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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wolfie and Separation Anxiety

I think that Wolfie has separation anxiety, what can I do about that?

First of all, you said that you thought Wolfie had separation anxiety.  Let's first describe the symptoms that we can observe to see if this is the case:
  • Uncontrolled barking.  If your "soon to be ex" friends and neighbors report that Wolfie is backing incessantly for very long periods of time while you are gone, you might be dealing with separation anxiety.
  • Destruction.  If you come home to find your sofa in shreds, a new hole in the wall, items pulled down from shelves and tables, etc., you might be dealing with separation anxiety.
Next, let's discuss what causes this problem.  Many times Humans misdiagnose separation anxiety as Wolfie being afraid that he has been left alone.  This might be true for Humans, but Wolfie is a dog.  Here is what is going through Wolfie's head:
  • Wolfie's canine perspective requires a strong leader to protect his pack.  He does not see you as a strong leader, so he believes he needs to step up to be the leader and protector of the pack.
  • You have now left the pack and are out and about in the dangerous world.  You locked the door, closed the gate, etc. and Wolfie can't fulfill his job.
  • Wolfie tries to call you back and becomes increasingly nervous that you are not responding.  This results in the barking and destruction.
So, what can you do? 

Separation anxiety, along with aggression, are the two most time consuming behavioral issues to resolve.  You first have to understand that you must become the leader of the pack and let Wolfie understand that it is not his job.  This is done through proper training to gain Wolfie's bond, trust, and respect.

Next, you need to condition Wolfie to the fact that it is OK when you leave.  There are many actions you can do regarding this matter, but let me provide you with two that work really well for us:
  • Leave for different periods of time.  Up until now, you usually leave and stay away for hours.  You go out to dinner or to work and Wolfie is stuck there for a long time.  Start leaving for a few minutes and come back.  Go out for ten minutes and come back.  Step out the door, count to ten, and come back.  This will remove Wolfie's observation that every time you leave, you are gone for a long time.  In removing this observation, you begin to deter his anxiety.
  • Change your routine when you leave.  Wolfie is always observing us.  He knows exactly what we do as we prepare to leave.  As he starts to see these action take place, he begins to become anxious before we ever walk out the door.  Write down exactly what you do before you leave.  Change the order or leave some of the actions out.  You can even prepare to leave and then don't.  This will remove Wolfie's observation of "Watch out, Daddy or Mommy is getting ready to leave" and will deter his proactive anxiety.
Good luck, separation anxiety is a hard issue to resolve.  With patience and consistency, you can prevail.  If you have questions, we have successfully resolved this issue for our clients for years.  Please contact us and we can see how we can help.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

When to Correct Wolfie

I am never quite sure when I should correct Wolfie.  If I see he is about to do something, should I correct him?  If I come home and he has destroyed something, should I correct him?

The timing of Wolfie's correction is very important.  Unlike humans, dogs live in the "here and now".  For the most part, the past is the past, water under the bridge, spilled milk, etc.  Wolfie's focus is on the sights and sounds of right now, so correcting him for something in the past will simply confuse him.

Humans have the notion of "consequences of our actions".  This means that we understand when we are corrected for something we did in the past.  Wolfie does not.  He only understands what he is doing right now and how you respond to that right now.  So, here are some quick tips to remember when you are correcting Wolfie:
  • Only correct Wolfie if he is in the act of doing something bad.  If he is jumping on you, barking at the back door, on the furniture; you can correct.  This is because you are telling him that what he is doing RIGHT NOW is wrong.  Since Wolfie lives in the RIGHT NOW, he will understand and learn from your correction.
  • If you know Wolfie is about to do something wrong, you can correct him.  This is the same concept of "Don't even think about it!".  Wolfie is already thinking of the inappropriate act, so he will completely grasp why you are correcting him.  Although his action hasn't taken place yet, his intention of performing the action is in the hear and now.
  • Never, never, never correct Wolfie if he already did something bad and is not doing it now.  If you can say (hypothetically speaking) "I am correcting you because you DID something", you are focusing your correction on the past while Wolfie is focused on the present.  Wolfie will misinterpret your correction and will be confused as to your intentions.
Now, I know that we humans get really mad at our dogs sometimes because they did something while we were away and we have come home to find it.  We are just going to have to understand that correcting Wolfie because of a past action will only confuse him and might even make matters worse.  My biggest advise to you is to take a deep breath and step back.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wolfie is Eating His Poop!

This is so embarrassing, but my dog Wolfie likes to eat his poop!  Who would think that any animal would want to do that! 

To us humans, this is a pretty disgusting thing, but dogs don't look at this in the same light as us.  There are many products on the market that try to discourage "doggie poop eating" and you can Google them and try them out.  I have found that many of the products are hit and miss and would like to give you some alternative actions to try:
  • Wolfie might be doing this out of boredom and lack of appropriate distractions.  If you don't exercise your dog between 30 and 90 minutes a day, the built up energy in them can cause unwanted behavior.  As a first step, make sure that Wolfie has a good deal of exercise.  Hint:  Walking on a leash down the street is not exercise.  You need to get him running and engaging in active events (based on his age).
  • Diet is many times a cause for this action.  If you are feeding Wolfie poor quality dog food, he is not getting the protein he needs.  Switch him to a high quality food without by-products and possibly grains.  You can find a great example by going to this site.
  • Manage Wolfie's time so that you are with him when he goes to the bathroom.  Correct him as soon as he approaches the poop.  You can also modify his eating schedule so that he is not alone when he normally has to go to the bathroom.
  • Think of adding veggies or DanAcive yogurt to his food.  This will help with his digestive process.
  • Add probiotic dog supplements to Wolfie's diet. 
Poop eating is something that dogs perform to fulfill a lack in their diet or socialization.  We simply need to methodically review different alternatives to meet Wolfie's needs.  For more information, please contact The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.