Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

“I’ll Be Back” Game: Help for Separation Anxiety


This is a game a Separation Anxiety dog taught me one day while I slowly walked circles around the kitchen table while on the phone. I was gabbing and, at the beginning of the conversation, the dog was following me around and around the kitchen table.

After a while, he just lay down on a nearby bed because heck – I was going to be back in a minute! I noticed and this game was born!

  • Chatting on the phone helps, but do this any way you want. Have tummy-friendly treats nearby or grab a handful of his regular kibble and start to walk some pattern where you both stay in view of your dog and pass by the Safe Spot, where you want your dog to feel safe hanging out.
  • Any time you pass the Safe Spot, toss a few treats onto it without pausing or comment.
  • Continue. At some point, your dog is going to start lingering on the Safe Spot because, after all, that’s where all the good stuff happens. That’s what you want, but do NOT comment.
  • Continue. When your dog just hangs out on the Safe Spot waiting for you to come by – excellent, you’re making headway.
  • Now use your Guided Down if you have one already well and gently established and, again without comment or command, simply use that gentle pressure to remind him to down – drop a few treats and circle onward.
  • Feel free to feed your dog his meals this way whenever you like, rather than always using treats. That will keep your little one from becoming a much bigger one. 😉
  • When he takes his position early and stays put, start to vary your line of travel – go out of sight for a few moments (add a small loop in another room or around the corner) and come right back in.
  • When your dog gets up – and he probably will – say nothing, do not react, just do as you did before, drop the treats on the bed and continue this new loop. He’ll get the hint quickly.
  • Try hard not to smile or praise your dog while you are looping around slowly, because we want this to be about the Safe Spot, not about you.
  • When you are done, simply stop looping. In a perfect world, sit down and do something in that room for a few moments, then go about your day. DO NOT do large praise fests after this, as that will rev your dog up, and we are trying to build calm here. Okay?
  • Lastly, no bait bags (and if you don’t know what this is, don’t worry, you’re fine) and no clickers please. This is a different sort of exercise, and both those things will work against you here.

You might also enjoy:

Separation Anxiety in Dogs: How to Use Kong Dog Toys

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