Managing Separation Anxiety – Part Three

So, hopefully you’ve got off to a good start creating a safe place at home. Let me know in the comments if you’re having problems with that. Or if you are seeing this for the first time, I recommend starting with step 1.

Otherwise, lets move on!

Be the Guard Dog!

You and I both know that you’d do anything to keep your dog safe, that’s not the problem. However, dogs with anxiety need constant reminders, so I’m going to talk to you about protective behaviour that you can easily copy to set his mind at ease as often as possible.

If you watch how your dog behaves when he is being protective you’ll get an insight into what he thinks protective behaviour looks like. This is important as it means it is already something he understands, and he’ll know exactly what it means when you start doing it.

*You can’t protect someone from the back. So to be a good guard dog he’ll need to be out front. From now on, when you notice a potential threat, make sure you are standing between him and whatever it is he is worried about.

Use your body language to communicate

Strike a pose!

*He’ll make himself look taller and he’ll stiffen up. This makes him look and feel more confident and is the first step in avoiding an unpleasant situation. So, instead of making yourself look smaller by leaning down to comfort him, try standing tall, keeping your head up, eyes front, and show him how confident and in control you are.

*A really good protector is calm no matter what is going on. So, whatever the situation, take a deep breathe, sing a cute or funny song to yourself, and keep any anxiety or stress you may be feeling well hidden!

*Slow down. A confident protector will take their time and fully assess situations before taking actions. So walk slowly, speak slowly and really take your time.

Make your behaviour obvious

The mind of an anxious dog is a little chaotic at times so you’ll need to make it really obvious to him when you are being protective. For example, when you slow down, don’t just ease off a bit, actively halve your speed. When you stand between him, don’t just casually wander into position, instead stop, switch spaces and then move off again.

So, now you know what protective behaviour looks like, and how to do it, you’ll need to know when to do it. So for the next couple of days make a point of noticing things that make him anxious, even if it’s only a tiny bit. If you are not sure, look out for either protective behaviour (bolder breeds tend to go bold when they are anxious) or signs of shrinking (more sensitive breeds prefer to shrink away from danger) It might be subtle so watch carefully but any sign or hint of it from him and that’s your cue to jump into action.

Guard your own doors

Whatever you come up with, to solve separation anxiety you should also add doors to your list of things to guard. To guard a door, make sure that anytime someone arrives at the door you follow the following routine…

*Don’t rush, or speak! Slowly amble to the door and definitely don’t shout – show him the door is not exciting.
*Move yourself between him and the door (have your back to the door) and shuffle him away – show him you’re guarding the door and create space.
*Stop! Pause for a moment to allow calm behaviour to kick in (this could take a looong while – time to check your facebook maybe!)
*When he’s paying attention, now you can answer the door!

This could take 1 minute, or 25, it takes as long as it takes! If it helps, enlist a volunteer so you can practise a few times before trying it on the Amazon Delivery Man!

As before, we are still laying the foundations before we begin properly tackling the problem head on. So please keep your expectations very low. Saying that, if you are seeing early signs of improvement, that wouldn’t be completely unlikely either at this stage.

See you soon for the next step…


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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