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Common Questions and Answers

My dog barks and destroys property when I am away. How can I help him?

Increase his self-confidence and independence

The only time you can retrain a dog with separation anxiety is while you're with him. You should:

a) Discourage clingy Velcro® behavior - do not allow him to tag around the house with you all day but rather interrupt this shadowing behavior at intervals and insist, by tethering if necessary, that he is separated from you by, say, a room's width of distance for a prescribed period of time (say half an hour).

b) Do not always allow your dog to lie in contact with you as he rests on the couch or floor next to you in the evening. Instead, have him sleep in a dog bed a few feet away.

c) Do not allow your dog to sleep in bed with you at night. Have him sleep in a dog bed in the bedroom and walk the dog bed progressively farther from you until, eventually, it is in a place for during the day when you are away.

d) Engage in structured exercises with your dog in which he must remain in one place while you move progressively farther away until you are eventually out of sight. Reward his compliance with your directions.

e) Arrange for your dog to be separated from you in another room for windows of time each day. Initially, allow him visual contact with you via an open door but then progressively close the door. Always make sure he has something occupying to do such as gnawing on a peanut butter stuffed Kong® toy.

Make your departure less stressful

Most people bill and coo to their dogs when they leave using emollient language like, "Don't worry darling, I'll be back soon." This is exactly the wrong approach and will make your dog more stressed at your impending departure. Rather, either ignore your dog for twenty minutes before you leave or, even better, make leaving fun. Withhold food, toy and treats for a few hours before your departure to whet your dog's appetite for these pleasures. Then, immediately before you leave, walk up to your dog smiling, happy and confident, telling him what a lucky dog he is and supply him with his daily rations, perhaps in a puzzle bowl, various hard rubber chew toys made enticing by filling them with peanut butter or spread cheese (freezing them makes them last longer) and favorite chew toys perhaps enhanced with interesting scents (e.g. vanilla or anise). If your dog does not entertain itself with these items, they should be picked up on your return and he should be fed half rations later on that evening. On half rations his appetite will increase, perhaps over a day or two, until eventually he comes to look forward to your leaving, as it heralds' mealtime and playtime.

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