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Tidus

Springer with Separation Anxiety

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Hello All,

Me and my wife have a 1 year old male English Springer Spaniel.

The main reason we signed up to the forum is that we are really struggling with his separation anxiety. We have had him for 9 months now and never left him home alone, either the one of us goes out or we have family baby sit.

I work from home and my wife is part time so we never had the necessity to leave him and as a result he is now very dependent.

If we close the stair gate separating our downstairs and upstairs, he instantly becomes distressed even if he has distractions such as a Kong or toys. He moans and barks loudly which continues unless we return.

We are lost on where to start to break this habit and looking for some advice please.

Thank you.

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Separation Distress is very "distressing" for the dog. They are not, as I am sure you know, just "acting up" at being left. The dog is genuinely distressed when, as they see it, they are "abandoned".

It is quite a complex issue to resolve and involves teaching the dog to be more independent of his humans and building confidence in his ability to cope when left alone.

When you are home there should be periods when the dog does not get attention, no matter what he does. It is very easy to respond to every whimper and whine but this is not good for the dog. The dog should not be allowed to follow you around the house or rest touching you all the time. Rather attention should be given when the dog is resting or playing independently of humans. This builds the dog's confidence in its ability to be separate.

One method to use would be to choose a "signal" such as a garden ornament or wind chimes to use as a sign that no attention is available. Once the signal is "out" the dog gets no attention whatsoever no matter what it is doing. This means that you have to think ahead so that the dog is toileted and safe to be ignored. Practice as often as you can. When the signal is removed then you can go back to paying attention to the dog again. One way of describing it is that if the signal is out then you pretend that you do not have a dog.

You should see that the dog understands when, as you put the signal out, the dog goes and settles somewhere as it knows that there will be no chance of any attention. The signal can then be used when you leave the room or the house to make it clear that even if you were there it would not mean that any attention is available. Remove it when you come back in before giving any attention again.

Along side this blur the picture of when you are leaving so that the dog does not start to get anxious before you have even left the room. This means pretending to leave and not going. So, put on the right shoes, pick up keys etc but then sit down and read the paper/do some work. Repeat lots of times until the dog takes no notice because it is confused about whether you are going out or staying put. Gradually extend this to preparing to go out and opening the door before sitting back down again. Then go through the door and come straight back again, Stay the other side for 10 seconds, 20 seconds etc. Then leave the house and come straight back. Next start the car and come straight back.

Over time your dog should stay relaxed about you leaving because he thinks that you will be back any minute! He should not have a clue about whether this is all an act or not. Do remember that dogs are very visual and you need to be convincing in the clothes you wear and routine that you go through when genuinely going out.

Generally speaking, make sure you dog has plenty of exercise, is on good quality food and has an outlet of any breed specific behaviours (digging for terriers, fetching for gundogs, hunting for hounds etc)

Adaptil room diffusers are comforting for some dogs.

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