Copyright: Sally G
Generally dogs with SA lack self esteem and you can help to build self esteem through daily positive obedience training and the more short sessions you can do in a day the better. Through that training you want to get a good ‘down stay’, meaning the dog should not get up until a release command is given. This means you need to start training this at a close distance to the dog just a few feet at first and try to give a release command before the has time to get up as this allows the to succeed in what you have asked. The goal is to eventually be able to put the in a down stay while you move out of site. This will start the process of the dog learning to be alone. Continue training throughout the dog’s life to keep from backslides. This does not mean it has to be formal, like every day at 2:30, it means to ask for a command anytime you are with the dog and be sure the dog can succeed at giving it to you for praise or a treat. This is all to build self confidence.
I would also invest in some mind stimulating toys such as the talk to me treat ball, ( this is a ball that you can hide treats in and as the dog rolls it a recording of your voice is played) the Kong stuffed with cream cheese and frozen, the buster cube where kibble or treats are placed inside, and dog puzzles. This is all to keep her mind occupied while you are away from home. I have also found success in filling a large Gatorade bottle with the daily kibble as it lasts a long time as they try to get the food out.
You will have to change your routine a bit so the dog never really knows if you are coming or going. I would start this training on a weekend or at a time you don’t have work or any appointments and I would do it all day long. What you are going do is change your behavior which the dog has learned means you are about to leave. Whatever your routine entails prior to you normally leaving are things you want to change. This means everything from taking that morning shower before work to picking up your keys and leaving the house.
Some find it helpful to make a list of things they normally do before leaving because humans are so automated we do things that we don’t even realize, but the dog picks them up as cues.
You want to do these things all throughout the day preferable for a couple of days in a row, but never really leave the home for hours at a time.
So pick your keys up, jiggle them a little and put them down again , put your coat on walk around the house a bit and take it off, get dressed for the day then get redressed for bed. If you take a shower in the morning each day change that to a night time shower and interchange them on days you are home or away.
Do not give good byes or hellos. Do not acknowledge the dog for at least 15 minutes before you leave and after coming home. Soft talk and acknowledgement of a dog that is acting nervous is actually rewarding to that dog. When you think about training a dog, we ask for something from them, they do it, we praise them. When it comes to doggie habits, they paw our arm and we pet them, so it works because the reinforcement of petting was immediate. When you acknowledge a scared dog with petting or soft talk it is actually a reward and so the behavior continues and gets worse over time.
When training in commands to succeed I find it helpful to use the clicker (which can be found in any pet store) as it is used as a marker over the person’s voice. Sometimes when humans train strictly with their voice , their frustration comes out and the dog hears that, which then makes the dog more nervous. So clicker training is simply giving the dog a command and waiting for the dog to complete that command, they use the clicker as a market that tell the dog they did the right thing then praise & reward. Sometimes the clicker noise frightens a dog so in that instance you will want to use your voice as the marker but keep it to one word such as “Yes.” There are also clickers that make a louder sound and some that are softer so play around and see if one will work for your dog.
The clicker costs about 3 dollars in a pet store and if you cannot find a treat bag for your belt use an old fanny pack. Not quite as stylish but it worksJ For reward I prefer very small soft treats so there is nothing that can crumble to the ground when chewed. When items like biscuits are used and the fall out of the dog’s mouth to the floor it takes the dog’s attention off of you.
Items you may want to try along with training: a thunder/anxiety wrap, a DAP diffuser, ( I have heard through customers that the diffuser works better in home situations than the collar) You may want to try over the counter Melatonin but always consult your vet before using any over the counter meds. I usually use this for dogs with anxiety to noise and separation. There are also a CD’s out called Through A Dogs Ear found on Amazon that I have found helpful to my own dogs in having them rest more peaceably.
Keep in mind that a dog with a case of separation anxiety is normally attached to the owner so getting another dog to help with separation anxiety may not help the dog at all, but cause you more headaches. However I also say “never say never” especially if you have adopted an older dog because you may not know if that dog was actually attached to another animal before it came to live with you so it would not do any harm to having a family member or friend’s dog stay with your dog for a couple of days to see if it helps.
Below are sites to aid you in finding what I have mentioned above .
video’s to see how clicker training is done, scroll down to videos http://www.clickertrainusa.com/clicker-training-videos.htm
Melatonin found in drug stores by vitamins
Through a dogs ear
3 hours of dog calming music on youtube to try out
mind stimulating toys
talk to me treat ball
Kong these work great when stuffed with cream cheese and frozen
Dog Puzzles. If you just type in dog puzzles on amazon you will come to a page full. I just happened to pick this one . PetCo also carries dog puzzles.
More Separation Anxiety tips