Helping a Puppy Mill Survivor Get Over a Case of Separation Anxiety

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 11, 2018

For this Bellevue dog training session, we were called in help Manfred, a 9 year-old German Shepherd puppy mill survivor who suffers from separation anxiety.

I was caught a little bit off guard when I arrived for the session. It’s pretty rare when I work with a dog who does not meet me at the front door of their home. Usually in a very excited manner.

The guardians explained that Manfred was a pretty medium / medium low energy dog who is not very reactive unless he sees another dog or animal to chase.

This confounded and caught the guardians by surprise when Mannford decided to launch himself out of a car window to go chase a dog. It’s important remember that dogs are very instinctive creatures and sometimes they forget that they don’t have the physical capabilities that they had in their youth. I’m pretty sure that’s what was going on in that situation.

I set aside Manford‘s dog aggression problems as that is too advanced to work on in his situation. Mannford had spent pretty much his entire life in a tiny confined area in a puppy mill until he was rescued a few months ago. At this point, he’s only been in a home and experiencing things that we take for granted in dogs.

I spent the first hour of the session going over common mistakes that people have that contribute to separation anxiety in dogs. One of them was to avoid petting the dog anytime he’s nervous or anxious as anything a dog is doing when you pet it is what you are specifically rewarding. Manfred’s guardians took good notes as I shared dog behavior tips that should help with his overall behavior.

Next I suggested a few ways to add structure to his daily life as well as how to use delaying gratification in specific situations to help him develop more self control. Self-control is a much-needed skill for dogs who suffer from separation anxiety.

One of the things that caught my attention throughout the session was that Manfred kept demonstrating that he was a very intelligent dog. He picked up on things within one or two iterations which led me to recommend the guardians start trying to teach him a new trick or command every week. This is another wonderful way to build up a dog’s self-esteem and gives the guardians the added benefit of alternative ways of redirecting the dog’s attention.

One of those training lessons should be devoted to teaching Mannford to stay. Actually, teaching a dog to stay requires several practice sessions, preferably multiple short ones repeated multiple times throughout the day, every day. Because of how smart he is, I have to say im envious of his guardians. You don’t have to be a German Shepherd trainer or specialize in German Shepherd training to feel amazing working with a dog this smart.

I showed Manford’s guardians how to teach a dog to stay and shared a number of secrets to help a dog who has separation anxiety in the free dog training video below.

Helping a dog get over a case of separation anxiety is very rewarding as a dog behavior expert. This is a problem that effects the dog multiple times throughout the day and can be very taxing on them psychologically as well as physically.

Helping Manfred practice being alone will go a long ways towards helping him stop feeling anxious when left alone. The other tips to stopping separation anxiety in dogs that I included in the above video may or may not need to be applied to Mannford.

I think in this case it’s more of an issue of a dog never experiencing love from humans for most of it’s life to now having said love and not wanting to give it up. While still separation anxiety, its really a product of appreciating what he has now and determination to not give it up.

I shared a couple of other dog behavior secrets with the guardians that should help boost the dogs self-esteem and confidence while simultaneously building up a healthy leader follower dynamic.

Petting Mannford with a purpose will help him stop displaying needy behavior to get attention and instead start offering desired behaviors that the dog and guardians can both be proud of.

I also made sure to point out the importance of rewarding the dog when it offers desired behaviors voluntarily. I referred to this technique as passive training.

The guardians will need to spend a month working on flipping of the leader follower dynamic, building up the dogs confidence and teaching him new tricks and commands.

After a month of teaching new tricks and commands and incorporating all the dog behavior secrets I shared in the session, the guardians should find that manFred is much more comfortable being alone and more confident in his new home. Once that is the case, we can move forward with a one hour behavior adjustment training session to address Man friends dog aggression problem.

Help the guardians remember all the dog behavior tips I shared in this in at home dog training session, we shot a roadmap to success video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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