Dog Training – Preventing separation anxiety – Teaching your dog to cope with being alone

< UPDATED 19NOV19 >

< A short link to this page – http://bit.ly/PrevSepAnx >

<A version of this article was published in The Maine Edge on March 2, 2016 – click to view>

naughty playful puppy dog after biting a pillow-canstockphoto11002737Dogs are social animals and actively seek out our companionship. They can quickly become accustomed to being part of a group 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whenever a new dog is brought into a home, especially a young, playful puppy, people have a tendency to interact with them constantly. While this interaction is a very important part of socialization and bonding, you need to make sure that you are not setting your puppy up for a big disappointment when you must leave him at home alone. Including some “alone training” right from the beginning will be beneficial to both your puppy and you.

Older dogs, depending on their previous circumstances, might also need to learn how to cope with being alone. For example, a dog that was housed in a shelter or kennel situation where other dogs and people were always around may have trouble coping being by themselves.

If you have not already done so, start leaving your puppy/dog alone for brief duration’s throughout the day. He needs to learn that 1) people are not always around and 2) you will come back. When leaving your puppy/dog alone, put him in his crate or a puppy-proof room. Be sure to give him some of his favorite chew toys so he can have some fun while he awaits your return. Do not make a big deal out of leaving. Just pop the puppy/dog in his area and leave.

Your puppy/dog may start to whine or bark when you leave. This is very normal. Your first impulse may be to return to the puppy/dog and try to calm him, however, that is the worst thing you can do. If you want him to stop whining, you must make sure you do not reward the puppy/dog for whining. Do not pay any attention to your puppy/dog and do not let him out until there is a lull in the whining. Reward him for being calm and quiet.

Leaving your puppy/dog at home, at the veterinarians, at the groomers or a boarding kennel should also be a very low-key, non-emotional event. Likewise, the same applies when returning to your puppy/dog. If you make leaving or returning into a big event, with lots of cuddling and petting, your puppy/dog is more likely to be stressed by your arrivals and departures. You can, and we hope you do, miss your puppy/dog when he is not with you. We just do not want to let him know that.

Start your alone training by building time slowly. Five to ten minutes is a good place to start if your puppy/dog has never been out of your site for that length of time. Like all training, we want to work in small achievable increments that the dog can handle. Continue leaving your puppy/dog alone for longer and longer periods of time.

If this behavior does not improve after a few days, consult with your dog’s veterinarian. They will probably prescribe medications and may also refer you to a Veterinary Behaviorist or a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC). They can help you develop a behavior modification protocol for you and your dog. You can find a list of these individuals in Maine at http://bit.ly/MEPetPros

If your dog already exhibits destructive behaviors such as digging, scratching or chewing on themselves, house soiling, destruction of objects, extreme vocalization, constant pacing, digging and scratching at exits such as doors and windows in an attempt to reach you, and following you excessively, never letting you out of sight, then you should immediately discuss this situation with your veterinarian.  These are symptoms of separation anxiety which may require treatment with appropriate medications and a behavior modification program specific to separation anxiety. Your veterinarian will probably refer you to a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) to develop a behavior modification plan for your dog and your family.  Resolving separation anxiety will typically involve changes in your family’s behavior in addition to your dogs.  This is typically not an easy problem to resolve and becomes more difficult to resolve the longer it goes on. That is why teaching your dog to cope with being alone is an excellent investment of your time.

Recommended Resources

Alone Traininghttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/01/dog-training-alone-training/

Podcast – Separation Anxiety with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/05/01/podcast-separation-anxiety-with-dr-david-cloutier-from-veazie-veterinary-clinic/

Maine Pet Care Professionals We Recommend http://bit.ly/MEPetPros

Canine Behavior – ADAPTIL™/DAP COMFORTZONE™http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/14/canine-behavior-adaptild-a-p-comfortzone/

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stresshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/01/canine-behavior-understanding-identifying-and-coping-with-canine-stress/

Dog Behavior – Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxietyhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/30/dog-behavior-crate-habituation-to-reduce-anxiety/

Bach Flower Remedies – Bach Rescue Remedy®http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-bach-rescue-remedy/

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©20NOV19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Podcast – The Woof Meow Show – Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic

12MAR16-AAHA Bhx Guidelines w Dave Cloutier 400x400In this week’s show Kate, Don  and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” Tune in and learn why behavior is so important and why a behavioral assessment should be part of every pets annual wellness exam.

Dr. Cloutier, Kate and Don discuss reasons for an increase in behavior problems, and how these problems can best be addressed. Dr. Cloutier explains changes he and his colleagues have made to work towards free-free visits for their clients. We address serious behavioral problems such as separation anxiety and aggression as well as nuisance behaviors like jumping, barking, and counter surfing. We address how veterinarians and dog trainers can work together and why it is essential to focus on rewarding desired behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. Lastly we review the guidelines recommendations on refraining from using any training methods that use aversive techniques such as electronic shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, alpha-rollovers, and other things where that work on the basis of fear, intimidation, force, discomfort or pain.

To listen to the show <click here>

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on The Pulse AM620, WZON, and WKIT HD3 at 12 Noon on Saturday. If you’re not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://www.wzonthepulse.com or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show, and can be downloaded at www.woofmeowshow.com and the Apple iTunes store.

Dog Behavior – Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxiety

< Last updated 22MAY20 >

< Short Link to this page – http://bit.ly/CrateHabituation >

Dogs are den animals and often find security and comfort in a den-like space such as a crate, under a table, or in some other small, confining area. For a crate to offer your dog security, it must be “den-like.” Crates often work best when they are not a wire cage, but are one of the airline-style crates that are plastic or fiberglass. These crates are usually enclosed on all sides except for a door at the front, making them more like a natural den, which in the wild would typically be a hole in the ground.

If you have a wire crate, you can convert it into a den by placing a board on top of it to make it more den-like. Make sure the board extends a couple of inches beyond both sides of the crate so you can hang a blanket over the board to close in the sides. You do not want the dog to be able to pull the blanket into the crate. Many wire crates have a pan at the bottom, which can make noise and move around unexpectedly, which some dogs may find unsettling. You may wish to remove the pan or place an old towel or blanket over the tray, but make sure that your dog will not rip it apart and ingest it.

A crate should be large enough for your dog to sit up, lie down, and turn around comfortably. However, if still housetraining, the dog should NOT have enough room to sleep in one corner and eliminate in another part of the crate.

Some beds are made explicitly for dog crates. Still, I do not recommend them for dogs with anxiety issues, as they will often chew and possibly ingest items like this when left in the crate. Until you know your dog will do well in the crate and is housetrained, I would recommend you do NOT use any bedding material.

Place the crate in a quiet area, but where your dog can still see and hear you. Remember, dogs are social animals and want to be with the rest of the family. They do not like feeling isolated. Putting the crate in your bedroom at night will help to strengthen the bond between you and your dog by allowing him to sleep near you.

Do not abuse the use of the crate. We want the dog to like the crate, so NEVER use it for punishment. If your dog spends a significant amount of time in a crate, it will also need a substantial amount of time to exercise and play.

Many dogs will find a den-like space such as under a desk or an end table like shown above.

If Your Dog Is Already Acting Negatively Towards the Crate

Some dogs have already had a bad experience in a crate and will panic if you try to put them in a crate. In this case, we need to go slower and start with something crate-like, but different. What I am going to suggest will NOT confine the dog; thus, active management is mandatory, but will hopefully allow them to acclimate gradually to a crate-like environment.

Find a small table; a card table can work nicely for most size dogs, and start practicing the following exercises:

  1. Toss a treat or a favorite toy under the table, so your dog goes underneath to investigate. Do this a couple of times a day for several days.
  2. Start feeding your dog his meals under the table. Place the dish near the front of the table, so the dog barely has to put his head in, to Over several meals, as the dog becomes more comfortable, start putting the dish further back under the table.
  3. Once the dog is happily eating and spending time under the table, get an old blanket or some pieces of cardboard and cover two sides of the table so that it is now semi-enclosed. The front and back should still be open. Continue the exercises above with this newly configured table, recognizing that you may need to start slowly to get your dog comfortable.
  4. When the dog is happily spending time under the table with two sides enclosed, enclose the back of the table and continue the exercises you started above. After the dog is comfortable in this setting, try introducing a crate, as noted below.

Introducing the dog to the crate

  1. Remove the door to the crate and let your dog explore it. Toss in a treat or a favorite toy, so that he goes in to investigate. Do this a couple of times a day for several days.
  2. Start feeding your dog his meals in the crate. Place the dish right up near the front of the crate, so the dog barely has to put his head in, to Over several meals, as the dog becomes more comfortable, start putting the dish further back in the crate.
  3. At the same time, you start feeding your dog his meals in the crate; you can also begin some other crate exercises to practice during the day. Have your dog go into the crate and feed him a high-value reward (cheese, a piece of chicken, something delicious) through the door of the crate. While doing this, he is learning he gets the best rewards while in his crate. To keep these rewards high value, he should only get this treat for this particular exercise.
  4. When your dog is comfortable going all the way into the crate to eat his meal, put the door back on and quietly close the door behind them, but do NOT latch Let him come out when he wishes.
  5. Pick a word such as “kennel” and use it immediately before you put the dog in its crate for eating. When the dog is comfortable with the door closed, start latching it, but stay close.
  6. When the dog is comfortable staying in the crate eating with the door latched, start leaving them in the crate for more extended periods after they finish eating.
  7. When you can keep the door latched for 5 minutes after the dog has stopped eating, start leaving the room. Be out of sight but close by so you can hear your dog if they become anxious. Return after 5 minutes as long as the dog has not become anxious, and let the dog out of the crate. Do not make a big deal out of letting him out. Continue this until you can stay out of sight, with the dog in the crate for at least 15 minutes. What we hope will happen is that the dog will eventually lie down and settle in the crate.
  8. Start using the word “kennel” to put your dog in the crate for short periods other than at mealtime. Give them a sturdy toy like a stuffed Kong or Benebone to interact with while in their crate. The first time you do this, just step out of sight for 5 minutes or less. If the dog does not panic or become anxious, continue to gradually, in baby steps, increase their amount of time in the crate with you out of sight.
  9. When you can leave the dog in the crate for at least 30 minutes, with you just out of sight, try placing the dog in the crate, and leaving the house. Come back to the house after a couple of minutes, listen, and see if the dog is still calm. If so, just stay out of sight and continue to work on increasing the amount of time your dog is left in the crate. Gradually, increase the time you are outside until you can leave the dog for 30 minutes with you outside.
  10. When you can leave the dog in the crate for at least 30 minutes, with you outside, leave the dog in the crate, leave the house, get in the car, start it and drive at least 100 feet away. Turn off the car, walk back to the house and see if the dog is still relaxed. Gradually, increase the time you can leave the dog for in the crate with you driving away until the dog can be left for 3 to 4 hours. Remember, if you want to be successful, you need to go in baby steps. For some dogs, this might mean increasing the amount of time you leave them by just 1 or 2 minutes per session.

©2020, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

PODCAST – Listener Questions #16 and #17

WMS badgeDon and Kate have recently completed two new Woof Meow Show episodes where we answer a variety of questions.

Listener Questions #17. This week’s questions include; What do I need to do before I get my new kitten?, My dog screams when I leave him alone and gets destructive chewing on things. What can I do to stop the chewing?, I’ve just adopted an 8 m/o old dog and my son is nervous around the dog and that seems to make the dog anxious. What should I be doing?, Our dog will grab things that he is not supposed to have (socks, paper towel with bacon grease, chicken bones, etc.). He then growls and snaps at us when we try to get it back. What should we do? and My dog eats her feces. What can I do to stop her? – You can listen to this episode of The Woof Meow Show at: http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-08-08-Listener_Questions_No17.mp3

Listener Questions #18. This week’s questions include; How old should a puppy be at its first grooming? Can a dog get too much exercise?, My boyfriend and I are going to move in together. I have two dogs and he has one but we’re worried about them getting along. What should we be doing ahead of time? How important is water for our pets? Do we need to be concerned about radon, arsenic, bacteria and other things in the water? We have an older cat and just adopted a kitten and they’re not getting along. What should we do? and Our neighbors think our dog is aggressive. Can you evaluate our dog and certify that he is not aggressive? – You can listen to this episode of The Woof Meow Show at: http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-08-15-Listener_Questions_No18.mp3

You can download these episodes of The Woof Meow Show at the Apple iTunes store, or you can download them at: http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/webpage

For more information on the Woof Meow Show go to: http://www.greenacreskennel.com/woof-meow-show/the-woof-meow-show

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

PODCAST – Pet Behavior Counseling and Don and Kate – with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks

10JAN15-Dog Behavior, Don and Kate w-guest host Dr Mark Hanks 400x400Dr. Mark Hanks from Kindred Spirits Veterinary Clinic has been a frequent guest on The Woof Meow Show, giving Kate and I several opportunities to “pick his brain” about a wide variety of topics. For quite some time he’s been asking to “host” the show and to turn the tables so to speak; interviewing Kate and I and asking us questions about animal behavior and training.  In the first of four shows in this series, Dr. Hanks interviews Don and Kate about their experiences as professional animal behavior counselors and dog trainers. Some of the questions Mark asks are: 1) How did you get into helping people with animal behavior problems? and 2) What does the current science say about dominance and alpha dogs?

You can listen to this episode of The Woof Meow Show at: http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-10-01-2015_Dog_Bhx_Don_Kate_w-guest_host_Mark_Hanks.mp3

You can download this episode of The Woof Meow Show at the Apple iTunes store, or you can download it at: http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/webpage

You can listen others episodes in this series at the links below.

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 1– 12JUL15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/12/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-1/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 2– 19JUL15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/19/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-2/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 3– 26JUL15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/27/blog-post-27jul15-podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-3/

For more information on the Woof Meow Show go to: www.woofmeowshow.com

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Canine Behavior – ADAPTIL™/DAP COMFORTZONE™

Adaptil™, formerly labeled as ComfortZone™ with D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Pheromone), is a product that can be useful in helping reduce a dogs’ anxiety. It looks much like an air freshener that you plug into a wall outlet. When plugged in, it releases dog appeasing pheromone into the air.

Dog appeasing pheromone is a substance produced by a mother dog 3 to 5 days after giving birth to a litter of puppies. Scientists believe this pheromone enhances the attachment between the puppies and their mother and also helps reassure the puppies by providing them with comfort and emotional stability. Research has demonstrated that the pheromone is also effective on adult dogs, facilitating social interaction and positive emotions, thereby reducing anxiety.

Use of the D.A.P. ComfortZone has been useful for dogs with fear and separation anxiety issues. We have occasionally used DAP at Green Acres and at times have found it helpful and at other times have not noticed any change. In discussions with other trainers and behaviorists throughout the country I have heard similar reports. Because it does appear to work very well with some dogs, I think it is worth considering with any dog that does exhibit anxiety.

We sell the Adaptil/D.A.P. ComfortZone at Green Acres.

A DAP collar is also available through veterinarians, which may be another alternative you wish to consider.

Other Articles You May Find Helpful

Alone Training – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/01/dog-training-alone-training/

Bach Rescue Remedy – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-bach-rescue-remedy/

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Dog Training – Alone Training

ALONE TRAINING

< Updated – 07APR20 >
< A short link to this page – http://bit.ly/AloneTraining >

OBJECTIVE: To teach your dog that it is safe to be left alone.

Dogs are social animals, and most will actively seek out our companionship. They can quickly become accustomed to having us around all the time, which is not a

Muppy Relaxing While I Work

good thing if they will need to spend some time on their own. As much as we might want to believe we will always be with our dog all the time, that scenario is improbable.

Whenever a new dog is brought into a home, especially a young playful puppy, people tend to interact with them constantly. This interaction is an essential part of socialization and bonding. Because it is so enjoyable for you and the puppy, you both interact often. That is due to an elementary rule of behavior; behavior that is rewarded will be repeated. If you and the puppy are both enjoying the interaction, which is pretty standard, then you are both being rewarded.

You must make sure that you are not setting your puppy up for a big disappointment when you must eventually leave him at home alone. Including some “alone training” right from the beginning will be beneficial to both your puppy and you.

Older dogs, depending on their previous circumstances, might also need to learn how to cope with being alone. For example, a dog that was housed in a shelter or kennel situation where other dogs and people were always around may have trouble coping being by themselves. Senior dogs who have dealt with being alone in the past may start to become anxious when you leave.

Dogs that have not learned to cope with being alone can become frightened. Their anxiety may trigger exhibit extreme vocalizations and destructive behavior. These dogs may be diagnosed by a veterinarian or veterinary

Puppy sleeping in crate

behaviorist with separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety are suffering, so please do not delay seeing your veterinarian if that is the case. Separation anxiety will not resolve on its own and typically requires medications and a behavior modification program. The goal of alone training is to prevent separation anxiety.

If you have not already done so, start leaving your puppy/dog alone for brief duration’s throughout the day. He needs to learn that 1) people are not always around, and 2) that you will come back. You may be surprised to learn that your puppy eventually discovers crate time is perfect for some much-needed napping.

Steps to Teach Your Puppy to Cope with Being Alone

 

  1. Place your puppy’s crate in a part of the house where you can still hear him but one where he will not be disturbed by family members or other pets in the house.
  2. Take your puppy out to go to the bathroom immediately before putting him in the crate. That way, if he immediately starts to whine, it is not because he needs to urinate or defecate.
  3. Provide your puppy with a safe toy, such as a Kong stuffed with a small portion of his kibble, to keep him occupied while in the crate.
  4. Do not make a big deal out of leaving. Just pop the puppy in his crate and leave. Your puppy may start to whine or bark when you leave. Such vocalization is normal for a puppy that has not yet learned to cope with being left alone. Your first impulse may be to return to the puppy and to try to calm him; however, that will be counterproductive. If you want him to stop whining, you must make sure you do not reward the puppy for whining. Do not pay attention to your puppy, and do not let him out of the crate until there is a lull in the whining. Reward him for being calm and quiet.
  5. The first time you leave your puppy alone, wait for him to be quiet for at least 5 minutes before you let him out.
  6. When returning to your puppy, be very low-key and non-emotional. If you make leaving or returning into a big deal, with lots of cuddling and petting, your puppy is more likely to be stressed by your arrivals and departures. You can, and we hope you do, miss your puppy when he is not with you.
  7. As always, when letting your puppy out of his crate, take him outside to see if he needs to go to the bathroom.
  8. Practice the above steps at least once a day for several days. You will gradually increase the length of time your puppy is left alone. Like all training, we want to work in small achievable increments that the dog can handle. If your puppy is not housetrained, you will still need to take him out for bathroom breaks. Do not worry about him not getting enough exercise. On average, a dog sleeps 17 hours per day. You will have plenty of time to give the puppy exercise and to interact with him during the remainder of the day.
  9. Your goal is to eventually to be able to leave your adult dog alone in your home, without you worrying about them becoming anxious or destructive. The more your work on this while your dog is young, the quicker you will get there.

If your puppy will not settle or if they exhibit destructive behaviors, you need to discuss this situation with your trainer or your veterinarian immediately.

©2020, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved < Click for Copyright and Use Policy >