It’s the classic love story: Girl meets Dog, Girl loves Dog, Girl brings Dog home. Then Dog wrecks home and Girl wants to take Dog back and pretend it never happened! But could this problem have been avoided?
The reality is, behavioral problems can usually be fixed. The trick is to understand your dog’s personality before trying to train him and to understand the source of the issue.
David Dickey, a behavioral consultant and owner of K-9 Kindergarten in Southern California, maintains that in the majority of these situations, separation anxiety is to blame — and it’s treatable.
Submissive sharpei or dominant dalmatian?
The key to getting along with dogs, Dickey explains, is to understand their personality types. To simplify this process, Dickey divides dogs into two basic groups: dominant and submissive.
Dominant dogs are highly intelligent and tend to be very independent. Common characteristics of dominant dogs are sometimes obvious: growling, biting and consistently walking through doorways before humans. Less obvious characteristics are things humans may consider “cute” behavior: guarding (which is actually the dog’s way of “claiming” you); nudging to be petted, forcing a toy into your hand or pawing to be played with; or refusing to submit to a known command. Dominant dogs learn quickly and typically house-train with ease. However, they can be aggressive, so they aren’t usually good choices for families with kids. If you have a dominant dog, though, don’t rush off to the pound. Just fnd a professional trainer to help you out.
In these types of dogs, separation anxiety is the result of feeling as if they need to protect you. They’re responsible for you as the leader of the pack, so when you leave, they feel as if they aren’t doing their job. It’s time to reassert your dominance. Use proven and loving training methods to ensure they understand you’re in charge and can come and go as you please (you’re the pack leader, after all). They’re not looking for someone to browbeat them, they just need to understand the pack hierarchy — and you need them to understand that you’re the Alpha.
Submissive dogs, on the other hand, want nothing more than to please their owners. According to Dickey, “a ‘NO’ can wreck their day.” They love playing games, but are slower to house-train and can develop separation anxiety more easily than dominant dogs. Again, dogs are pack animals. A submissive dog may feel “leaderless” when you leave. They need an Alpha they can trust to lead. Happily, this condition is easily fixed, as well. The secret to training a submissive dog is to adopt a firm yet friendly approach.
Curing separation anxiety
Regardless of your dog’s general type, you can follow these tips to ease anxiety.
- Before you leave, walk your dog (make sure you leave her with plenty of food and water, though).
- Don’t make leaving a big deal — don’t touch your dog, make eye contact or talk to them just before you leave the house. Just go!
- Leave with confidence. If your dog doesn’t think you’re nervous when you leave, he won’t think it’s something to fear.
- Start out by leaving for only five minutes at a time, then increase how long you’re gone as time goes on. She’ll eventually realize that it’s OK because you’re coming back.
With any type of dog, no matter how angry you are to find a puddle or see your favorite pillow in ribbons on the floor, Dickey warns against hitting the animal, which can lead to aggressive behavior. In fact, unless you catch the dog “in the act,” it’s best not to react to the behavior at all, but to quietly clean up the mess. Dogs may learn the wrong lessons from your reaction.
In acute cases, of course, it’s always best to check with a veterinarian to rule out any medical issues before taking further action.
Finally, when asked about the most important thing you can do to train your dog no matter what their personality type, Dickey replied without hesitation: “Love ’em.”