Welcome to my journey! This blog is about my adventures in dog training, pet therapy work, rescue work and life with my menagerie of animals. Enjoy!

Friday, October 25, 2013

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...

 I have had quite a few private lesson clients lately that are dealing with Separation Anxiety in one form or another. Separation Anxiety, SA, is a blanket term used to describe behaviors exhibited by a dog stemming from varying degrees of anxiety. Dogs can suffer from milder forms such as Isolation Distress (anxious when alone) all the way up to clinical SA where a dog can cause great destruction to the home and/or to themselves. Rather than go into the intensive protocol used to rehabilitate dogs suffering from SA (perhaps in a future post), I would like to address those with dogs that DON'T have SA and talk about prevention.

 One of the biggest mistakes (done with good intentions of course) many people make when adopting a new dog or bringing home a new puppy, is to spend every waking minute with the new dog (and sometimes the non awake hours too!). While it is very convenient to bring a dog or puppy home during vacation time, it can create problems that may not have been there previously. I am not saying never to bring a new dog home on vacation, but do so with the understanding that it's OK to let your dog spend some time apart from you, in fact it's recommended!

 Teaching your new dog or puppy right from the beginning that being separated from you isn't horrible, and in fact it can be awesome, will go a long way to building their self confidence as well as allow you to take a bathroom break without a four legged supervisor!

 New dogs coming into an adoptive home need an adjustment period. Some need longer than others but at the very least the first two weeks are the settling in period. Any training done at this time needs to be positive and taken at a snails' pace, with very low expectations, to allow your dog some success without becoming confused and frustrated.

Here are some quick and easy ideas to help you show your dog separation isn't the end of the world:

  • Reward your dog or puppy for calm behavior when physically separated from you. Is he sleeping in a bed across the room from you? Toss him a treat for that! Does he go explore something away from you? Toss him a treat for that! Take this gradually to more difficult steps by adding a gate in between you both, remove yourself from sight (for a second), close a door between you two. Reward all calm behavior as you progress and if your dog gets stressed at any time, decrease the difficulty a little.
  • Make all departures and returns calm and boring. You can absolutely say hi to your dog when you come home or goodbye when you leave but don't break out your Academy Award performance for them, it can increase stress in your dog.
  • Teach your dog to be ambivalent about you putting on your shoes or picking up your keys or any of the other things you do as you prepare to leave the house. You do this by randomly, throughout the day, picking up your keys and then putting them down, putting on your shoes, walking around and then taking them off again, open the door and then close it again, etc. Done over the course of time your dog will find these departure cues unimportant, thereby taking away the power they can have to induce anxiety in your dog.
 Just practicing a couple preventative measures can go a long way to making your dog or puppy comfortable being on their own when necessary and will make your life so much easier!

1 comment:

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