Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Comings and Goings; Defuse Triggers, Defuse Drama


What are the things that tell your dog that you are leaving soon? Picking up your car keys? Rummaging in your purse? Putting on work shoes?.

One of the ways you can help your Separation Anxiety dog is to defuse these triggers. Instead of them meaning you are leaving, they come to mean nothing at all.

Here’s an example of how to defuse the sound of keys.

Leave your keys where you always leave them. Every time you walk by them pick them up, set them back down and go about your day.

At first, your dog may get all excited. Uh-Oh! Keys are being picked up. Wait, they are being put down. UP!!! Oh, no down… Up? oh never mind… Pretty soon, he won’t get as worked up because you’ve “cried wolf” repeatedly.

Wanna take it one step further? Jingle your keys and calmly send him to his safe spot – his bed or his crate. Help him get there, if he needs it, and reward him with a treat. Do this a few times a day until pretty soon, the sound of keys causes him to go and lie down.

Now isn’t that a better idea than panicking?

You can do the same routine for anything else that causes him upset. Start by doing it frequently then start using it to cue your dog to go to his safe spot or crate.

When you start stepping out the door and right back in, send him to his safe spot just before you exit and when you step back in. Go and pet him calmly when he is on his bed. Make that the place he goes to whenever he is unsure or stressed.

Definitely a better idea.

Next, you need to stay calm. A big emotional greeting can cause a big emotional build up in your dog. Now, I know, a major love fest when you arrive home feels great but…this is about what your dog needs and he needs your help. If you want him to be relaxed and calm, you have to be.

So walk in and ignore him. Read your mail, make a cup of tea, change your clothes, but ignore him. When he becomes calm, you greet him calmly. If he starts to get excited again, ignore him again. Our general advice? Greet him as you do your spouse, partner or roommate. That usually tones things down quite a bit.

By Sarah Wilson,

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