How To Calm Your Dog Of Separation Anxiety… - Brandon McMillan's Canine Minded
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How To Calm Your Dog Of Separation Anxiety…

How To Calm Your Dog Of Separation Anxiety…

This is an area where so many people struggle with their dogs. Separation anxiety can often be the main reason animal control gets called resulting of a dog getting dumped at the shelter. It’s an issue that many believe there is no cure for and while I agree there’s often no fixing the problem 100%, there are steps we can take to drastically decrease the anxiety, giving them a calmer demeanor when left alone. Keep in mind this method is not a quick fix, but a lengthy process that slowly reduces the anxiety over time. This is a method I’ve done with many dogs over the years and while it hasn’t worked on all, it’s definitely worked on a good number of them. Let’s break this down…

For this you’ll need a few tools. You’ll need a clicker, a bag of treats your dog really fancies, a baby monitor and a shirt you’ve worn for a day. (Please note your dog must be clicker trained before training this technique.)

What we’re gonna do is set up the baby monitor in an area that has a good vantage point in your house. This way we can monitor them and not lose sight of them while viewing so set it up in an area that keeps them in view at all times. Closing doors around the house to keep them confined in the room being viewed is a big help. Now we’re gonna take that shirt you’ve worn and lie it in their bed. for those of you with medium to larger dogs you can actually put the shirt on them. This is a technique called “Positive Scent Association” or PSA. PSA is where a dog associates a scent to something positive like food, toys or in this case their family. The scent of the shirt is only part of the process this layered process. So now we have the camera set up and the shirt in the mix what we’re gonna do is simply walk out the front door, monitor in hand, treats in pocket and patience on our mind. Walk around the corner where your dog can’t see you from a window but stay close enough where you can get back to the front door quickly. From here you’ll simply observe the monitor and wait for the right moment. Most likely your dog will instantly go into panic mode, crying, pacing and scratching at the door. You’re gonna wait them out. It might take a minute, it might take 15 minutes. Whatever the case you’re gonna wait for a break in their panic. Even the worst dogs have moments of silence so just wait for it. When you see them calm down and have a moment of silence you’re gonna count to 10. Assuming they remain calm and silent remains for the entire 10 seconds you’re gonna quickly walk back inside click, treat and praise them. Make your praise short and sweet as this is a training exercise. From there we repeat the process. Walk back around the corner again and view the monitor and wait for a break in the panic; carefully making sure the dog is quiet and calm for a good 10 seconds. From there we once again walk back in the front door, click, treat and praise them. This process will continue over and over but we’re gonna change one major thing in the process. We’re gonna add a second or two of calm, silence each time we reward them. This is a type of condition training called “Timed Response Conditioning.” Timed Response Conditioning is where an animal has a natural time clock in their system that can constantly be altered to benefit their training. When you teach them a stay, their natural time clock at first tells them to stay for 2 seconds. Timed Response Conditioning training slowly builds that time to where we want it to be. It’s the reason our dogs learn to stay for 3 seconds the first day we teach them, and 30 seconds a week or two later. The same time clock is now being applied to your dog’s separation anxiety. Your goal is to keep adding time which will eventually condition your dog to be left alone for longer. Your dog learned to have anxiety when left alone so they can unlearn it. It’s the basic fundamentals of training. Much like physics; what goes up must come down. Well the same rules apply to dog training. Whatever your dog has learned can be unlearned. They learned to have anxiety when left alone so they can unlearn it. Once your dog learns that keeping quiet and calm will bring you back through that front door, they’ll quickly learn to keep calm for longer periods of time as that gets them what they want. It’s a lengthy battle but well worth the fight.

I want to point out a few things here. This is a training area where variables decide how quickly your dog learns. Every dog is different in their experience so results will definitely vary. Progress is your daily goal so even a little improvement is a lot. Once you see progress that’s where you’ll end your session. It’s very important you give your dogs brain a rest. Nothing stresses them out more than training overload and this one is definitely advanced. It’s vital you wait for a good seconds or possibly more when walking back in to praise them in the process. If you rush back in when they’ve only been calm for a split second, all you’re teaching them is to panic even more so wait them out. You’d be amazed how quickly that time starts building if you train this correctly. Lets talk about the shirt. This is an old technique I learned when I was a teenager training wild animals. Many animals explore the world through their noses because their sense of smell is much more powerful than ours. We had had a grizzly bear that could be a little temperamental with new people so we devised a technique that worked amazingly. We’d take very cautious steps to make sure that bear could safely go on set so whenever we’d book a movie or commercial, we’d have everyone wear a shirt for a day and give it to us. We’d then pin all of them up in the bears pen for the next couple weeks so he could get used to the scents. We’d then feed him, play with him and give him an overall positive experience around those articles of clothing. Come shoot day we could safely bring the bear on set because he was already familiar with everyone’s scent on set and we could safely work. Well I’ve applied that same technique to this area. I’m simply capitalizing on the powerful sense of smell a dog has. Something as simple as a familiar smell can drastically lower your dogs anxiety, giving them more comfort when left alone. This is a technique I swear by and apply to a lot of dogs I rescue and train on “Lucky Dog.” If you’ve ever wondered why your dog sleeps on your dirty laundry or eats your underwear while you’re gone, this is why. They’re trying to remain close to you while you’re away. Since they can’t be near you, your scent is a good alternative. Also be aware how effective the clicker is in this process. Clickers if trained properly provide a comfort zone to a dog because it’s a sound they associate with food and praise so you can do no wrong. Clickers can often really make a huge difference in any training process so I highly recommend using them as often as possible.

Try this technique out for the next few weeks and let me know how it’s going. Remember progress is what we’re going for. Ruff.

– Brandon

  • Erin
    Posted at 21:38h, 29 July Reply

    I plan to follow this lesson for my year-old dog with severe isolation anxiety. I’ve been slowly extending the time I leave the house, and I wait for the calm before I re-enter, but not the 10 secs, so going to try that. But he is deaf… And also blind in one eye…I think the reason he is so afraid to be alone. He follows me everywhere in the house, and has to know where I am all the time. Do you have any advice for dealing with this problem with a deaf dog? Obviously the clicker can’t be a part of it…
    Thank you!

    • Ibo
      Posted at 03:52h, 19 February Reply

      yeah u just almost wanna slap ppl when they say be potvisie.’ its like..hello..dotn i know that alreadyy?just do what u gotta do and focus on it. most ppl wont even notice u. and u can never ever help what other things of u. even if u were the queen of the world ppl would try to drag u down somehow. its life. u just gotta be strong and live ur life.

    • Cordelia
      Posted at 12:52h, 10 March Reply

      Sorry for offtop, but there is a problem on russian version of page. Link at the end of the article is corrupted and goes nowhere. You can look at a screenshot .The link address is shown at the bottom of the piruece.Btst wishes! 🙂

  • Paul Rice
    Posted at 16:49h, 17 August Reply

    I live in an apartment and want to try this. But I think my dog would know that I was out in the hall and not stop barking. But if I go down two flights of stairs and out the door and she calms down I might not make it back up in time to reward her.

  • synthia
    Posted at 14:50h, 23 August Reply

    I have a 2 1/2 year old yorkie(male) has separation anxiety really bad I have tried everything to calm him and nothing seems to work. We got him when he was 11 weeks. I’ve also been trying to potty train him since he was a pup and that’s not working either. Do you have any helpful tips for me in these issues. We watch your show all the time. Thanks, synthia

  • Mark MacDonald
    Posted at 20:20h, 22 September Reply

    I use the crate to decrease the separation anxiety in the girl that I adopted last February. She’s five. I crate trained my Max, who is three and it worked so well with him. Now when I leave him, he just gets in his bed and naps until I get back. If I leave Ava out, she just sits at the back door and shakes. I know she’s suffering even though she’s not barking. When I put her in the crate, I come back and have to wake her up to give her some loving attention. Max sleeps with me at night, and I’m hoping that after a year of crate training Ava will be able to do the same. She gets better every day.
    Thanks for all you do!

    • Tax
      Posted at 04:15h, 19 February Reply

      hi i could use some help .we have an 11 wk old puppy border colile cross do i get him to stop chewing on the kids ..he has toys and i understand that is a puppy but my youngest is getting afraid she is 7 .i tried yelping like the vet said..i must suck at it because she is still any tips i would appreciate and merry xmas

  • Beth Dewald
    Posted at 15:01h, 27 December Reply

    My husband and I resecued an American Staffishire Terrier, Ghost, who we believe is approx 3 yrs old, in August 2013. He is absolutely wonderful but has what I think is separation anxiety which seems to revolve around me only. He shadows me constantly and we only have a one story 1,100 sq ft home . I trip over him constantly. I have a business in my home rehabbing old furniture and making items out of reclaimed wood. He will get right in between me and what I am working on usually sitting/standing right on my work. He is 100 lbs and hard to move. I usually end up yelling at him because he won’t move and which hurts his feelings. He also does not like it if I am using any loud Sanderson saws. I do not have an outdoor workshop yet so he hears everything and barks insanely. I try showing him what I’m doing and it seems to help for a little while. I feel like he is afraid im in danger because he rushes in the room once I open the door and goes crazy trying to find what is making the noise. I notice that if I drop something and it makes a noise or I slightly yell because of surprise he rushes to me anxiously until I pet him and tell him it’s ok.
    We have another dog, an 8 yr old female black pug, they love eachother which is great! She has always slept in our room but when we first brought Ghost home he would be very anxious at night when we put him in his kennel in another room to sleep. We tried having him in the bedroom but he could not settle down and kept jumping in bed. Anyway, we put our pug in her kennel next to him at night or when we leave the house and he Is fine then.

    Another problem is that I cannot walk him because we have had two separate occasions when he has grabbed a dog by its neck ( a pit bull and a pug) that happen to be off its leash and ran up to him. Luckily he finally released and the dogs were not hurt. The 1st time was 2 weeks after rescuing him the 2nd was only about 3 months ago, so about a year apart. I don’t want to put him (or the other dogs)in that position so we play ball in the backyard for some exercise but he is big and still young so he needs more exercise then that gives him.
    Thank you for any help you can offer!

    • A. E. Bridges
      Posted at 04:37h, 16 March Reply

      I know exactly where you’re coming from Beth. I’m having the same issues with my 9 month old Pit/Boxer Mix, Lenore. She is very sweet but needs all the attention in the world, she has to be attached to me. She and my Jack Russell are the best of friends and he keeps her calm as long as they’re out of the house. In the house they play off of one another’s destructive and clingy behavior.
      Lenore was confined to a small 4ft x 4ft bathroom for 3 months before I got her. So I understand where the separation anxiety came from, but it is proving incredibly hard to get her through.

      I can’t really help you with the overly protective/anxious behavior in your home. However, the best advise I can give you on Ghost grabbing other dogs is to look into getting a muzzle only to wear on walks. There are companies that make soft cage muzzles and open muzzles. I got Lenore an open one, it’s basically a soft strap that attaches with velcro around the snout, leaving the front open. She can take treats, eat and drink with it on, she just can’t open her mouth wide enough to grab anything larger than a milk bone. I hope this helps and best of luck to you.

  • Linda
    Posted at 17:12h, 14 February Reply

    I plan on trying this with my 10 week old Golden, I have two baby gates, to confine her to the kitchen, when we have to leave her alone. she sleeps all night in her crate so I don’t want to confine her to that during the day if we have to leave her for a couple of hours. I can put her toys and her bed, which is under my desk, that she naps on during the day in the kitchen. I hope I can stand to hear her whimper when I leave. I will send you a follow up in a couple of weeks. thanks for the Tips. I watch your show all the time for hints.

  • dog doing tricks videos youtube
    Posted at 14:29h, 23 March Reply

    Most owners of these lovable furry companions have probably asked the question … but also many others, as the ideal age, the most appropriate or the best technique for effective dog training place .That everyone is reassured : taking his dog is not a question of age , or a behavioral issue or race ( all dogs can and should be prepared , even the quietest or ” lightweight ” for which all training seems superfluous as they seem harmless !), because only the knowledge account for results .

  • Shari
    Posted at 15:44h, 11 April Reply

    Dear Brandon; I have a 6 year old part Chihuahua and part miniature rockweiler. And she has separation anxiety. I’ve tried what you said, doesn’t destroy things just Cry’s loud. It has gotten to the point I try to take her with me when I can. And I can’t do it all the time. Our vet said that she’d out grow it, but not yet and she suggested nerve meds. But is that a good idea?? Concerns me getting her on Rx that people take. And the 1 time I did try it she was so sleepy took her awhile to be herself again. I’ve been able to be home with her since I’ve had her since she was 6 weeks old. I think what has happened to make it hard on her, a neighbor tried to poison her and we got so close during that time. I had to feed her with syringe and I did her leg therapy. She couldn’t use her back legs at all. The vet couldn’t believe she made it. But I would NEVER give up. She was so sick and. Vomiting I slept on the floor with her. I was hard on both of us. BUT we’re a team. And she’s my little girl. She’s been fixed, chipped and all her shots. I think she’s just scared. She does not like to go out much unless she knows where we are. So bad that I have potty pads in the house and she does use them faithfully. Can you help us ?? I want her to have a happy life and healthy lifestyle but at this point I’m lost. If you have any ideas or advice I will follow it to the letter. God Bless you for all you do. I try to never miss your show. Thank You. Shari

  • Tatia
    Posted at 03:03h, 10 May Reply

    I own a shelter dog that is a three year old famele boxer mix(3 in April). She has lots more energy than I have & through another dog owner I met during a Pet Smart training class I found out about your facility.I live in the Ballwin/Chesterfield area & would like to see if Samantha could burn off some energy at your place. I have all her records that I’ll bring with me, she goes to the vet in the spring for her physical.Is it possible to see the facility before hand? I have had her in 3 obedience classes; she has her AKC Good Citizen Award but while she can run free in a fenced back yard, I’ve never had her off leash anywhere but here.

  • Sandi Sidio
    Posted at 17:20h, 14 May Reply

    Thank you for the information. I will certainly give this a try.

  • Shoshana
    Posted at 18:45h, 24 May Reply

    Hi friends, how is all, and what you desire to say on the topic of this piece of writing,
    in my view its truly remarkable in support of me.

  • Patrick Haggerty
    Posted at 16:13h, 02 June Reply

    Best article ever written about separation anxiety! Thanks Brandon!

  • kate
    Posted at 22:49h, 29 September Reply

    This interests me, even though my current and past dogs have not shown separation anxiety. Mostly terriers, too. We rescued a male 2 years ago, and a female last April. Both are about 3 years old. We have 2 crates which we leave open and two beds that are outside of the crates. They both go in & out as they please, and obey “to your bed” most of the time. They are alone M-F from 7-5, with a dogwalker midday. When we leave the house, we don’t say a word, just leave.
    Based on the dates of these postings, it seems that no answers are being posted.
    So Good Luck, everyone.

  • Geri
    Posted at 18:19h, 29 December Reply

    will having a second dog help the first dog with anxiety? I am thinking the only dog needs attention. A second dog to play with might help. Thanks

  • Geri
    Posted at 18:32h, 29 December Reply

    I was told a (Thundershirt) Dog Anxiety Treatment would help because it applies a gentle, constant pressure like swaddling an infant. The instruction said that would help calming the pet when he needs it like thunder, fireworks etc… My dog seems to have an anxiety when he is home alone. Can he wear this shirt all the time? or 10-12 hrs a day?

  • Caz
    Posted at 04:13h, 19 February Reply

    Hello, as for yelping at your dog for biintg is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard, this will ultimately get your child bitten! Shame on a vet for suggesting that! What you can try is constantly removing your dog from the situation with a firm NO! And then if needed put your pup in a time out like you would your child! Hope this helps!

  • VideoPortal
    Posted at 01:11h, 20 March Reply

    Give your dog a zylkene supplement. Zylkene contains a protein extracted from milk that acts as a calming agent — like diazepam. This capsule is given twice daily and has been shown to calm dogs during thunderstorms, trips to the vet, or stays at the kennel.

  • Diann Williams
    Posted at 04:27h, 24 August Reply

    Thankyou Brandon for replying so fast. This stray has been dumped twice that I know of, so her separation anxiety is very severe. And since we have THE WORSE schedule I’ve ever heard of (each of us working extreme opposite schedules: someone is always sleeping or going to soon – home for days then working for days). So if she is going to be a member of our pack she needs to adjust and be calm. Wish us luck. She needs us since we will keep her happy, and she can help wear out the 2 Yr. Old Malimute we found droped off on our country road. Wish us luck… You are welcomed to drop by any time! We are so thankful there is someone like you who gives his life and time to these angels with fur.

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