Sunday, October 30, 2011

Slinky in Separation Anxiety Treatment with Misha May Foundation


Nothing is more tragic than a dog with separation anxiety. These dogs are not only terrified of being alone, but are certain they will be abandoned. Unfortunately, the ones who find themselves in shelters were correct. These dogs are usually sweet and sensitive and make great pets, except that, when left alone, they can vocalize incessantly, destroy possessions and hurt themselves trying to get to their owner. They cannot be left alone without great risk to themselves and their home.

Separation anxiety has a favorable prognosis if the protocol is followed. This typically needs to be designed by a trainer or behaviorist who has had first hand experience with the condition. Reading a book will not suffice as there are nuances and flavors and layers of complexity with each individual dog and household.

My own experience began with a dog I rescued from a shelter. Rena was already deteriorating in that environment and was soon to be deemed unadoptable. She vocalized so you wished you were deaf, frantically pawed at the kennel door and on everyone, shredded and ate toys feverishly, and refused to come in from the outdoor play area when her turn was over. She was truly a heartbreak. I wasn't certain then that she had separation anxiety, nor did I know the scope of the condition. I just knew I wanted to save her because she was a bright, endearing lab mix suffering unbearably. I assumed that with time, patience, love and some new information, I could help her have a great life.

She certainly came by her anxiety honestly, having been in a shelter in New Mexcio and then transferred to Denver. She had also been adopted once and returned, and although having tested successfully for a law enforcement progam, she was never claimed. She was a statistic waiting to happen. I decided to change her life. And ultimately she really changed mine!

Our stressful all-consuming relationship of the upcoming months could have easily been predicted by the events that occurred within hours of her adoption. When I took her to say good-bye to the staff who knew her, they seemed extremely relieved to see her go. She jumped on them, knocked over the 'poop' waste can (ugh!) and jumped to the top of the toy shelf to grab what she wanted - all on leash!

I had planned toys and treats for our 20 minute ride to work. Little did I know that those most likely saved my life and the lives of many others on the highway that day. Rena wanted to sit on me desperately as I drove, but she surrendered to the delicious rawhides and shreddable stuffy toys that I kept tossing in the back seat. That short ride cost me about $50 in pacifiers!

When I arrived at work, I was going to hand Rena over to my partner while I saw my client. This is when I became educated about pathological bonding. He was unable to manage her as she determinedly screamed and writhed her way back to my office. I will always remember this session with a client who disliked dogs and whom I did not charge.

Rena screamed and writhed her way into our hearts. She became the fourth dog in our home even though I had told my partner that she would be adopted out as Misha May's first rescue dog. It is to these four dogs - Bella, Zeb, Tara, Rena - that I owe my career as a dog trainer and behaviorist. If they had not come into my life, I may not have found my calling. I was ferociously protective of them once they joined my life and so I had to learn to deal with all of their problems. I knew that issues like resource guarding, aggression, escaping, fear and trauma, and separation anxiety could all be considered tickets to euthanasia. I was going to figure out what to do no matter what it required. And I did.

This was the really the basis for The Misha May Foundation. I use what my dogs taught me to help other dogs daily. In 2010, we began to use the slogan Contact us FIRST for training so you won't need us later for rescue. In 2011, we ranked 5th in Denver 7's A*List Best Dog Training!

The following video is of of Slinky left home alone a few days after being adopted. This video helped the owners to diagnose her separation anxiety and to seek behavior modification help with Misha May. Turning the sound down or off makes it easier to watch. Slinky is safe and sound now. She is doing very well in her training:

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