Treating dogs with severe separation anxiety

Personal protection puppy training
The fundamental error of shouting at our dogs is most frequently made when a dog barks or howls after hearing a noise, seeing a stranger, or even detecting something unfamiliar.
We have to understand that perceived danger is one of the four key areas of survival for a dog and once we accept that what the dog perceives as dangerous is serious (to it) we can treat their reaction with a little more respect, instead of  just annoyance. The result of shouting at a dog when it gives the warning alert, will be completely the opposite to what we are trying to achieve. If you stay calm and keep your pulse rate down, your dog will soon regain its composure and return to a relaxed normality. Remember a dog will react instantly to any increase in your pulse rate, so if it is up and racing don't be surprised if your dog becomes extremely agitated.
Stopping nuisance barking, before the local authorities come a-knocking or your friends and neighbours become just your neighbours, is possible for every owner.
It's just a matter of understanding why it's happening in the first place and then using that knowledge to convince your dog it is neither necessary or desireable. In this audio "Excessive Barking", available as a CD or download, Jan and Tony discuss this extremely distressing problem and what you can do about it, without using force or worthless gadgets.
The fact is that the dog may see any of these examples as a real threat to either it or those it is protecting. The adrenaline charged dog is doing no more than warning the owner not to interfere and leave the important decision of how to handle this situation to it and then the dog will no longer need to worry about you while trying to deal with the 'danger'.
If a dog barks when it sees someone walk past your home and you calmly 'thank' your dog, before very long your dog will have learnt that a person walking past is not a cause for concern and it  will simply stop reacting in a negative way. Once you start to give the dog different information it can and it will change how it responds to any and every situation. Sometimes a dog may react to something he becomes aware of that is beyond our limited senses but even when the cause of the dogs concern cannot be identified by the owner, to the dog it is real and must be taken very seriously. Your reaction is of vital importance and the correct reaction will convince your dog that you can indeed be trusted to deal with this. Some dogs bark whenever they are exposed to novel or unusual stimuli whether they are sounds, sights or odors.


Effective crate training techniques when your dog is first obtained should decrease the dog's anxiety when it is left alone in its crate (see our handout on 'Crate Training in Dogs').
Providing your dog with a consistent and predictable daily routine (see our handout on 'Training Dogs – Enrichment, Predictability and Scheduling') can help your dog to be calmer and more settled through the day.
Also, by providing predictable consequences, you can insure that calm and quiet behavior is reinforced and that you never reinforce attention seeking behavior (which may escalate to barking). When you obtain a new dog, having a second dog may greatly reduce distress vocalization at times when your dog cannot be with family members. If your dog's excessive barking problem has been going on for some time, he may be suffering from separation anxiety.
However, the barking becomes problematic when it gets too loud, too frequent, or will not stop on command. In order to train the dog to quiet down on cue, you must find an effective means of quieting the dog, which should be preceded with a verbal command. Your dog will probably not understand what you want if you just loudly tell your pet to 'be quiet', especially if silence does not follow the verbal command.
In fact, yelling may just add to the noise, anxiety and conflict, thereby encouraging your dog to bark even more. One of the most practical techniques for teaching a dog to cease barking on command, is to teach barking on cue. Numerous repetitions allow the dog to associate the word 'bark' or 'speak' with the action. Dogs that bark on command can then be taught to turn off the barking by removing the cue or stimulus, and giving a 'hush' or 'quiet' command just before the barking subsides. It can be difficult or impractical to teach a dog to be 'quiet' on command if the barking cannot be predicted or 'turned on', or if it is too intense. Another method to teach a "quiet" command is to wait until your dog is barking, for example in response to a doorbell. When the dog is quiet (which should happen because dogs cannot sniff and bark at the same time) you can praise your dog, say 'good quiet' and give the treat.


Alternately, distraction or remote punishment devices (see below) can be used to disrupt the barking.
One of the most effective means of interrupting barking and ensuring quiet is a remote leash and head halter. A pull on the leash disrupts the dog and closes the mouth, which should also coincide with a verbal command such as 'quiet' or 'hush'. By first releasing the dog, and then giving a reinforcer such as praise or food if the dog remains quiet, you can reinforce the quiet behavior.
Soon the dog should associate the closed mouth and the verbal command with the absence of noise, and begin to stop barking when given the verbal prompt alone. However, in some cases, the household situation in which the dog resides may make it extremely difficult to correct completely or sufficiently. Even a small amount of barking could disturb a sleeping baby or upset neighbors (particularly in apartments or townhouses).
When trying to resolve barking problems, the motivation for the barking behavior is an important component. Excessive levels of punishment can increase anxiety and further aggravate many forms of barking, while mild punishment merely rewards the behavior by providing attention.
Surgical debarking is a drastic and often permanent method of decreasing the sound of the barking.
Devocalization may need to be considered when owners are confronted with the option of immediately resolving a barking problem or having to give up their pet.
However, all attempts at behavior modification should be continued to try and address the underlying motivation for barking and perhaps result in a permanent solution.



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