Woody and the lady would both be happier if he was more independent.
He is a 7-month-old Working Cocker Spaniel, born into lockdown with the lady working from home.
In my ‘early-days’ puppy parenting sessions, I suggest people build into their day regular very short separations to help their puppy to be independent as he gets older.
The lady feels that Woody is obsessed with her.
He is beside her while she works. Apart from upstairs which is gated, he follows her everywhere she goes.
This has resulted in problems. It’s not enough simply to be in the lady’s presence – she needs to be constantly available for him, unless he’s asleep!
If she’s eating her dinner or working, he looks for mischief – not unusual I know! This is usually something to chew that he knows she can’t ignore.
Learning to become more independent
The lady can start by encouraging him to become more independent while she is working. She sits at the dining room table with the door open to the kitchen.
She will now gate the kitchen. For very short periods of time Woody can go behind the gate where he can still see her, always with something to eat or chew.
She should let him out before he agitates. We don’t want him to think that making a fuss will get him out. It will be a gradual process and part of a set ritual which we discussed.
The most pressing problem associated with Woody’s need to be more independent is lack of sleep.
The lady came down to him five times the night before we spoke.
This began when he was unwell a while ago. Now he calls her down even though he doesn’t want to go out. He just wants her.
She can’t allow him to bark because they live in a semi-detached house and she has two children who would be woken up.
Both the lady and the dog are tired!
Why not have the crate in he bedroom?
I asked why she hadn’t put the crate in her bedroom and the reply was interesting.
She resisted doing so only because she believed it would make him less independent than he already was.
I feel it’s the opposite. If he is suffering from abandonment all night, he would be feeling a lot more insecure in general. He will likely be on constant lookout for the lady to disappear at any time.
She will now try the bedroom. She will be firm. Any noise and she will cover the crate. She must never open it in the night!
This is the road to getting Woody to be more independent.
The world will look at different place to both lady and dog after a good night’s sleep.
The next morning
Ps. This morning – the morning after the first night upstairs: ‘Success! He barked and whined a bit as it was all new but then settled after I shushed him a few times. Slept through until 6.45! Fingers crossed tonight’.
She must now continue to be firm.
A week later: Woody’s move to the bedroom in his crate has been a great success. I’ve managed to sleep through the night for the first time in 5 months!