The tiny six-month Yorkie is so beautiful I could not resist three photos.
Gizmo cries when left alone.
The key to relieving him and his young humans from all the anxiety and stress around separation is to find out just why he is unhappy when left.
Separation Anxiety is a blanket term that covers a lot of possibilities.
In many separation cases the dog won’t let a particular person out of his sight. Gizmo is fairly independent and is perfectly happy to go into the garden alone. He’s a confident little fellow and he has a lovely life, being trained and treated as a ‘proper dog’ despite his minute size.
He may cry at the gate, however, if the lady goes upstairs for more than a minute or so. I’m sure he believes that his noise is what brings her back down (because it always does).
From looking at the whole picture of his life, like any puppy he generally doesn’t want to miss anything that could be action or fun, and he’s learnt barking is a way to get it.
In the early hours of the morning he barks, which results in someone coming downstairs and letting him out, then taking him up to bed with them. For the past week they have tried having him in their bedroom all night, but he’s still barking at the same early hour.
When Gizmo stays with the young lady’s mother for a night or two he doesn’t bark at all and he will sleep in until much later.
These two things rule out the barking at night being due merely to loneliness, and it’s not that he can’t last through without being let out to toilet.
Everything points to the fact that unintentionally they have taught him to call them. Gizmo wants action and company and usually gets it when he barks!
They have very helpfully taken a video of his first ten minutes alone.
The little dog seems unconcerned about being left initially. He starts by working on the Kong he has been left. Gradually he gets tired of that and starts looking around for company. This develops into some wandering around and pacing like he’s looking for them, some crying for them. He gets a bit more agitated, probably because he’s getting no response. Then he eats the food he’s been left. A really distressed or scared animal would not want to eat. Food finished, he’s barking and wandering almost like he’s looking for something else to do and for some company. He only briefly goes to the back door the lady had walked out of.
Certainly he’s distressed, but not in a real panic.
When the lady does get back after two or three hours, never longer, Gizmo is getting out of his bed.
This pattern seems to be much the same at night when, if left to carry on crying, after about half an hour he gives up and settles.
Gizmo’s humans will work on him being happy to be by himself for longer while they are in the house. We have worked out a few carefully controlled and graded exercises with them leaving him to go upstairs, leaving him behind the gate in the kitchen and leaving him to go out of the house.
Added to this, more fun things should be available when they’re not there and not always when they are there.
People have more control over the situation than they realise. Gizmo’s humans can influence what happens before and what happens afterwards.
They can prepare Gizmo for people departing. The exercises will help this. They can put in place much more imaginative things to occupy him when he’s left. There are several things they can work on to help him associate being left alone with good stuff and with relaxing.
They can pre-empt the barking for attention in the evenings by initiating more fun themselves instead of responding to his barking, in order to teach him that barking is not the way to get what he wants. They can rehearse over and over tactics for getting him used to being left for short periods and they can change their rituals immediately before leaving for work. Being left will be associated with all sorts of good stuff.
And what happens afterwards? They have control over that too and how they respond. If reuniting is too big an event, it gives the dog yet another thing to bark for. Barking generally ends up in attention and fun, after all.
With separation issues, whatever the reasons, the dog is not happy. This makes his humans unhappy too.