I was in Snellville last Thursday with a new Home Dog Training client working with his family and their fourteen-month-old Siberian Huskey named Lasso. We focused our training around Lasso’s biggest issues that included jumping on any guest entering the house, incessant nipping and mouthing, demanding attention when any family member was watching television, taking food from the dinner table, and trying to run out the front door whenever anyone started to open it.
Although this was an extensive list, we overcame all these issues within a few hours and Lasso was becoming a very well-behaved doggie. At that point, we asked our client what other items we could address.
Our client thought for a moment and then remembered that the start of school was right around the corner. “We brought Lasso into our family this March, so we don’t know what to expect when school starts and our three children are gone all day at school and other activities.
School starts on August 3rd in Gwennette County and that’s only two weeks away. We don’t know what Lasso will do as we make the big drastic switch from a “house full of people to a house with kids at school”. Should we be worried?”
It is inevitable that a dog may react inappropriately after experiencing an interactive environment of summer playing with kids and family to a quiet and possibly lonely environment of an empty house with no kids and adults. Even if the adults are working from home, they are normally in their home offices working on the computer or on Zoom calls.
Dogs like consistency and continuity. Naturally, they don’t easily accept sudden changes in lifestyle and the dramatic schedule change that school brings. These changes often place a great deal of anxiety on the dog. With this fact in place, we continued to give our client some dog training suggestions to minimize possible anxiety and bad behavior.
The most critical issue that you must confront is your dog’s separation anxiety. Although you don’t necessarily need to completely eliminate it, you must address it in such a way that it is appropriately managed. When a dog experiences heightened separation anxiety, they will often become highly destructive, bark and howl excessively, and display other inappropriate and annoying behaviors.
Don’t give your dog as much attention as before – Start to ignore your dog a week or two before school starts. Start by ignoring him “a little bit each day”. Increase your “I am ignoring my dog” time every day until you are ignoring him, leaving him alone, or having him away from you for several hours a day. This activity will slowly acclimate your dog to feel comfortable in being away from you for extended periods of time and being left alone in a quiet and empty house.
Start your transition period as soon as possible – It is very important that you begin this process as long as possible before school starts. In doing so, you will have the opportunity to introduce this new, quieter environment slowly. The slower the process, the more of a sense of continuity your dog will feel between “the house is full” and “the house is empty” physical environment.
Practice leaving the house – Gather all your “I am leaving now things” and leave the house as if you are going to school or work. Once outside, be very quiet for about five to ten seconds. Now, come back inside the house. Repeat this exercise multiple times per day. This action will slowly disassociate your leaving with “the house is empty”.
As your dog becomes uninterested in your departure, extend the time you remain outside. Your dog will quickly think nothing of your departure through the front door or garage door and will not become anxious or nervous because of it. That is a major step in stemming any issue with separation anxiety.
Remain calm and maintain your leadership role – People love reassurance. We always want to know that everything is OK. When we leave the house, we assume that Lasso also needs this reassurance. So, we walk to the door and then turn and say “Oh Lasso, everything is going to be just fine. Daddy will be coming home real soon.” in a sweet, high, and reassuring voice.
Dogs do not respond to many things in the same manner as humans. To Lasso, this assumedly reassuring action creates anxiety and nervous anticipation. To Lasso, this is telling him “I’m leaving, I need your help outside.” This is not good and leads to inappropriate actions associated with separation anxiety.
We need to “be the boss” and to be “large and in charge”. Simply ignore your dog for about ten minutes before you leave. When you leave, don’t say a word. You are the boss; you don’t need to give any reason for your departure.
Toys – Make sure that you leave your dog with all his favorite toys. This will help redirect his focus from your departure to his toys. With this said, you don’t want to create a situation where presenting him with his favorite toys will become an association of your departure. Avoid this situation by giving him those toys during the day when you are still home. This will disassociate the presentation of his toys with any specific event.
In performing these easy steps, you will make the environmental transition from “a summer home full of people” to a “schooltime home empty of people” a simple and pleasant experience for your dog. Now that you have delt with your dog, the only thing you have to worry about is making sure your kids don’t miss the morning school bus. That is probably the biggest challenge of all.
Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years. We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and excellent families and are ready to help you.