Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him atÂ email@example.com.
Dog Gone Problems,
I rescued a retired greyhound racer to train as my service dog. We have been together five months thus far, working with a professional trainer when possible. My dog goes everywhere with me, but I have a few doctors appointments where he cannot go back with me when I see the doctor. He has started to cry and whimper when I am not with him, and my family members have trouble keeping him quiet. I hope you may have an answer.
It sounds like your dog has developed a case of separation anxiety â an insecurity a dog feels when left alone or when not in the presence of a specific person. If your dog is around you all the time, he may panic when not in your presence, or he may believe you are in need of his presence. In either case, my suggestion is to help your dog practice being alone in very small doses.
When your dog practices being alone, it’s crucially important he practices while in a completely calm and relaxed state. If your dog starts to whine, cry or whimper, he’s not prepared for the level of solitude you are attempting to achieve.
I have found a great way to help a dog practice being alone is to first teach him or her learn to stay. Check out this video hereÂ to help with teaching a dog how to stay. Dogs develop and practice self control when we train them to stay. This in itself is helpful in the treatment of separation anxiety, but the real reason I show my clients how to teach their dogs to stay is so they can practice being alone or apart from their person.
Once your dog can stay for up to five minutes and then 15 feet or more of distance, you can start stepping out of sight. At first, only step out of sight for one second. If your dog stays in the sit, then move to two second, and keep adding in more time. Be sure to go slow. Donât go from 10 seconds to a minute.
If you go at the dogâs pace, you should be able to help him learn to stay when you move away for short periods of time. Have him stay while you go get a glass of water, while you use the bathroom or while you go change clothes in another room. Be sure to have family members who visit the doctorâs office with you be there for some of the stay practice. They should give some commands as well.
The idea is to help your dog practice being apart from you in progressively longer and longer periods of time. When you get to 10 minutes or longer in another room, you should be able to leave the office and have your dog stay with the family member without complaint.
In the off chance he still protests at the doctorâs office, I’d suggest practicing the “stay” command in the office the same way you did at home. Give him a stay, then leave the room for one second, then two seconds and so on. Donât over do it. Practice each stay for less than five to seven minutes, unless you get past that duration of the stay.
In no time your greyhound will be a pro at hanging out calmly for the few minutes you are away. Be sure to practice being away from your dog at least once a day to keep his confidence high. Otherwise this problem will return.
Good luck and remember â everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.