Training an Anxious Dog to Redirect Her Attention Using the Touch Game

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: December 15, 2017

In this Omaha dog training session we worked with nine-year-old Vizsla, Abbie, who needed help with her separation anxiety, dog anxiety and redirecting her attention.

After I arrived, Abbie quickly settled down and started to relax. Like many dogs Abbie becomes anxious when her guardian leaves her alone but can be calm when she is home with her guardian. Dogs think in very cause and effect ways; so Abbie might be thinking that she needs to be anxious or behave anxiously in order to have her guardian come back. Remember that every time Abbie gets anxious her guardian comes back. Abbie doesn’t know that her anxiety isn’t the cause for her guardian’s return.

When dogs experience anxiety, much like people, they can experience a loss of control. One way to help dogs deal with their anxious behavior is to start to give them a sense of control. One way that we can do that is to redirect their attention to a task that they are good at and know how to do. I taught Abbie the Touch Game, which you can watch below.

As you can see in the video Abbie picked up on the Touch Game very quickly! This game is also beneficial because it captures some of her anxious energy and redirects it towards something positive and intentional. This exercise is extremely useful when helping Abbie transition into being calm when her guardian leaves the home. When her pet-sitter is with Abbie she can distract her with the Touch Game to help Abbie not focus on her guardian leaving and over time help her break her separation anxiety.

By the end of the session Abbie was being nice and calm. To keep up with this good behavior I want to remind the guardian to continue to be Petting with a Purpose, to reward Abbie for good calm energy and communicate her expectations with her. We wrapped up this dog behavior session with Abbie’s Roadmap To Success video, which you can watch below.

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