Training and Care — Tip Of The Week
Excerpt from Our New
Australian Shepherd Lover's Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care
Separation anxiety is one of those things that is much easier to prevent than it is to cure. Ideally, you should take steps with a new puppy to make sure she gets used to being alone early on. If your dog is already out of the puppy stage and has developed separation anxiety problems, you'll need to slowly and carefully desensitize her to being alone.
Separation anxiety is partly caused by the big fuss you make before you leave your dog alone. If you've been making a big deal about calming and reassuring your dog before you leave the house, thinking this will stop the problem, you should quit doing this right now. It's better to make no fuss about the fact that you're leaving. And make sure you don't leave immediately after giving your dog lots of attention. Allow about five or ten minutes before you leave the house when you ignore your dog completely. The sudden withdrawal of attention is another big part of the problem.
You don't even have to say goodbye to your dog. When you're ready to go, just go.
Always leave something to occupy your dog. This will help lessen the effect when she realizes you're gone. If you leave her chewing on a nylon bone or Kong stuffed with peanut butter, it will keep her distracted for a little longer and give her something to do rather than stress out about you being gone.
Also, keep in mind your Aussie's superior sense of smell. Being able to smell your scent can be comforting, so leave a worn item of clothing lying around the house (behind a door the dog can't enter, so she doesn't chew it). Likewise, providing sounds in the environment can help – leaving the TV or radio on at a low volume creates the illusion that there are still people around.
And don't forget about the crate. Remember, as we touched on earlier, the crate is supposed to be your dog's safe place. If you need to go out for a couple of hours and leave her at home, putting her in the crate can nip separation anxiety in the bud – but she needs to be used to the crate first. Take a look at Chapter 5 for a thorough guide to crate training.
Next time: Nipping and Biting
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