There has been a big change in young Cockerpoo Murphy’s life recently. They moved into a new house two weeks ago.
The lady was able to go out without any problems before. Now he barks in panic as she walks out of the door.
She comes home to a panting and distressed little dog.
She put Murphy, along with her other Cockerpoo, Missy, in kennels for a week – to save them from the upheaval of the move itself. Could this have something to do with his fear of being left now?
To better understand the different kinds of separation distress, imagine a bitch and her puppy. If we separate them, the mother will suffer from separation anxiety, unable to see, and therefore protect, her puppy. The puppy suffers from abandonment anxiety because he is missing his point of reference and safety.
Murphy barks in panic, “Don’t leave me!”
I believe it’s abandonment Murphy’s feeling. He barks in panic at the door even as she leaves, “don’t leave me!”. It’s not like he’s alone for a little while and then begins to get uneasy. It’s immediate.
This case is a good example of the importance of asking questions and not jumping to conclusions. I was about to go when something occurred to me. The lady works at home and would go out a couple of times a week, for two or three hours.
I asked her, what time of day do you go out? She said it always used to be in the morning. What time of day have you been going out over the past couple of weeks? Afternoon.
What time of day do you usually walk the dogs? Afternoon.
Hmmm. I wonder whether Murphy barks in panic, due to abandonment, because he expects to go out with her as he always would in the afternoon? It’s possible. Wasn’t that his old routine after all?
Murphy’s separation plan divides into two separate areas for the lady to work on at the same time. Departures, and the triggers that signal her departure.
Departures and triggers.
Working on departures will be in steps, beginning with just closing the dog gate on him and walking away for a moment, building up to being able to walk out of the back door.
She may need to break the stages we worked out into even smaller increments, keeping on each step until Murphy is relaxed and happy before going onto the next.
She should do these exercises many times until Murphy is convinced beyond any doubt that when she departs she always comes back.
Working on the triggers will include putting outdoor shoes on and off regularly, leaving her bag about, walking around with her keys, taking the keys out of the back door and so on.
Every time the lady walks out on Murphy, however briefly, she will drop food. The idea is that her departures are associated with good stuff (food) and her returns are fairly boring.
She can add calming music. Noise from TV or radio may actually be too varied and stimulating. Through a Dogs Ear music can relieve anxiety.
When she starts actually going out of the house she will do so in the morning.
I suggest she has a camera so that she can see Murphy from her phone. She should always come back in before he starts to show signs of distress.
Murphy may well still associate the afternoons with walks, regardless of whether he’s already been walked in the morning. Returning to her old routine may well speed things up.