Welcome to Part 2
Hopefully, you’ve been able to established the root cause of your dogs problem. If you are sure it’s separation anxiety, and nothing else, then we are ready to move on to the first steps. (Please see Step One if you are not sure).
It’s very tempting to want to jump straight to the symptom when you are trying to help your dog, especially when they have anxiety, but if we don’t work on the underlying problem first your results will be short lived, or non-existent. So we need to resist temptation and do some groundwork first.
You did nothing wrong!
Just quickly, I would like to reiterate, once again, that none of these things are necessarily your fault, or anyone’s fault for that matter. Just because your dog needs extra reassurance to feel safe, it doesn’t mean you made him feel unsafe. It means he has anxiety, and dogs with anxiety need a bit more convincing. YOU DID NOTHING WRONG!
So, here is the list of things we need to work on:
- We need to make your dog feel safe at home.
- We need to show them you are an awesome guard dog
- We need to build on your dogs general confidence
- We need to change their expectations at being left alone
- We need to work on any remaining symptoms.
We’ll start by making them feel safer at home with a few simple changes.
Create a safe space
One way we can do this easily, is by creating a safe place for them to hide in. This will almost always be behind something, in something, or under something. Dogs feel safer when they are hidden, so if you can try to create a place like this at home then brilliant. This could be in the form of a covered crate, a cardboard box with a hole cut in it, or maybe an empty pillow case to crawl inside. Perhaps you have a table they like to crawl under? Could you put a blanket over this? Do they like it under the duvet on your bed? Could they have access to your bed? Be creative, you know your house and dog best.
Lock your door!
Lock your front door! Even when you’re in. It’s lovely to have an open house, but dogs find it quite stressful when people just come and go in your home. What if that happened when you weren’t there? How would he cope? We know that won’t happen, but your dog doesn’t!
No more exit guarding
Remove access to the main exits and windows. Dogs with separation anxiety will often pace between them which fuels anxiety and prohibits calming behaviour. We want them to settle down and take a nap in their safe space.
Mask the outside
Turn on the radio or TV and ramp the volume up so they are cut off from outside noises. This will make their space feel smaller and cut off from the rest of the world.
Use scent! Leaving items that smell of you in your safe space will definitely help, but you can also use adapthil spray or plugin to help ease anxiety.
Or speak to your vet about anxiety treatments. Be guided by your vet, but if the medication knocks them out it will not help them learn to cope in the long term. Ideally, any medication should only aid rehabilitation, nothing more.
There’s a few things to get you started. Please feel free to adapt any of these suggestions to suit your dog and situation, you know your dog best. And if you have any questions, you know where I am!
Just one final note! This is a multi stage process, please don’t expect any miracles at this stage, we are just setting your dog up for the real work later on.
I look forward to seeing you again for step 3! And as always, if you have any questions, just pop them in the comments.
I have more than 15 years experience solving all kinds of canine behaviour problems, at home and in rescue. A bad experience with a old fashioned dog trainer inspired me to learn more about dog behaviour, and it is because of him, that I wall never use harsh methods when training and rehabilitating dogs.
I work privately with clients in Dundee and the surrounding area with dogs of all ages, breeds and issues including anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity.
In 2009 I was proud to publish a book about dog behaviour and training. How to be the Perfect Pack Leader (by Caroline Jenkins) remains popular today and a follow up is expected very shortly.