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The Separation Anxiety Epidemic

I didn’t realize the extent that our canine companions and their owners suffer with this until we were blessed with the grooming aspect of our business.  This blog is going to concentrate on how to prevent it.  I am not delving into how to cure this ailment during the context of today’s post.  That will be for another day.   

 

separation-anxiety-dog1

A lot of these steps take into consideration that you have a dog with at least the potential for a semi sturdy base, which will be applicable to 99% of the owners out there.  The other 1% would be for what is considered rehab dogs, which might require a couple extra steps, a little more time and patience.

 The goal with these 10 steps is to pave the foundation to a better base and to mitigate separation anxiety from occurring, before it flares up.

 “It’s Not Okay”

By telling your dog over and over again “it’s okay” as if trying to calm a crying baby down you should instead say; “be scared, I don’t have this situation handled.”  You could also say, “It’s not okay, it’s not okay.”   Obviously I am joking, but this is actually what you are unintentionally communicating.  This communication stream actually goes much deeper than just feeding into the behavior.

If you fall into the “it’s okay” camp and have been doing this for years, try this exercise.  Pick your dog up in a mundane situation.  Start petting her while telling her it’s okay repeatedly.  Monitor her to see if she begins to lick her lips, look away, shake (either tremor or shake as if she were damp) or otherwise look nervous.   If this is the case you have successfully trained your dog to have separation anxiety.

Justification:  It’s not what you say, it’s when you say it.

  • The Crate is Great!

Crate train your dog even if your current and possible future plans don’t look like it will be necessary.  If you just recently brought home an older, potty trained and non destructive dog home from the shelter and they absolutely freak while in the cage you might want to do a cost (time/monetary) benefit analysis to if this makes sense for you.

Justification:  Having solitude in small spaces helps strengthens your dog’s resolve to be isolated and stand on its own four paws.

dog in crate

  • Snuggle Pup?!?!

Get your dog out of your bed, at least at first.   This is something that all dog trainers will tell their client.  The problem is that not all clients want this.   I realize this, so how about we meet in the middle and not allow your dog in bed with you at least until she proves herself to be perfectly fine being apart from you, accepting of the crate, potty trained and without any major behavioral issues?

Justification:  Think parents co-sleeping with toddlers.

  • Let’s Get Physical

Tug, fetch, off leash walks and structured walks are the most universal ways of getting your dog’s energy out.  For some older dogs you can skimp a little on this, for the rest of the world: Step away from the TV and computer and Walk Your Dog!   If due to time constraints, climate or physical limitations I would seek alternate modes of exercise.  For example dog walkers or doggie day care.

Justification:  Exercise should be a staple in all of our lives and not just for physical reasons.

  • Thriving on Food

I encourage all of my clients to not free feed for a multitude of reasons.  Free feeding is when you let your dogs graze.  By putting the food bowl down 2-3 times a day (adult vs puppy) and picking it up after five minutes your dog will have a more structured life.  Structured feeding also increases food drive for training and helps ensure a predictable elimination window.

Justification:  Think about the seasons in your life when you lacked structure.  How was your anxiety level?

  • No “Hi” no “Bye” (Don’t be a butt sniffer)

As much as dogs are similar to humans, with greetings we differ slightly.  Dogs have the classic C shaped genital smelling introductions with other canines.  When the other canine leaves the area they simply walk away.  So, don’t praise a dog and make a fuss when you come and go.  It is not normal for dogs to be praised at time of pick up and “it’s okayed” at time of drop off.

Justification: You wouldn’t sniff a newly introduced colleagues butt at a cocktail party would you?

dog sniffing butt

  • Wanna Go for a Car Ride?

Bring your dog with you everywhere, especially as a puppy (puppies avoid other canine trafficked areas until vaccinations have kicked in).   This is a great opportunity to get your dogs energy out while socializing it to this big (not scary) world.   Obviously, there are times when your dog would not be permitted or make sense.  In that case use the crate and the No “hi” no “bye” policy.

Justification: Socialize and minimize (take “scary” situations off the pedestal)

  • Board for Boarding Sake

Don’t get upset at the person or company boarding your dog if they do have a quality environment and service and your dog still “looses it.”  Just because you don’t have a need to go away for the first two years of your dog’s life, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expose her to a well run boarding scenario as a puppy.

Justification:  Annual summer camp helps college students from breaking down freshman year in college.

  • Leave for the Sake of Leaving

If you work at home, run a household or are retired this one is for you.  Just as important as it is to bring your dog with you it is also important for her to see you go.

Justification: Repetition is the key to a neutral mind state.

  • Four on the Floor

Walk your dog on the ground while handing off to the person receiving your dog at the vet’s, groomer’s or boarding place.   After handing the leash over begin to walk away nonchalantly.  Seems kind of basic, but the act of being passed from mommies’ bosom to the vet tech will be less dramatic for all parties involved.

Justification:  Four on the floor is more than you in the store.

dog being carried

Before you can change your dog’s outlook, you have to change yours first.  Don’t try and manage what will be allowed in your dog’s bubble.  Manage how you and ultimately how your dog reacts to the stimuli.

Moving forward:

“Scared of” = “growth potential” or “comfort zone expanding”

Both you and your dogs will be better off for following these tips.  If we can help in any way please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Dogs Rule,

Pat

 

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Champ’s Dog House

163 Route 70
Medford, NJ, 08055
609-654-4170
Info@ChampsDogHouse.com

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