Four-year-old Ellie lived with several other Cocker Spaniels for the first two years of her life.
She then went to live with the lady and for the first time in her life was left all alone – if only for a few hours.
Where other dogs had been her constant company before, she now has developed an attachment to the lady. She howls when she leaves her.
If another person looks after her, she cries initially but then is okay so long as someone is there.
She has to be left alone sometimes
We have a situation where the lady has to leave her from time to time, for shopping, hairdresser and so on. So how do we build up trust while Ellie’s still being left alone?
The lady takes her with her nearly everywhere she goes – even to her evening class! She chooses dog-friendly places and lovely Ellie is no trouble at all.
Ideally for now the lady will find someone to leave her with when she can’t take her dog with her. This may be impossible every time.
A different place to leave her whilst building up the trust.
When left all alone at the moment, it’s in the kitchen.
For the separation work, the lady will instead use her living room. This is the best room because Ellie is very happy and settled in the evenings in the living room. She feels happier here than anywhere else.
Another important aspect is Ellie feeling safe when left. Currently she gets very aroused when mail comes through the door. The lady will get an outside mailbox.
She will also desensitise Ellie to the doorbell.
Now for a ‘left alone’ plan.
Firstly the lady will now shut the door when she goes to the toilet – dropping food as she does so. Ellie will know that she’s coming back because she always does.
We also discussed a game that she would associate with the lady shutting a door on her with fun.
Next the ‘flitting game‘ (from Emma Judson). The lady will keep walking around the house from room to to room, stopping briefly in each, with Ellie following her until the dog slows down or gives up.
Beginning a ‘left alone’ pattern that Ellie can trust.
The lady will call her into the living room, settle her and give her a treat. She will use the same cues each time she leaves the room and shuts the door.
She will have prepared the environment with sound (special music) and scent (Pet Remedy plugin).
She will return within a couple of minutes.
Very slowly, a bit at a time, she will increase time away to going out of the house. All the time she will watch on her phone to make sure she comes back before Ellie stresses.
She can gradually build in other signals like picking up keys, outdoor shoes on and so on.
Meanwhile, for those occasions where she simply can’t avoid going out and leaving Ellie, the lady will continue to use the kitchen as before.
This can be a long slow job. The lady is building trust and Ellie learning to feel safe. She may have a friend she can leave Ellie with which would help progress.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help