Location, location, location.
Routine, routine, routine.
You need to be able to learn when the anxious behaviors set in. Psychologists and Sociologists call it Observational Data, and it’s gathered like so:
- You’ll need a spy. A spy so good at being quiet and just watching, your dog will not notice they’re being spied on.
- Usually, this spy is a web-camera or other recording device.
- You’ll need to be willing to put aside your beliefs in favor of what the observational data shows you.
You need to be willing to do this a few times to make sure you’re not missing any clues.
Whenever you perform research, you want to have a question in mind. In the case of separation anxiety, you might want to have a bird’s eye view of your dog in their crate to know how long it takes for them to start howling like there’s no tomorrow.
You might enlist the help of a family member to take note of everything you do right before leaving the house on a few days to isolate what you’re doing that sets off your dog. Is it the jingle of keys before leaving the house? Picking up your briefcase? The start of the car’s engine?
All of this information is at your finger-tips, and it’s useful information to fix the anxiety issue. After you’ve gathered your data, and you know when the anxiety is triggered, and what activities or circumstances trigger the anxiety, you can begin to fix the problem. Remember: take notes – lots of notes! And get help – another pair of eyes can help you see things you may ordinarily overlook.
A client I was working with a few months ago didn’t know what was setting off her new pup – a lovely 4 year old mixed breed of pit-bull and elk hound by the name of Chester – but once we started recording, we realized there were animals coming into the yard all day long. For a dog bred to guard the fort from invaders, this was sheer torture. And prior to this, she thought it was all about her leaving her dog along for the work day – admittedly a long day of lounging on the couch.
And the recording helped her to attack the root cause of the anxiety on two fronts:
1.) We got some lion dung on-line, and spread it around the yard. Nothing says holy-cow-there’s-a-gigantic-predator-in-the-area like the smell of lion poo. Not only did it keep animals from coming through the yard, it kept the deer out of her garden!
2.) We set up a few puzzle-toys with treats inside. Not only did this help with the boredom, it gave him something else to think about now that the animals were gone.
So consider, the anxiety behaviors that drive you nuts may be a symptom of something other than your regular, run-of-the-mill separation anxiety…. but only through observation can you truly find this out. So get a notebook, set up a camera, be clever, and email me or call if you have questions!