Monday, November 21, 2011

Separation Anxiety: Day 12 of Slinky with Misha May

Slinky ate her breakfast just inside the crate, door still open. Placing the food in or near the crate, as each dog can tolerate, is a great first step for acclimating the dog to any crate training. If you place it all the way in and the dog won’t eat, then it needs to be moved forward or just outside or far enough away that the dog feels comfortable eating. The point isn’t to make a dog eat in a certain place, but to have the dog enjoy where she is eating, thus creating a positive association with that spot.

If you want your dog to learn ‘go to bed’, you can feed her near the bed so that will always be one place she will choose to go and go there easily. If you want to help a dog feel more comfortable with a certain member of the family, you can feed your dog near ‘his chair’ or even have that person feed the dog more often.

My refrigerator died today so I need to go get a new one. Slinky will be spending the day with Gina and Gene and returning in the evening. They will continue to help Slinky love being with them but not necessarily receiving direct attention. They will be engaged in other nearby pursuits and Slinky will be praised for calmly hanging out.

Slinky is attached to both Gina and Gene but seems more distressed about losing Gina. For whatever reason, dogs with separation anxiety will often pick one person out of all of the ones they love, to hyper bond with. That person has the major training responsibility of balancing their love and distancing. Gina has to support Slinky in being alone, turning to others and learning to self-soothe while letting Slinky know she loves her and isn’t leaving her. This person affords the dog the opportunities to learn from and with others.

The person to whom the dog is less bonded needs to encourage more interaction perhaps through feeding or play. In this case, for example, Gene can hand feed kibble, go on walks, or give special treats. He is also the support for Slinky when Gina practices leaving, renders departure cues irrelevant and eventually actually leaves. Gene will feed a special treat or use the anxiety reduction techniques mentioned previously.

The following are Gina’s updates from the car ride and crate training. Gina is tracking Slinky’s response to each part of the training process. Slinky already has a new relaxed relationship with the wire crate that she was videotaped in (see the before video: Introduction to Separation Anxiety). Gina keeps in mind our goals and thinks through her training decisions.

Hi Lorraine,

…Slinky did extremely well in the back seat and only attempted to get back into the front seat once. She kept herself busy the entire time looking out each of the windows in back. She had very minimal whining once she got into the back seat and grew excited as we pulled into my driveway.

Not long after we got into the house, I found Slinky by her wire crate sniffing around - she did not enter. I wanted to wait to put the sheet and nylabone (Editor’s Note: these were from the crate at my home so that Slinky would have the familiar smell of these dogs she likes in her crate at her house) into her crate until she wasn't so focused on me. I was able to do so, but Slinky did not approach the crate again; I was unsure that she realized that the sheet and bone had been placed into the wire crate. I have the wire crate and her plastic crate in the same location in the house, resting side by side. After being home for over an hour or so, I casually got up and sat on the plastic crate with my computer on my lap, ignoring Slinky altogether. This peaked her curiosity enough to approach the wire crate again, at which time she started to sniff the sheet from the outside of the crate and licked it a couple of times. She then found her way around to the door of the crate, sniffing, and slowly entered the crate and laid down. I continued to sit on the plastic crate for another few minutes and then casually got up and arched myself around the wire crate with her inside and went to sit on the couch where she could still see me. She continued to lie in the crate for another minute or so and then got up and sat by me on the couch. It was still a big accomplishment!

All in all, Slinky did really well today, but did seem to be following me around a bit more often than she did the last time I brought her home. There are times, however, that she lies on the couch or floor and ignores my movement. She still gets up and comes running anytime I venture anywhere near the front door. She always wants to make sure that she's not left behind.

We fed her in front of her crate today and she gobbled up all of her food.

~ Gina

This was a very successful day of transitioning the exercises from the trainer to the owner. This information helps me to plan the next series of exercises.

Gina and Gene brought Slinky to meet me after Misha May’s Understanding Dogs class at Doggie Pause. As they walked away, she began to sniff the ground and explore. They were able to leave quietly and she didn’t notice since she was sufficiently distracted. I let her continue to sniff until she finished. Then we got in the car. She looked out the back seat windows all the way to my house, but maybe whined only twice! When we arrived at my house, she was happy to see the other dogs. They all played in the yard. Wonderful transition - I'm very pleased.

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