Treating dogs with severe separation anxiety

Personal protection puppy training
Working as a volunteer for the behavior and training department of the Sonoma Humane Society I get to see a lot of things many don’t. Then again I also get to experience the hard part of working in a shelter; wonderful animals that get overlooked for age, size, looks, personality or behavior problems, animals that wait a long time to be adopted, animals that get surrendered or returned. Bill and I had been fostering every once in a while and I had recently been approved to do behavior fosters. For a special needs dog like Willow, love and a gentle touch can go a long way, but in the particular case of a fearful dog, I believe that time, combined with endless patience and understanding the needs (and how to work with) a fear case is crucial. The frozen little puppy that refused to walk and had to be coaxed or carried in and out of a car has grown into a more confident adolescent who will follow her person or her dog buddy anywhere.
To my surprise, it was Bill who gave the first step, saying he felt like adopting Willow out would be like letting go of our dog.
So, on September 19th, we formally adopted Willow as our own, earning our first ever Foster-Fail badge (third time’s a charm) and the Photo Lab Team welcomed a new member, complete with cake from the good folks at Three Dog Bakery.
One of my favorite animal behaviorists (also an author, trainer and veterinarian), Sophia Yin spent some time researching barking and its role in vocal communication. Playful barking: When happy, or having a good time, it is not uncommon for dogs to bark in a higher pitch bark and accompanied by a loose, wiggly body. Warning growls usually mean the dogs is anxious or stressed over something such as an invasion of space or a threat to his possessions. Now I leave you in the hands of our special guest blogger, Nicole Begley, with some wonderful tips for pet photographers, but really, for anyone who loves dogs.
One test that I do before any session is test the dog’s response to the sound of my shutter. I recommend being about ten feet away from the dog and having the camera down at your side.  Then just click the shutter once to see their response.
On occasion you will have a dog that is petrified of the camera or the shutter sound and no amount of counter conditioning will change that behavior in the short time that you have. I remember one of the first dogs that I photographed was an Airdale Terrier that was terrified of the camera. Studying a dog’s behavior and observing them interacting with the world can be a fascinating spectacle, especially if you know what to look for. In some dogs, their body language is very obvious and easily discernible, but in others it is a little more subtle.
The direct approach and eye contact translate into a challenge, it involves the taking of space and can cause potential problems if you are not careful, or make the dog uncomfortable and weary of you. Once you have a general idea after observing the dog as a whole, you can zoom in on individual body parts that will often give you key clues on the dog’s emotional state. One of the most complicated yet revealing parts of a dog, the mouth gives us a wealth of information.
This is often the term us dog folks use for dogs with some special behavioral needs, in other words, a dog that needs work of some sort, either behavior rehabilitation, training or the like. Maybe you spend a great deal of time and energy on building a better bond and understanding with your dog. I help evaluate dogs that come into the shelter to figure out what their personalities are and what family would suit them best and have learned so much from just observing the pros at work.


A behavior foster is a potentially adoptable animal that has some sort of behavioral issue that needs work and one that would benefit from living in a home environment. Barks, growls, whines, and other such noises are an audible clue to understanding a dog’s mood. I highly recommend reading her article Barking as Vocal Communication in Dogs, it comes complete with sound clips and the possible meanings behind them.
A growl accompanied by bared teeth and a stiff body is a clear message that the dog is uncomfortable and possibly preparing to bite.
Don’t miss any of the dog-related programs on NOVA and PBS Nature, they are simply fabulous, in particular Dogs Decoded. While you may not be in “training mode” when interacting with your dog while you are at the kitchen table working, your dog is constantly gathering information from his environment on what is acceptable and what is not. Since dogs are so incredibly domesticated and wanting to please us they will continue to work even in a negative training situation. It is imperative that we treat the dog respectfully and in the most positive manner possible. If your dog is nervous of a park bench and you would like them up on it find out where the threshold is that they start to get nervous based on their body language, then move back slightly. This dog breed was created to hunt otters, and if you have worked with otters you know that they are mean little ankle biters.
A dog’s physiognomy is as varied today as paint color swatches at the hardware store. Ironically, these two vary greatly from dog to dog, making communication a breeze or a nightmare. A dog’s eyes can reveal subtle changes in mood with the shape of the eye, the pupils and the canine equivalent of a human eyebrow, the skin above the eye.
I rejoice when I hear one of the dogs I helped evaluate has been adopted and it is always nice to meet new, friendly, stable dogs in spite of whatever their past has been, or visiting the county animal shelter and relieve them of 8 to 10 of their animals to give them a better chance at being adopted. With fearful or shy dogs, the little things count big time, and you have to let the dog know how much they count so they know we are on the right track together.
Trish King also offers a Fearful Dog workshop in the Bay Area which can be enormously insightful. I find it funny however that a lot of people find doggy noises annoying and spend a lot of time trying to get them to stop barking or worse, punish them for growling.
If out of control, demand barking can be very off-putting, but the best way to combat it is by enriching the dog’s day with toys, exercise, games or chewies. Now just because a dog is showing some signs of nervousness in a certain situation doesn’t mean that you need to abandon ship. I continue to move closer until I see where it is that my shutter sound is causing any sort of curious behavior and I reinforce them for reacting calmly. I’ve actually let a dog take a treat from the side of my camera to help them become more comfortable with it. The good news is, once you know what to look for, with lots of practice, the basics are fairly easy to spot, regardless of what the dog looks like. And unless you know the dog well and know he is comfortable with it, do not grab the dog’s face and kiss it!


If you are the one coming into their territory (visiting a friend’s house for example), I like to avoid eye contact with the dog, and face away from her (showing her the side of my body, NOT my back).
Better yet, a foster home with people that understand her needs and will work with said dog to improve her behavior and adopting her out through a foster situation. You’ll find that you start to become hypersensitive to things, sights and sounds that would not have garnered your attention before, but now, you notice them, because your fearful dog notices them and is affected by them.
Above all else, please be patient and don’t be upset with your dog for being afraid or reactive to something, they cannot think or rationalize through such a primal instinct. If they elicited a response that I don’t want to reinforce then I simply back up a few steps and find a threshold in which I can reinforce calm behavior. It is an invasion of space (and one I am guilty of with my own dogs, but I’ve raised them and have a relationship with them, they are ok with me doing it, but not a total stranger). If the dog seems comfortable and friendly and is little or calm, I like to crouch to their level still facing away so they can check me out without jumping up.
Piloerection can be challenging to spot on a dog with a very fluffy coat, in which case, reading the other body parts will be a better bet.
So Willow was assigned into our care and along with Sonoma Humane’s director of Behavior and Training, and with the help of renowned behaviorist Trish King, we developed a plan to try and show Willow that the world can be an ok place. It has been scientifically proven that training any animal with punishment and negative reinforcement  leads to: fearful behavior, aggression, reduction in behavior, and avoidance. Know that if the dog has ears back and their tail tucked between their legs they are not comfortable. Sorry, I digress.  Anyway, this dog would get in front of the leaf blower when it was on but was scared of my little camera. A photograph, an illustration, maybe even a video can aid a lot in recognizing a dog’s body language, but if you want the best experience possible, observe your dogs. I don’t like to make any fast movements regardless of the dog and while avoiding eye contact, I am always checking out their body for signals. Anything the animal finds reinforcing will work to your advantage, often it’s food, but can also be toys, belly rubs, or even their favorite person or other dog. In the simplest of forms, the more wiggly dog with softer, more fluid motions, indicates a friendly dog, up for human contact.
Any stiffness, freezing on the other hand will tell you the dog is anxious, uncomfortable or on guard. To see an example of this technique at work in getting a dog comfortable with a camera, click HERE. On the contrary, a tense, stiff or frozen body and tail, indicates a not so friendly dog and one that would rather I keep my distance. Unless your dog is familiar with your loving gazes, and especially if it is a dog you’ve never met before, avoid staring. People often mistake the rollover for an automatic belly rub request, will get too close only to find that the dog snaps or submissively urinates in response.



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Comments to «Dog behavior meaning»

  1. Boz_Qurd writes:
    Should purchase an older dog that has already place and stop all movement until triggered.
  2. BRAD_PITT writes:
    Dog socialized will assist hold dogs from displaying more not hesitate get assist.
  3. K_E_N_Z_O writes:
    That biting and chewing is bad other playfully until one puppy or dog are preparing.