Helping Your Dog with His Separation Anxiety Issues

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This is the sort of desensitizing exercise recommended for a dog with separation anxiety. The goal is to actually do the exercise so many times, in such small increments, and without ever allowing the dog to go “past threshold” (become anxious at all), that the dog becomes bored stiff with your behavior.

I had to desensitize Sam’s “She’s leaving me!” triggers. For Sam, this was walking toward or reaching for the door; being a former street dog, he hadn’t yet learned that an owner who was picking up keys or putting on a coat equaled leaving. I included these things anyway. During these exercises I was in “robot mode”- showing no emotion at all and ignoring Sam. I was keeping a very close eye on him though – making sure he showed absolutely no sign of anxiety. My goal during these exercises was for him to become so bored with my comings and goings that he stopped paying attention to them at all. Here is the sort of thing that I would do:

 

Calmly and while ignoring Sam, pick up keys, sit back down. Repeat every few minutes (keeping time variable).
Pick up keys, stand up, take a few steps toward door. Put keys down, sit down. Repeat. Adding more steps toward the door until I could touch it.

-Keys, touch doorknob, sit down.

-Keys, touch doorknob, turn doorknob, sit down.

-Keys, turn doorknob, open door a smidgen, shut door, sit down.

-Keys, turn doorknob, open door a few inches, shut door, sit down.

-Keys, turn doorknob, open door a foot, shut door, sit down.

-Keys, turn doorknob, open door wide, shut door, sit down.

-Keys, turn doorknob, open door wide for two seconds, shut door, sit down.

-Keys, turn doorknob, open door wide for four seconds, shut door, sit down.

-Keys, turn doorknob, open door wide for eight seconds, shut door, sit down.

-Keys, turn doorknob, open door wide for five seconds, step out with one foot, step back in and shut door, sit down.

-Keys, turn doorknob, open door wide for five seconds, step out with both feet, step back in and shut door, sit down.

-Keys, turn doorknob, open door wide for 10 seconds, step out with both feet, step back in and shut door, sit down.

-And so on and so on. Or rather, until Sam falls asleep or goes about his other business, completely bored with my antics and unconcerned with my whereabouts.

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