Yesterday I met Cockerpoo Marnie and Springerpoo (Springerdoodle Sproodle?) Luna. The are adorable friendly and polite little dogs – a real tribute to their owners.
They have just moved to a new house with much closer neighbours and have become aware that the dogs cry and bark when left alone. They hadn’t realised there were separation problems. Not wanting to upset anyone, the lady, who no longer works, now feels she can’t go out unless the man is home.
In addition to not wanting them annoying neighbours with barking or crying, they don’t don’t want their beloved dogs to be unhappy.
Breaking a habit takes time.
They agree that it’s more than likely the dogs cried and stressed with separation problems in their old house. If that’s the case it will be a habit too. Something that they have always done.
Another aspect is that they may believe their crying gets their humans back home eventually – because it always has.
I was able to see a short video of the dogs having been left. It wasn’t like the kind of panic I have seen in some other videos. They showed their separation distress by whining, whimpering, looking at the door and occasional barking. They spent much of the time just standing still and quiet by the door. The real barking started only when they heard the man’s car draw up, in anticipation of his walking in.
With some questioning it soon became apparent that the dogs don’t have enough ‘happening’ in their lives. Everything revolves around their humans being with them in the house. They are seldom taken out. When the couple goes out and leaves them, their only enrichment and fun goes out too.
They lose their whole world.
With no humans at home, there is no activity, a vacuum. Luna is obsessed with the ball – so her ball-thrower has disappeared! The action and excitement begins again as soon as they come home.
I feel the dogs need much more enrichment of the right kind – things they can do by themselves like foraging, hunting and chewing. They need much more than repetitive ball play and cuddles. The obsessive dropping of the ball to be thrown should be stopped and other activities offered that will stimulate their brains instead. Here are 35 simple ways to keep your dog busy indoors.
Instead of associating their humans’ departure with losing everything that matters, they should feel more fulfilled in general. The absence of their humans should be filled with good things as well.
Changing how Luna and Marnie feel about the front door being shut on them will take slow and patient work.
Against a background of a more enriched life including outings if only to mooch about near to home, the couple will then work on the separation itself.
A systematic programme for their separation problems.
They will start by shutting doors on them in the house. Dropping food as they shut an inside door on the dogs, they will turn around and come straight back in again. They will do that multiple times, varying doors and then doing the same with the front door.
Gradually, a second at a time, they will extend the time they spend the other side of the door. Then they will walk a short way away. Always they will aim to come back in before the dogs begin to stress, and for this they have a camera and app on their mobile.
Never again should the dogs think making a fuss brings them back.
When they begin to leave the dogs for a bit longer, they will set up the environment for success with special music to help separation problems, a calming plug-in and stuffed Kongs.
Absent humans won’t leave a vacuum anymore. When they do come back, their return shouldn’t herald fun. They should be boring.
The special exercises worked out for Marnie and Luna will be done many times until the two dogs are convinced beyond any doubt that when their humans go out, they always come back. (I don’t go into too much detail of the whole procedure here, because one size doesn’t fit all).
Now Marnie and Luna should no longer feel that when the lady and gentleman both go out that their whole world has gone with them.
They will have other enriching and stimulating things in their lives also.