Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Neat Separation Anxiety Hack

So the big news is that my dog, Terror, has finally returned home. This requires some explanation. Last year, when the divorce process was started, my ex and I agreed that she should keep Terror. Basically, she was staying in the house and I felt it was better for him to stay there... further he would provide a certain amount of protection since she was now living alone. It broke my heart, but at the time it seemed to be the best choice for him. So, when I went apartment hunting I found an apartment that would allow cats (I got the cats) but not dogs (since I didn't have one). Well, after about a month, the ex called me and said she was moving to Austin, TX and couldn't bring the dog with her. There was a mad scramble and I finally found a family member who would look after him until I could move. I moved in July, but after much discussion, it was decided that Terror should stay put until I got back from my Wales trip. Last weekend was the first chance I had to meet up and get him back.

He's mostly doing great, and is enjoying my more active life style... specifically that we go for a run most mornings, a walk at noon and the dog park in the evening. (Although how long that continues being an everyday thing....) And I'm just thrilled to have him back. What is not going so well is his separation anxiety. He's always had a touch, but the upheaval of the last year has brought it back in spades. Even when I go to get the mail, I can clearly hear him for quite some distance.

I knew this would be a problem, and have actually been using my computer to record him so I can hear how he is doing. The first time I left him, it was almost continuous barking.... its getting better and I think I hit on something that might do the trick.

I checked a number of websites on how to deal with this. Several suggested crating your dog about 30 minutes prior to leaving or hanging outside the house waiting for the barking to start... then throwing pebbles against the window to distract the dog.

So last night I tried it. I took Terror into the bedroom and shut the door and just puttered around the apartment for a few minutes, clearing my throat every time he barked. And he did great, until I left. Then the had him clearly barking once every two or three minutes. Much better, but I'm sure my neighbors would prefer NO barking!

This morning I got a brainstorm. I sat down and recorded about 3 minutes of me working on the computer, occasionally clearing my throat. Then when I left to get the mail today, I put him in the bedroom and then started that "song" on iTunes and cranked the volume. I also started recording, so I could hear the result.

Then I stood outside the door for maybe 30 seconds and every time he started to bark, I tapped the window sharply with my finger. After two or three times, I decided to walk away.

So how did he do with my "Play When Terror Is Alone" song playing and the distraction technique?

When I got back and looked at the recording, there were two faint barks at the beginning and that was IT.

I will update in a week or so to let everyone know how it is going, but the initial reports are very hopeful!

And of course, I couldn't end this without a picture...