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Thread: Separation Anxiety Advice

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Perth, WA

    Default Separation Anxiety Advice

    Well I've had my Flat-coated retriever puppy for just over a week now and he is almost 15 weeks old. We have a problem with SA and I would like anyone who has successfully overcome this problem to give me some advice. Im also wondering how bad it is and how long it can take to 'fix'.

    1) If he's totally pooped and sleeping he's fine to be left alone almost anywhere. He is quite independent that way. I leave him alone when he's like this or if he's awake but relaxed in his pen or crate I will praise him.

    2) At bedtime he yelps/barks as soon as we are out of his sight. He's in the back area of our house, with his crate, toys and newspaper and a baby gate so he's got a bit of room to move around (not a lot). (He's not really crate trained yet, he will only stay in there if we are near him, otherwise that freaks him out too). For the first week we just let him bark til he was too tired to do anymore but after a week of no sleep we decided that wasn't really working and so we shout Oi! from the bedroom everytime he pipes up. This seems to work although Im not sure if this is really helping the issue. He will pipe up 2 or 3 times in the night and come 5.30am he is yelping the house down again because he wants to play.

    3) We did a couple of exercises with him yesterday, leaving him alone in his pen and we walked into the other room and every time he piped up we would say Noo and he did seem to chill out a little.

    Im not sure if being 15weeks he will grow out of this or develop into something more serious. At the moment my partner is home full time but next week he goes back to work and Im stressed about Yogi being stressed! I do have the option of taking him to Doggy Daycare at 16weeks but I want to address the issue so that when we can't take him to daycare he will be okay.

    Food, exercise, clocks, smelly tshirts etc dont really work. I've been thru numerous websites and most of them recommend leaving for very short periods and building this up so if anyone has used this method with success I would love your advice. I am in a position where I might be able to take a month off work to tackle this problem but trying to avoid that if possible. Otherwise I am able to go home at lunch time and walk, feed and play with him.

    The other thing is he's not fully toilet trained so I dont want him to have the run of the house and like to leave him in the back area. He seems okay with this most of the time as he doesn't feel the need to be right next to us unless it's bedtime!!

    Any advice is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2009


    Hi Tracey Yogibear

    Yelling at dog to stop it from making noise - usually has the opposite effect to what you want. It reinforces the barking - because you're doing it too. Although sometimes a quick "Oi" works as a "distraction" but then you need to give the dog something else to do and "go to sleep" probably won't cut it.

    Dog yelping in the middle of the night - dog probably needs to go outside for toilet, and it's probably worth your while to get up and let the dog out. Ie encourage him to tell you (loudly if necessary) when he needs to go outside. To avoid attention seeking barking - make sure you do take the dog outside and don't let him in until he has relieved himself.

    To reduce the number of times he needs to go outside - try no feeding after 4 hours before bed time, and maybe no water either.

    5:30 am - is about the time the birds are waking up. I let my dog out then too if she wants. Same rules apply no getting back in until dog has pee'd. Have a magic word for the action eg "shitnapiss" and lots of praise when he is done outside.

    6:30am to 7:30am - I really ought to be taking dog for walk. Closer to 6:30am if the day is forecast hot.

    I often play a quick game of tug or fetch before bed time to tire my dog out a bit. She also has a before dinner evening walk. Our local streets are so badly lit, I don't like walking when it's dark.

    You might try leaving a talk radio program on where he can hear it overnight, just softly, so he thinks there are people around.

    The practice leaving and returning for separation anxiety exercise goes something like this...

    You put dog in crate (or where ever you want him) and you get your coat and keys (or whatever routine you normally follow) and go out the door. And come back 10 seconds later. And make no fuss or talk to your dog on leaving or returning.

    Though my family had a word for it "Bye" we'd say and then go. Mainly so dog knew he wasn't coming too. I guess "Au Revoir" or "See you later" would work - given in a neutral tone.

    So you come back for 10 seconds and then you go again, for 10 seconds and then you stay and then you go and then you stay... about 20 repeats, today. Tomorrow, you do the whole shebang for a little bit longer - stay out for a minute, stay in for 10 seconds, maybe repeat 10 times. Etc. Don't treat the dog when you go or return. Ignore him. I do a variation of this because I always forget then remember half a dozen things when I'm leaving so there are many "false starts".

    When you come back normally from being out for a while - do not pay any attention to the dog until he's calm and quiet. Do not talk to him while he's jumping around and howling. I usually do this process outside on the back lawn because I want my dog to do a "shitnapiss" and she usually does. She knows, now, she's not getting any attention from me until she has. Do avoid direct eye contact, and do some yawns and stretches and lip licking, helps calm him down. Turn your back if he jumps on you. Or flip him onto his back as he jumps - if you're quick enough - this will wind him a bit and make him think twice about doing it again. This I only suggest if turning your back doesn't help, because it works for me. It's not very nice but you only need just enough effort to tip the dog over not send him flying.

    The more you give him attention (praise or growls) when he's doing not-what-you-want, the more he will do not-what-you-want. Give him something else to do and praise / reward him for that. Or give him something he doesn't want like time alone being ignored.

    I still think you should let him sleep in your room to start with. He's only a baby and you can progressively move him out as he gets older. Frosty dog sometimes sleeps on the couch instead of my room now so I'm know she's much more comfortable with a bit of distance between us than she was when she was little.
    Last edited by Hyacinth; 11-02-2009 at 05:02 PM.

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