Some Kennel Training Helps a Miniature Dachshund Get Over His Separation Anxiety

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 19, 2016

Schnapps (Weiner)

Schnapps is a eleven-year-old Miniature Dachshund who lives in Omaha but winters in Florida with his guardians. Recently he has started to show signs of Separation Anxiety so his family set up a dog obedience training session with me to fix the problem.

Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety go into a panic state win left home alone. Often they will dig at doors or kennel panels in order to get out and find their guardians.

I sat down with the guardian’s to discuss Schnapps’ day-to-day routine and get a better handle on what has caused this case of separation anxiety to develop so late in life.

Many of my clients look at me a little bit crosseyed when I suggest that incorporating rules, boundaries and limits will help the dog get over a case of separation anxiety. But for many dogs, its a lack of structure that leads the dog to believe that they must protect their guardians. The other cases of SA stem from the dog not having enough confidence to be alone.

In Schnapps’ case, the separation anxiety is likely related to his feeling that he has the same authority as his humans or perhaps even more than they do. When a dog considers itself to have more authority than you do, it often thinks that it has to look after or protect you. But when you leave without the dog, it can’t protect you so it tries to break out and come find you.

By incorporating rules and boundaries, we can provide Schnapps with structure that will help him start to self identify as being in the follower position. This in itself will not put a stop to his separation anxiety, but it is an important step in the rehabilitation process and will make it easier to fix.

While suggesting some rules and structure with his family, I noticed Schnapps oscillating between his two guardians and that each time he nudged or jumped up on either one of them, they instinctively reached over and started to pet him.

While there is nothing wrong with petting your dog, doing it whenever the dog demands it can give the dog the impression that it has enough authority to tell the humans what to do. After all, when the dog tells the humans to pet him, they oblige.

To help the guardians start incorporating a little bit of structure into this activity, I went over a technique that I like to call Petting with a purpose.

After showing Schnapps’s guardians how to use hand motions to call him over and manipulate him into a sit, I went over a way of delivering the treat and petting simultaneously so that the dog sees them as the one in the same.

Once Schnapps’ guardians get into a habit of petting him this way, he will start sitting in order to ask them for attention rather than scratching or jumping up on them. We call this becoming Operant. In the video below I explain how they can add to this new technique after this transition happens.

By asking Schnapps to sit or lay down before he receives any attention, his guardians can help him start to develop more of a follower’s mindset. Instead of telling the guardians what to do, Schnapps will now be asking them.

This helps the dog understand that he earns his praise the currency is obedience. This also helps the dog feel better about doing these actions as it is something that is not only desired by his guardians, it is something they reward him for.

Next I was ready to help Schnapps get over his fear of the kennel. I spent a couple of minutes going over the technique that I have developed over the years to help dogs look at their kennel as a positive place. Once this new perception has been made, we can teach the dog to stay inside on their own without the element of fear.

It’s going to take a lot of repetition of the exercises that I went over in the above video for Schnapps to adopt a calm mindset when inside the kennel. But because we leave the door to the kennel open at first and only let the dog out when completely calm, we remove the adversarial perspective that the dog has of the kennel itself. This kind of kennel training will have a big impact on Schnapps.

To help the guardians remember all of the steps in the rehabilitation process, I shot another video where I outlined detail on how to proceed after our session.

After we wrapped up the last video, one of Schanapps’ guardians raised some concerns. He was not a fan of the kennel itself and wondered why we need to go through all of this to help the dog get over the fear of being left alone.

If you have a dog that goes into a panic state or cannot be trusted alone, incorporating a kennel is the safest and best way to go. However if the dog has a negative perception of the kennel or is in a panic state, they are never going to be able to get over their separation anxiety while using this tool.

By practicing the kennel exercises and gradually increasing the amount of time that we ask the dog to spend inside the kennel, Schnapps’ guardians will be able to get him to feel comfortable inside of it and no longer feel the need to try to escape. Adding rules and structure will eliminate his belief that he has to go and find the humans.

By the end of the session, Schnapps had stopped nudging his guardians for attention and seemed to already be transitioning into sitting as a way to earn his praise.

It’s going to take some self-control on the guardians part because I sensed that they were not wild about the rules I suggested or not petting Schnapps unless he earned it first. But if the guardians can get over these hurdles, they will be able to help Schnapps stop thinking that protecting them is his responsibility. Removing this cause of stress will go a long ways towards helping schnapps learn to relax again when he is not in the presence of his guardians.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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