Separation panic. Isolation distress. Separation anxiety

Noah suffers from separation panic whenever he’s left without human company.  He’s most distressed when his young lady owner’s mother leaves him.

The whole family suffer too. Their two happy Standard Poodles are no substitute for human company.

Frenchie suffers separation panic when leftNoah howls.

Not only does it distress the family, it upsets the neighbour. Continue reading…

Owner and Dog Too Attached

Yorkiepoo is scared and protectiveSeldom do I go to see dogs that so clearly reflect the state of mind of their owners.

Poppy is a ‘Yorkiepoo’, a tiny underage pitiful little puppy for sale three years ago in a shop. One can only guess that she came from a puppy farm somewhere, very possibly shipped over from Eastern Europe as so many are. Not a good start in life.

Ollie is a Miniature Schnauzer, chosen to keep Poppy company and to give her a bit more confidence which hasn’t really worked.

The most concerning thing is how inseparable they are from the adult daughter, Poppy in particular. They are much too attached. Poppy won’t let her out of their sight. If the daughter moves, she moves. All the time I was there Poppy sat beside or in front of her, scared but protective. Even thought the young lady wasn’t touching her, a sort of invisible concern cloaked her.The more stable Miniature Schnauzer hasn't helped Poppy

The girl herself is equally needy of the dogs and worries and watches over them constantly (as do the whole family to a lesser extent). She hates going out to work, conjuring up all sorts of scenarios of their coming to harm when she is out. This started, somewhat understandably, when the tiny, scared and vulnerable Poppy came into their lives.

When I arrived it took Poppy quite a while to stop barking at me, keeping me away from the young lady. When the lady goes out, she cries at the door, even when other people are in the house. She then transfers her ‘following’ onto the mother. The family has not felt able to go out in the evening for two years now. Predictably, Poppy is very scared of people and other dogs, and when off lead may run away and hide. Both she and Ollie bark constantly at anything they see. Ollie is a much more stable character in general, but is affected by Poppy’s barking and panicking.

We discussed ways of dissolving the invisible umbilical attaching Poppy to the daughter because they are literally too attached. We looked at ways of enriching the dogs’ lives and encouraging independence. The humans’ tone of voice and body language can make a huge difference – hellos and goodbyes can be matter-of-fact. The young lady and the little dog are simply over-dependent upon one another. We put in place little changes in many aspects of the dogs’ lives. A bit like a jigsaw puzzle, if all the bits are slotted into place then you start to get the whole picture looking different.

One day later I received this email – before even they had received their written plan: ‘We made all of the changes that we could remember and the transformation with Poppy has been absolutely astounding. It is literally as though someone has pressed a switch. I can’t explain it any better than that. She is like a different, chilled out little dog. Would you believe that neither Poppy or Ollie followed ……… when she came home from work today? They stayed in the living room, sprawled out and (hopefully) carefree. They both ate all of their dinner. The baby was here today but they did not seem as interested in him as they usually would be’.

I did give them one word of warning. A familiar pattern I see is dramatic improvement immediately, followed by a downturn as the dogs start to adjust and test the new boundaries, maybe even becoming frustrated. If this does happen, the people can now see what they are aiming for if they work through this and remain consistent.

A week later I received this: ‘Things have improved SO much that you would be amazed! ‘Annie’ (daughter – not her real name) is on board now… WooO! We had a nice chat and I reminded her what you said about this being very difficult for her and that everyone understood. My giving her some slack and some understanding helped massively. We have not had any pees in the house since Sunday, so fingers crossed…!Another major development is that Poppy will now venture right across the garden, as opposed to staying close to the edges. She has gained so much more confidence than I thought possible at this stage. Walks have been calm and lovely with Poppy happy to wander a little bit, just turning to look at us every now and then. They are hardly barking at noises now and are quiet when people come in. There has been another development which was unexpected…. They both eat all of their food now.’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Poppy and Ollie, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).


He Can’t Be Left Alone

Long-haired Daschund can't be left alone for one minute Rescue Daschund can only relax when the lady is there and is over-attached to her alreadyLittle Long-Haired Daschund Rodney goes into a state of panic when he’s left alone even for a couple of minutes.

Many people have seen the excellent Channel 4 programme proving just how many more dogs suffer when left alone than we realise. Here is the link if you missed it.

Separation distress can be a dreadful thing for a dog, and rehabilitation is usually a very slow, gradual process.

Rodney has been in his new home now for a month. He had lived previously with an elderly lady who died, and one can image that he spent most of the time on her lap or bed. There was another dog also, so he would never have been absolutely alone.

Rodney is now becoming very attached to his new owners, so much so that if he’s dog-sat by neighbours or family he may still cry intermittently.

The more he is cuddled and carried about, the longer they never shut doors on him even briefly, the more attached I fear he will get. You can see from his photo that he is totally irresistible!

His two main issues are the separation distress and fear of going out on walks – possibly because he’s also wary of other dogs. He runs away when the lead comes out. At present they are more or less forcing him to go and to walk, but now we have a plan in place for them to do the very opposite.

We also have a detailed plan in place for working gradually on his panic when left. The gentleman had an excellent idea – he is going to set up a spreadsheet and tick off each tiny increment as it is achieved.

As time goes by I would expect Rodney to relax and become more carefree and even playful – just as two-year-old dog living with wonderful people should be.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Rodney, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).

Cockerpoo Cries When Left Alone

Cockerpoo Buddy is a fifteen month old ball of fluffLittle Buddy is a fifteen-month-old ball of fluff – it’s hard to find his face when he’s lying asleep! He is a mischevous little chap and likes especially to run rings around his gentleman owner who is something of a soft touch.

Buddy is also a happy little dog – so long as he’s not left alone. His greatest attachment is to his lady owner and he likes to know where she is at all times. It is so bad that when they shut the dog gate at the kitchen door before going out, he is attacking their ankles quite ferociously, doing all he can to stop them going. He barks and cries constantly when they are out, and this has resulted in complaints from the neighbour.

The lady feels tied to the house; she can’t even go out for coffee with a friend. She works part time so they have had an au pair for the daughter (and dog!), but this will soon end.

My own dogs are not involved with my comings and goings. They will be pleased to see me when I get home, but not beside themselves with relief. They are secure and confident that I will come back eventually and that it’s no big deal when I leave. They do have each other, of course. Buddy however is with someone 24/7,  and he sleeps in their bedroom.

The first step is to get him used to staying alone behind the gate in the large kitchen so that the only time he’s shut in the kitchen isn’t when they go out. He will then be used to losing sight of the lady whilst knowing she is still in the house. To help to get him secure in his own company, in this circumstance I feel they should slowly wean him away from their bedroom at night, out onto the landing, and eventually leave him in the kitchen. If he can happily stay all night away from them in the kitchen, that would be great progress towards staying happily for a couple of hours during the day in the kitchen when they are all out.

They need to plant a lot of ‘red herrings’! Picking up keys and going nowhere. Putting shoes on and going nowhere. Walking around with handbag and going nowhere. Going out one door and coming in another, gradually increasing time spent outside the house. When they go out for real they should be ready in advance – then just go!

Little Buddy has control of a lot of things in his life – when he eats his food, where he sleeps, when he gets attention, when he plays, when he goes outside and when he agrees to come back in! But he hasn’t got control of comings and goings.  As trusted ‘leaders/dog parents’, his humans should be able to come and go as they like – they are not accountable to Buddy.

They will need to take things very slowly, but ultimately this should be a big relief to Buddy.