24 Jul 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.