Managing Separation Anxiety – Part Four

If you are just finding me now, please head to part one and hopefully all will make sense

So, we have got as far as Confidence building. This is an important part of any training plan when you are working with an anxious dog. It’s also a lot of fun for you both when you approach it well.

Clicker Training

Clicker Training is a great way of boosting confidence, so I recommend it often for anxious dogs. The delay between clicking and treating creates anticipation of a good thing. This anticipation causes a release of happy hormones, so the clicker works really well for this.

Introduce your clicker…
First of all you need a clicker and a big pile of tiny treats. You will go through a lot of treats so keep them as small as possible. Now, hold your clicker in one hand and a treat in the other, offer the treat to your dog and just as he takes it, press the clicker. For best results the dog should hear the click at the exact moment he takes the food. Repeat this over and over again to build up a positive association between the food and the sound. Ideally, do this for a few minutes at a time over the course of a few days, or until you have done it for about an hour in total. At this point your dog should be pretty clear about the clicker and will have linked it to the treat.

Practise your favourite tricks

Next steps…
The clicker now works in the place of a treat. Think of it like a marker for getting the trick right and a promise of a treat to come. Now use your clicker and practise all the tricks your dog has already learned by clicking the second he does what you ask, then follow up with a treat later.

Eg Use the SIT command, then as soon as the bottom touches the ground press the clicker. That will let him know the sit was correct. Then pause for a moment before you offer a treat.

Create Anticipation

Remember, that the point is to create the anticipation of the treat to come.

Once you have got the hang of the clicker with stuff he already knows, why not try teaching a new trick, or putting a couple of tricks together to make a sequence such as come and sit, or wait then fetch. You know the kind of things your dog loves to do so pick something they will be enthusiastic about.

Whatever you do, make it fun, easy and engaging. Get that tail wagging and let him know how awesome he is. If he’s struggling, make it easier for him. We want him to get a sense of achievement, not learn fancy tricks.

Use your imagination

If basic training doesn’t interest you, you could try hoopers, flyball, agility, heel work, puzzle games, scent work or search and retrieve (depending on local restrictions, you might have to start these by yourself).

If you are struggling, or stuck for ideas leave me a comment below and we’ll find something you can do with him.

I think that’s more than a weeks work – stay in touch and I’ll be back next week with your next steps…


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.

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