to their leaving. There is no need for their dog to get anxious because of particular actions. Although this is not a total solution for separation anxiety, it is an initial step in minimizing the overall level of anxiety.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 or (770) 718-7716 if you need any dog training help. We have been blessed to be your local dog training experts for over fourteen years. Robin and I have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.