Perhaps the dog training issue that I have to deal with the most is separation anxiety in dogs. There are various ways that this problem can manifest itself depending on the personality of the dog in question – some destroy the home and all its contents while others scream and howl the place down all day. Others even chew at themselves to the point of bleeding. Then there are those dogs that leave smelly, little “presents” for their owners when they get back, often right in the doorway for maximum effect. The anxiety that this kind of behaviour causes the owners is easily matched by the stress felt by their panicking pooches. Some dogs are so extreme that I have been called out to help desperate owners who couldn't even shut the bathroom door without the dog losing its mind!
Developing an understandingThe amount of advice (and the variety) out there about this issue is vast, but in the main the solutions given (and the gadgets that are sold as a “miracle cure”) fail to deal with the problem. The first step to solving this upsetting situation is to understand WHY it happens. With this knowledge, the owner will immediately change their attitude to their delinquent dogs and can start to implement the correct procedures to calming the whole thing down. The good news is that it is much easier than you think – all it takes are a couple of subtle but powerful changes in the owners’ behaviour. Firstly, here is the reason why separation anxiety in dogs happens:
A dog is, by nature, a pack animal (as indeed are people - if you barrack for a footie club, if you have a close family or even if you are member of a society of motoring enthusiasts, that is the pack mentality at work). Also, we both need to know that there is a pack leader. Even the local amateur dramatic company has a president!
In the canine world, the security of the pack is the responsibility of the leader. If – due to the signals that most people give dogs without realising – the dog takes on the role of leader, it is therefore responsible for its pack’s safety. When those pack members leave the home to go to work etc. it can start to panic, leading to the various problems mentioned above. Think about this; how would a parent react if their children disappeared?
Turning understanding into actionFortunately, the way to solve this problem is simple. If the dog sees their owners as the leaders in a way that makes sense to them, they will be far calmer when left. After all, the leader is the decision maker and if they decide to leave the rest of the pack behind, that is fine.
The way leaders do this in Nature is by paying no initial attention to the rest of the pack when they are reunited. They do not look at the others to show that they have a personal space that requires respect. We do that too without thinking about it: Have you ever seen a person in the street that you don’t want to talk to? Chances are you have looked away…
Once the others have left the leaders alone, they will allow them to come to them to say hello. Everyone feels reassured that they can trust the decision makers. They repeat this procedure after any separation, regardless of how long or short that may be (which works to our advantage when training our dogs to calm down).
Click on link below to see how you can easily recreate this in your own home. This is especially handy for those who have dogs that lose the plot when the owners head for the door:
Gesture Leaving - 5 seconds is all it takes...Tony shows the quick and easy way to successfully say goodbye to dog separation anxiety - it starts with not saying goodbye...
If you would like to know more about dealing with separation anxiety in dogs, you can refer to our dog training eBook. It even includes a FREE audio book which gives you the entire Amichien Bonding process. I guide you through the key areas of everyday life where dogs look for leadership signals. If you practice the techniques mentioned, you will start to see improvements in your dog – sometimes the changes are very rapid.
NEWSFLASH! Starting in November – Adult Dog Education Classes in Melbourne. Learn how to step up to the role of leader of your pack in the calm, kind and natural way with hands on help from yours truly. For more details call Taking The Lead on 0409 854120. The first of the 4 classes starts on Saturday 9th November and places are limited.
Tony has been dog training (in association with his mother Jan Fennell) since 1999. The Dog Listener book has been translated into over 25 languages. He has been on radio and television on 4 continents and teaches the Amichien Bonding dog training process all over the world in English and French.