An Abandoned Dog Gets a Second Chance

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 8, 2015

Calypso 1

Calypso is a Border Collie mix who was abandoned by her former guardian at a dog park. Fortunately, someone witnessed the person removing her collar then abandoning the dog and got her to a rescue group that found her a wonderful new guardian and forever home in Burbank California.

While her new guardian loves the dog, she contacted me to help put a stop to a few unwanted habits Calypso has developed including; getting over excited and charging the door when guests arrive, barking, pulling on the leash and destroying or pulling down the drapes that cover the front window to her home.

When I arrived, Calypso greeted me with a fairly normal energy although she was a bit reserved. As I sat down with her guardian to discuss the situation, I noticed that the dog gravitated into her guardian’s personal space and that her guardian consistently rewarded her for doing so by petting her.

When we originally set up the session, Calypso’s guardian gave me enough indicators to assume that she had a mild case of separation anxiety. After seeing her in person, I was pretty sure this was the case.

When I have a dog with separation anxiety, I always look for ways to build up the dog’s confidence. There are a number of ways to do this, but one of the fundamental things I like to do is to get the dog into a mental place where it is comfortable being by itself. A great way to start this transformation is to teach the dog that it doesn’t need to be touching or constantly in contact with a human. I showed her guardian how to communicate to Calypso that she needed to give her a little cushion of personal space the next time she leaned into her. Instead of petting the dog when it came over and leaned against her, I had her she stand up which cause the dog to stop then back slightly away.

We practiced this technique a few times and on the third attempt Calypso sat down about 2 feet away, then laid down on the floor. When she did this I instructed her guardian to immediately start to provide affection to the dog by petting and scratching her back. By petting the dog this way when it engages in an action that we want, we can help condition the dog to start to repeat that desired action on its own.

But I wanted to give her guardian another way to get the dog to see its own space. There were a few dog mats laying on the floor in the living room, so I showed her guardian how to use positive reinforcement to communicate to the dog that it needed to go to one of these spots on command.

I tossed a high-value meet treat with a strong sent on to one of these dog bats then started to repeat the command word of place after Calypso walked over to retrieve it. After the dog walked away, I repeated the process a few more times. Within a couple of treats, Calypso was wandering over to the matt on her own, independent of my tossing treats there.

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By repeating this process a few times a day for the next couple of days, Calypso will start to associate the command word of “place” with retrieving a high-value treats while being in position on the mat. This will cause the dog to start hanging out or laying on the mat on her own as well as on command.

In time, this will become another effective way to get the dog to stay on its own without leaning against the guardian for emotional support. By being able to give the dog a command, we allow the dog to engage in an activity on it’s own which helps lead to an increase in confidence as it knows wants.

To further help the dog learn to stand on her own, I walked her guardian through a basic “stay” exercise. At first Calypso had a little difficulty staying still while her guardian moved away, but as we continued practicing, she was able to sit and stay for short intervals. I suggested that her guardian increase the amount of time the dog was asked to stay gradually. By increasing the stay time in small steps, the dog will be better bale to control herself and build up her stay ability.

Another way to help the dog learn to control itself is to communicate that it needs to respect a boundary a few feet away from the door when an arriving guest knocks. We arranged for a neighbor to come by and play the part of an arriving guest. As soon as Calypso heard the knocking at the door she started barking and rushed over to the doorway.

I demonstrated to Calypso’s guardian how to claim the space around the door, then we asked the neighbor to try again so that she could practice herself. By using body language and movement, her guardian was able to communicate to Calypso that she was to stay 11 feet away from the door despite the fact that there was no natural line or barrier for the dog to see.

After successfully completing the door greeting, we moved into Calypso’s guardian’s office as she likes to sit on the floor and arrange papers around her when she worked on various projects. This was a problem due to Calypso’s propensity to want to sit or lay next to her guardian.

Using a similar technique to what we utilized for the door greeting, Calypso’s guardian was able to communicate that she was to stay a few feet away from her. and the papers This allowed the dog to be inside the room enjoying her guardian’s company while giving her guardian enough room to keep her papers from getting stepped on.

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By the time we wrapped up the session, Calypso was responding to her guardian’s nonverbal corrections very well. She was also starting to keep a little bit of extra space between herself and her guardian on her own. It will be important for her guardian to continue to enforce these new boundaries and to provide positive reinforcement and affection when the dog engages in desired actions or actions before these new behaviors become permanent.

As the dog learns to control herself in conjunction with respecting her guardians personal space, answering the door, waiting for permission to eat etc. her confidence should increase while will lead to less anxiety when left alone. Once this is the case, her shredding or pulling down of drapes should stop as she no longer panics when left alone.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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