Little Cockerpoo Mabel is the perfect companion for a lady living alone in all respects but one.
Over-attachment. The lady can’t leave her.
She can’t go out of the room without 11-month-old Mabel panicking. Even when sleeping, the little dog will leap up to follow her as soon as she stands up.
The lady takes her to work where she fits in beautifully with the other workers – so long as she has her lady in sight.
She loves these people who she knows well, but not enough for the lady to leave her with them.
She has tried leaving her at home with someone, but Mabel simply panics. She has to do her shopping online.
A timid dog
We looked at a few general things that would help Mabel’s confidence so that she feels sufficiently safe to relax her over-attachment.
One is a strategy saving her from getting alarmed and worked up when she sees people passing the house. Another is to help her feel safer on walks, where she’s on alert most of the time.
The more stable her general state of mind, the better progress the lady will make with the over-attachment separation problem.
Strangely, Mabel has been to day care and is very happy to be taken in – they come out and fetch her. A dog walker fetches her once a week with no trouble at all.
So the problem is when the lady leaves her, not when she leaves the lady.
Now we know just what the problem is with this particular dog, we know what to work on. One size doesn’t fit all.
Breaking the umbilical
The ‘flitting’ game is perfect for cases like this. Basically the lady will go from room to room pretending to do something, waiting a minute before moving on to the next room, ignoring Mabel all the time.
The over-attached dog will naturally follow.
Sooner or later Mabel will get tired of this game. Now is the time for the lady to give her a chew. If not done too soon, the dog should settle with the chew and stop following while the lady keeps walking about.
How we adapt this varies from dog to dog.
Our slowly slowly plan: The environment
At present there are no boundaries in the house at all. Only doors that are never shut.
Step One is to put a gate in the doorway between living room and hall. Without the lady disappearing from sight, Mabel can learn to be happy ‘the other side of the gate’.
The ‘other side of the gate’ can be associated with only good things. When she is eventually left, a gate will keep Mabel away from the front of the house where she may feel unsafe due to passing people or callers.
The lady will work on associating special calming dog music (reggae surprisingly) with Mabel feeling happy and secure – for use later.
Gradually upping the ante
Now we have a happy dog, the other side of the gate from the lady but the lady still by the gate.
Each and every time the lady calls Mabel through the gate and shuts it, she will drop special food.
Now the lady can turn away. She can walk away a couple of steps before returning and opening the gate. Then three steps, then four steps. Then to the front door which is nearby.
How quickly she progresses in breaking the over-attachment depends entirely upon Mabel. It could take days or it could take months. She has a camera so she can always make sure she returns before Mabel stresses. This is vital.
She will establish a ritual. Every time the gate shuts and she moves away, she will drop food and say the same words (‘back soon’ perhaps). When she comes back in she will be as boring as possible.
Bit by bit she can go further, open and shut the front door. Go out and come back etc. etc. She can add in the prepared music.
In time she can add picking up her keys and then her handbag.
Slowly slowly catchy monkey.
There is more – this is just the outline. It’s just the start in relaxing Mabel’s over-attachment to the lady.
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