The Dog Charmer
July 29, 2021
She came to us at 12 weeks at the start of pandemic lockdown. Well, I know it’s my fault for taking her everywhere with me, for putting her in her crate at night and staying until she settles, etc.
With three adults in the household, she focuses on me ALL the time. If I go out without her she’s a mess till I return. How can I help her to stay alone for a few hours without losing her mind?
Sadie is an 18-month-old Havanese.
You’re so right in referring to Sadie as a pandemic puppy! You are not alone. I was writing and telling people at the beginning of the pandemic, “Get out and get the puppy used to being alone.” My guess is that 40 to 50% of the (hopefully) “post pandemic” questions I’ve been getting have to do with separation anxiety.
The first thing I’d suggest is that you start making Sadie less dependent on you by asking the two other adults in the house to help. If they feed her for a couple of weeks instead of you, and take her out for occasional walks, it will broaden her worldly view. You’ll always be her sun amongst many stars, but by decreasing her neediness for you will make her more confident, which is exactly what you want and a good start. It would be great if the other two adults in the house called her from time to time and when she arrived, she got a treat. Sadie will appreciate it too.
Henceforth when you leave the house, de-emotionalize leaving and coming!
If you appear sorry to go or overly excited to return, you’re emphasizing the separation. Your goal is to make Sadie happy to see you go because that’s the only time she gets fantastic treats, like a hollow marrow bone with chicken or ham wedged in the middle of the bone.
Remove it when you get home! The best toys only happen when you’re not home. Then there’s exercise.
I’ve been saying it for many years, “A tired dog is a well behaved dog. In my book, Dog Training Diaries, aside from my crazy experiences and stories, the dos and don’ts of separation anxiety and aggression are given a great deal of attention.
The Dog Charmer
THE DOG CHARMER
Dear Dog Charmer:
We are hoping that you might settle a family dispute. We have a 6-month-old pup who loves to play tug-of-war. Some books advise that tug-of-war is a good game for dogs to play, helping dogs burn energy and gain confidence; this is the side my husband takes. I’ve found that the more our puppy plays tug-of-war, the more she tends to bite; she is very gentle, but uses her teeth more on us, which I find disagreeable, and which causes considerable stress when we have visitors with young children or who are less comfortable with dogs. Any advice?
Curious in Cooperstown
Dear Curious in Coop,
The easiest part of being a dog trainer, is training the dog. The hardest part of being a dog trainer is what I call the “leash transfer”, getting the owners to do what I tell them to do, to get their dog cooperating. Having had over 800 training appointments a year I quickly realized that in addition to training the dog and training the owners, a third skill was needed, that being the tactful expertise of a mediator. The first line of the question above is asking me to settle a family dispute. I’ve lost count of all the “how to” quarrels and disagreements I stepped into the middle of when it came to parenting the dog. As for the tug-of-war dispute, you are all correct, or will be with a little bit of training.
With repetitive consistency your dog (based on the picture I’ll call her Grif) can easily attain a large vocabulary. Tug-of-war is a great game, as long as you initiate, and control the game. She needs to be taught, “drop it!”. (The “Drop It” command can save her life if she picks up gum with xylitol in it). Offer her the tug toy saying, “Grif, wanna play tug?” as you hold it out for her to grab. In your other hand is a treat, and after a bit of happy growling tug play put the treat under her nose as you say
In the great majority of cases the treat will be more attractive than the toy and she’ll immediately drop the toy for the treat.
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23
MEMORIAL FUNDRAISER – 6 – 8 p.m. Celebrate wonderful life of Dr. Gahleb with wife Jill, Susquehanna Animal Shelter. Cost, $100/person includes 2 drinks, heavy hors d’oeuvres, silent auction. RSVP by 9/20. Veranda, The Otesaga, Cooperstown. 607-547-8111 ext. 101 or visit www.facebook.com/Susquehanna-Animal-Shelter-121696841223218/
BENEFIT 5K/MILE – 9 a.m. Run/walk in Mindful Mile & Fight Hunger 5K to benefit the Riverside Back Pack Program, providing Oneonta school children food over the weekend. Registration from 8-8:45 a.m. Cost day-of, $25 for 5K, $15 for Mile. Alumni Field House, SUNY Oneonta. 607-436-3337 or visit oneonta.sodexomyway.com/explore/mindful_mile