Monthly Archives: August 2018

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety is one of the most complicated behavioral issues dogs can develop. Separation Anxiety (SA) is an emotional disorder. Dogs are such social beings, and when we bring them into our homes and expect them to be alone for up to 8 hours, 5 days a week, it can sometimes be very taxing on them. To make things worse, we don’t realize our dog is suffering from anxiety because we’re too quick to get angry at them for making a huge mess in our house. People come home from work and discover their dog has eliminated in the crate, or all over the house. People are shocked to see their dog ripped into the pillows of their sofa and chairs and there is pillow-stuffing all over the house. Dogs with SA commonly chew the walls and woodwork around windows and doorways! Some dogs are so anxious to escape their crates, they will actually break their teeth trying to escape through the wires of it, or they will chew a hole in the airline-carrier crate to get out. Dogs with SA can bark or whine for hours throughout the day causing the neighbors to complain.

Many of my clients exclaim “My dog knew he did wrong because when I told him he was bad, he looked guilty. She cowered and ran behind the sofa!” NOOOooo! Dogs do not feel guilt! Cowering and running away is an attempt to escape your anger. Reprimanding only increases the anxiety. This can happen over and over again, but the dog only continues its destruction and elimination.

Let me give you a few reasons dogs develop SA so you’ll have a better understanding of how this disorder can happen:

  • You are a teacher and are home all summer. You figure this would be a great time to get a puppy because you’d have plenty of time to spend with her. Then… you go back to work in the fall.
  • Your teenage daughter always takes your dog for a walk and plays with him when she gets home from school. She’s graduated from high school and just left for college. Your dog is alone now for several additional hours until you come home.
  • Grandpop has lived with you and your family for many years. Your little dog loves him and spends hours sitting on his lap everyday. Sadly, Grandpop passes away.
  • You and your family move to a new home. You spend a week getting settled in and then go back to work. When you return home, you’re shocked to see the dog has chewed all around the wall and woodwork of the front door and insulation is exposed.
  • You adopt a beautiful dog from the shelter and spend a 3-day weekend with her. On Monday… you go back to work.
  • You purchase 2 littermate puppies and are so impressed with how close they are. You make sure to put them both in the same crate, and they are together 24/7. Sometime later one of the dogs needs to go to the vet, and the other dog winds up having a major panic attack! The same thing can happen when adopting 2 shelter or rescue dogs at the same time. They can bond and their over-the-top closeness is encouraged.
  • Shelter dogs commonly develop SA!

I will follow-up with another article offering some ideas to help dogs suffering from Separation Anxiety.

 

 

TRAINING DOGS WITH RANDOM REWARDS.

A common complaint people have when training their dogs using food rewards is, “my dog won’t do anything that I ask him to unless I have food in my hand!” Well, first you have to ask yourself if you’ve trained your dog to follow a cue while you’re showing him a piece of food. If you have that food right in front of the dog’s face, your dog will learn food is part of the entire cue for doing that particular behavior. That’s why he isn’t following your request when you omit that part of the cue. Think of that food as a paycheck. Nobody gets paid on Monday morning before they do their job, right?

Ask your dog to do something simple, like “Sit.” If he sits for you, bring that food out either from behind your back, or from out of the sink, or have someone else hand you that food that was hidden from view. Do a few easy repetitions of having your dog sit, and reward with a treat. Then ask him to do something a little harder, but make sure it is an already-trained behavior. Produce the food reward as I just suggested. This should do the trick with future training.

Figure out what behavior(s) your dog is excelling at, and begin putting that behavior on a “Random Reinforcement Schedule.” Have you ever sat in front of a slot machine? If you have, you know that sometimes the machine pays you, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we might win 50 cents and sometimes we might win 50 dollars. A random reinforcement schedule is based on the “Slot Machine Principle” which states, “sometimes you get paid and sometimes you don’t!” Atlantic City makes a fortune because of this principle. Trust me, I know because I get hooked every time I’m down the shore 🙁

Keep in mind, however, that if your dog does a behavior perfectly in the kitchen, he needs to learn that same behavior in many different places inside your home. Dogs do not generalize well unless it’s a traumatic experience! Then go outside and begin to train that behavior right near the house, then further down the driveway. You’re now adding the distraction factor to your training.

I’m going to give you a random reinforcement schedule below to help get you started. You can then develop your own random schedules as your dog gets further along with other types of rewards. These subsequent schedules should use less and less food treats and more of other types of rewards. Make a list of all the things your dog loves and use them in your Random Reinforcement Schedules.

Ideas for other types of rewards could be:

  • Praise
  • A short game of Tug
  • A short chase game (he chases you)
  • A short game of frisbee
  • A chance to chase a squirrel
  • Fetching a squeaky toy
  • Applause
  • Petting

Here are two samples of Random Reinforcement Schedules. The numbers listed are those times that a dog does a behavior in which he is rewarded with food. All other times are rewarded with alternatives.

1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16,18, 21, 22, 23, 26.

Here’s one more to follow:
2, 4, 7, 10, 12, 13, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22, 25, 26.