Helping a 3 Legged Terrier Get Over Separation Anxiety and a Fear of the Kennel

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 29, 2018

For this Omaha dog training session, we helped a 3 legged Tibetan Terrier named Legalos get over his separation anxiety and fear of the kennel.

Despite the fact that getting hit by a car is the reason he is now a three legged dog, Lego is still a door dasher so I took extra precautions when I arrived for the session; making sure he didn’t sneak out the door.

I showed his guardians how they can claim the area around the door by teaching Lego to respect an invisible boundary 10 feet away. They may also want to utilize the techniques that I shared with another client who’s dogs also liked to rush the door.

I also made sure to point out that Lego’s daily exercise needed to be increased considerably. Often times, under-exercised dogs are the ones who get into the most trouble. If the guardians can keep an exercise journal for a month and play around with the quantity of repetitions and number of exercises sprinkled throughout the day, they should be able to find a combination that helps the dog feel relaxed, comfortable and better able to behave the way they want.

When I sat down with his guardians to discuss Lego’s behavior, I learned that he didn’t have a whole lot of rules and structure in place. While we tend to think of rules as things to overcome, for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, a lack of rules can actually be a contributing factor.

Dogs are all about what they see us do. If we don’t have any rules that we enforce, we don’t appear to be acting like a leader, at least from the dog’s perspective. This confuses many dogs into thinking that they have to protect or be responsible for the humans.

But because humans don’t see dogs as leaders, we don’t follow their lead or instructions. This can easily cause a dog to increase its stress levels because they think we may get into trouble or danger without them. This is similar to the way that a human child who doesn’t listen to his parents can cause them to become anxious and frustrated.

I suggested a number of rules as well as ways to enforce them. I also went over the importance of rewarding Lego when he engages in desired actions and behaviors. I refer to this as passive training.

While I was having this discussion with the family, I had been tossing treats into Lego’s kennel. Each time he went inside and licked up the treat, we said the new command word for the kennel, Hogwarts.

Within about 15 minutes, Lego went into the kennel on his own without any treats present and laid down. His guardian told me that he had never done that before. That’s the power of positive dog training. Instead of telling the dog what to do, we created a motivation for the dog to do what we wanted, then rewarded him for doing so. This is a technique that most dog behavior experts use for similar problems.

To help the kids have more positive interactions with the dog, I shared my petting with a purpose philosophy with the family as well as a special way to motivate the kids utilizing candy rewards.

I’d also like to see the guardians teach Lego some new tricks and commands. This is a great way to boost the dog’s self-esteem and confidence; two traits that are usually pretty low for dogs that have a separation anxiety problem.

One of the commands that Lego needs to master is the Stay command. Not only does this help develop self control, it also will give the humans the ability to help him practice being alone.

I pulled out some highly valued training treats and handed my camera to the guardians so that they could film me as I trained their dog to stay.

The tips to stopping separation anxiety in dogs that I shared in that free dog training video are simple, but need to be repeated frequently in short practice sessions.

Helping a dog who suffers from separation anxiety is all about removing the negative perception of being alone. As a dog behaviorist I have found one of the best ways to do this is to teach a dog to stay so you can help it practice being alone in the easiest capacity possible; alone in the room with its family members inside the home but just out of sight.

If the guardians continue to create positive associations with the kennel while simultaneously teaching the dog to stay, they will be able to help Lego practice being alone for progressively longer and longer periods of time.

At first they should practice with the dog out of the kennel, but eventually staying in the kennel with the door open but the humans in the other room.

It will take a little bit of practice and a lot of tasty treats, but based on how quickly Lego was going into the kennel on his own, I don’t think it’s going to take this family long to help their dog get over its case of separation anxiety, aka the fear of being left alone.

To make sure that the guardians are able to remember all of the dog behavior tips and secrets I shared during this in home dog training session, we headed into the backyard to film a roadmap to success video.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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