This is an excellent game for all dogs – Separation Anxiety dogs in particular. “Wait There” helps to build patience and allows your dog to practice calming himself with your support. The game is: Wait where I put you – quietly – until I come get you.
- This can be done with a crate, gate or ex-pen (exercise pen).
- You need your dog, some treats, a comfortable chair and a good book (or smart phone or Kindle).
- Put your dog behind the barrier (or in the crate) and take a seat near by.
- Do not face the barrier but do set yourself up so you can easily see your dog without turning your head.
- Now ignore your dog. Ignore sighing, whining and other commentary.
- If paws touch the barrier you can give your dog a spray with a stream of water from a plant mister, slap a wall or table with the flat of your hand once – loudly – or give the barrier a shake. For some dogs, a quick bit of Ultrasonic sound from a hand held training device works well. Whatever you choose, the goal is to interrupt without unduly stressing your dog. If you think you need it repeatedly, it is not working. Ask for help in the comment area below.
- This is unemotional. Do not look at or comment to the dog.
- This is unrelated to you – keep out of it as much as you can. We want the connection to be “touching the barrier isn’t much fun” not “my human seeing me touch the barrier isn’t much fun.”
- When calm (or if he stays calm throughout) calmly deliver a treat with quiet praise. What a good dog.
- If things stay calm, nonchalantly release him from confinement. Let him hang out with you for a few minutes (ignore him – calm in confinement earns him your attention and treats). If he is panicky- climbing on you – clip a leash on and do some Guided Downs. When calm, let him up. If he stays calm, leave him alone. If he isn’t calm, down him again. As always, our goal is to give him a new thing to do when he is upset. Not helping him doesn’t give him the better choices he needs and giving him attention when he is upset only rewards the unwanted choices. He needs a better idea, and he needs it from you.
- Now, repeat. Since many Separation Anxiety dogs are triggered by confinement, it is important to do the act of confining repeatedly so he gets the hang of it.
- A crated dog who is consistently restless can be helped by first teaching him the Guided Down—explained in My Smart Puppy—away from the crate. Once he really understands that, run a long line from his collar, under the gate, to you. When he moves around, apply light pressure on the line which will remind him to down. When he downs – that must release the light leash pressure. Do not pull him down, allow him to down himself as the Guided Down has taught him. Repeat as many times as is needed. When he stays put lying down, smile- praise him calmly and go to him. Deliver a treat.
- If he gets back up (and we hope he does, that’s another chance to give him a better idea) – repeat the exercise.
- As your dog becomes calmer and calmer for longer and longer, move your chair farther away. Get up and start moving around the room.
- When you release your dog, be sure to do so calmly. Insisting he sit or wait for a few seconds before you give him the “okay” to exit is a great idea but not a requirement.
- Once he is released, ignore him. We’re rewarding calm when confined; he needs no help being happy when he is near you.
By Sarah Wilson, MySmartPuppy.com