Have you ever seen a dog that was glued to its owner's side and couldn't stand not being in constant contact?
Maybe you have one. Here are some signs of a hyper-attached "Velcro" dog:
-- Your dog always needs to be in the same room as you, or at least know where you are. She is calmest when you stay in one place awhile; if you move, she has to follow.
-- You can't go to the bathroom or shower by yourself.
-- She knows your departure cues, even ones you're not aware of (people are such creatures of habit). These cues include putting certain shoes on or grabbing sunglasses, putting on lipstick and the classic: jingling keys. Your impending departure causes your dog to pace, whine and get very agitated.
-- She chews destructively in your absence, including items with your scent such as gloves and underwear. Dogs with severe cases of separation anxiety can do thousands of dollars of damage to a home and furnishings.
-- She vocalizes excessively in your absence.
-- You can't leave her in the car while shopping unless you can drive home with a shredded seat or see through the nose juice on the window.
Separation anxiety and its cousins are actually a behavior that we humans can inadvertently create and/or reinforce in susceptible dogs in our loving desire to nurture and soothe the dog. Teaching the dog to be confident and calm on her own is the higher gift; the distress that an anxious dog feels can be intolerable.
I see many new puppy owners not willing to allow their new furry friend to cry for a moment as the little one gets used to their new home and crate. As the trainer for the Little Traverse Bay Humane Society, I often see this in newly adopted dogs. In both cases it is understandable that the dog is anxious in new surroundings and afraid of being abandoned again.
Here is my tongue-in-cheek checklist for how to create a Velcro dog:
1. Never crate-train your dog; it's mean. Instead let her sleep in bed with you from day one. That way you can comfort her all night.
2. If you decide to crate-train her, let her out the minute she starts fussing and let her be with you.
3. Never leave your new dog alone the first few months. If your friends don't want dogs in their house, get new friends. Skip church, meetings and work.
4. If you do leave, be sure to reassure her repeatedly that you'll be right back. Say "Be a good girl, honey," at least five times in a worried voice. Make sure you pet her and reassure her for at least 10 minutes. For bonus points, feel really guilty.
5. If you hear barking or whining when you leave, rush back in and do two more minutes of reassuring.
6. Act really excited when you get home. The arrival routine should be high-excitement and include lots of petting, hugging and acting like you haven't seen her in a year.
7. Don't train her to "Sit" or "Stay" or anything like that. You wouldn't want her to have the confidence that comes with learning new skills; she has you!
8. Always pet her and coddle her when she acts scared and anxious.
9. Get hysterical if she chews something, or pees in the house. Punishing her is even better so she'll learn a lesson. Be dominant! (I made myself laugh at that one!)
Follow these directions with any new dog and you'll have a codependent nervous wreck who loves you so much she can't stand to be away from you. That's why we get dogs, right? (Hint: No!)
Patty Crichton is a holistic dog trainer and behavior specialist with a training studio in Petoskey. She teaches clicker training for basic behaviors and manners, as well as for behavior modification, including aggression. She believes in treating all dogs with kindness and respect, and that the best form of control is teaching a dog self-control. For more information on training programs, visit www.northwoodsdogtraining.com or call (231) 439-0365.