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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.

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