"Being alone for 5 minutes is scary, so I
tried to hide inside the couch!"
April 11, 2010: Blog Entry #4...
Anxiety: please don't leave me alone, again!
There isn't anything as difficult as
separation anxiety. I deal with aggression daily, and for the most part,
there are direct solutions, as well as several lifestyle changes that can be
done to make the dog understand how to behave acceptably. Separation
anxiety is different for every dog. I have seen dogs that bark non-stop,
salivate a pool of drool, scratch the door, rip up anything that smells of the
owner, or in my shepherd's case, pee, poo, vomit, bark, and rip door frames off.
The good news: you can normally manage it through a combination of training and
de-sensitization. The bad news: sometimes, the best you can do is bring it
down to a level where it isn't as insufferable.
First, let's discuss some of the reasons
separation anxiety happens. 632am... alarm goes off. You get up,
take the dog out, get some coffee, eat breakfast, shower, shave, get dressed,
put your shoes on, grab your keys, say goodbye to your dog, possibly set an
alarm, lock the door, start up your car, and drive away. You do this 5
days a week... notice a pattern? You should, because your dog definitely
does. Some dogs, who are more anxious or overly attached to their owners,
can get very upset at the start of any regularly done activity that precludes
you leaving him alone.
Question one: Can you kennel your dog?
If your dog can go in his kennel, and settle down, then that is your answer to
anxiety prevention. A lot of people feel bad about kennelling their dog
for longer periods of time, but keep in mind that a lot of dogs think of it as
their safe place. They are den creatures by nature anyway. A lot of
dogs actually enjoy their kennels. A kennel should be big enough for them
to stand in, turn around, and lie stretched out in. If you are gone more
than 8 hours, you should really think about coming home at lunch, going to doggy
daycare, or get a walker in a few times a week.
Does your dog bark excessively or display any
other negative behaviour when in the kennel? Does your dog seemingly
quasi-hyperventilate? Does your dog dread going into the kennel? If
yes, then DON'T kennel your dog, as that is a big part of the problem.
While most dogs kennel just fine, there are many others that freak right out,
and have never had any luck in the kennel from day one. There is a more
in-depth solution for that.
There are several little things, which done
together, can go a long way to prevent the dog from losing its marbles.
Can dogs play marbles? Does anyone play marbles anymore? Anyway,
list form is probably best:
1. Exercise your dog! Higher
strung dogs are more likely to be the BAD anxiety dogs that rip everything
apart. Run your dog daily and try to exercise in the morning before you
leave. Besides, we all need to be a bit more active.
2. Do not let your dog see or hear you
leave. Make your dog stay on his bed or stay in a room (this takes
practice, so do it when you are home first). This will discourage your dog
from following you to the door, as well as reduces pacing which can feed the
anxiety. Leave CBC radio on and an oscillating fan. This helps
muffle and distort the noise of you leaving or the postman opening your mail
box, which could re-anxietize your dog again.
2a. Put your dog on the bed or in the room
BEFORE you get your coat/hat/keys/ ready. Be VERY quiet when leaving, and
lock the door as quietly and slowly as possible. The door locking "Ker-Klunk"
is a loud noise that carries well. Not sure if that is apt onomatopoeia,
but I remember an episode of the original Batman, with Adam West, where Batman
hits one of the Joker's henchmen into the water, and it went "Ker-Splash!"
3. Distract your dog. Take a
slightly smaller kong, where the hole is smaller so that your dog can't clean it
out in 2 mins, but big enough he can actually get most material out. Mix
Peanut butter or Cheese whiz, with a bit of kibble. Put combo in Kong and
freeze. Take out of freezer and give it to your dog in the morning.
This will keep most dogs busy while you slip out the door. Give it to your
dog when you put him in his room or on his bed.
4. Any daily routines need to be
changed slightly and the dog needs to be prevented from seeing/hearing them if
possible. If you can leave your dog out for a few mins in the morning
while you make breakfast, or if you can close the door so your dog doesn't join
you in the bathroom, that would go a long way to lessening the initial anxiety.
BTW, most dogs that pee/poo when the owner leaves, do it in the first 15 mins.
That is when the dogs are most stressed and is when most damage occurs.
5. Stop letting your dog follow you
everywhere. Call me and I'll come help you with the bed, stays, or
whatever else you need to do this. If your dog follows you room to room,
start making him stay on its bed or in a down stay while you clean, do laundry,
or any other chore around the house. By de-sensitizing him to you leaving,
it will help build up his confidence, in that he can manage just fine if he
isn't attached to you.
6. Pretty much ignore your dog for 15
mins before you leave and when you first come home. By lessening the
impact of you coming/going, it will help decrease the intensity of any anxiety.
Don't make a fuss and stretch out your goodbye. I've met so many people
that spend 5 mins hugging their dog, talking, reading poems, or whatever while
they leave. No wonder the dog gets stressed out... he thinks you are
saying your final goodbye!
7. Obedience training. Training
establishes boundaries. A dog is happier when it knows its place and it
can gain much needed self-confidence by successfully accomplishing the commands
you set out before him.
Try all of these things together, and see if
they make a difference. If you need further help, don't hesitate to book a
consultation. Good luck! My own shepherd, Magnus, took me many
months to figure out the best solution for him. Boy did he cause some
"Adam West doesn't need muscle moulded
Bat-suits to make him look superior. He is fear inspiring enough as it