I Just Need Some SPACE, ok?!
Lets talk for a moment about 'me time'. Everyone needs a little space from their loved ones here and there. Whether it's taking an extra 5 minutes in the car in a grocery store parking lot before you head home, or standing in a hot shower for just a few more moments. Having an opportunity to decompress is vital to everyone, and the same goes for your pet.
Why some dogs need more space
"I can't go on without you!" Your dog would scream if it could. He scurries around following you throughout the house, and you may trip over him laying behind your heels, or play the 'which way are you going' game in the hallway. When you leave the house, or maybe even the room it becomes a production. "I'll be right back, be a good boy. You are gonna be ok!" You reassure him, but you see panic setting in. He starts howling in the crate, or tries to squeeze past you at the door figuring if he can just get to the car first, maybe you'll take him with you if he promises to be a good boy. Sound familiar?
What you may not realize is that all, or even just some, of these components can unknowingly create a co-dependent dog. When the only opportunity they have to be alone is when you leave (sometimes for hours!) it can build anxiety. Every time they are left alone, something bad happens (i.e. their family may disappear forever and never return). Under these circumstances they can quickly lose their confidence. When you practice giving them space, it allows them to see that the world doesn't come crashing down just because they are alone.
How do you train giving a dog space?
Regardless of whether you pet stays in a crate during the day or not, it is completely acceptable and even recommended to give them time in a crate even when you are home. This makes their time away from you less traumatic. They can hear you, and see you, but are not able to be glued to your side. Having a dog sleep in a crate at night is another great tool to build their confidence. Leveraging their normal sleep routine when they are naturally more relaxed and winding down will always help foster calm behavior. Also, training a dog to go lie down in a dog bed on command is a great way to work on space. Holding them accountable to stay in that dog bed until you have released them proves that they are ok away from you as well. It also conditions them to be calm on command, because every time they go to their own space (the dog bed) they might as well relax because they are going to be there for a while. Then when you DO need to leave for a few hours or for the day, it is not that drastically different from you being away but in the other room.
Additionally, not making a big deal about leaving or returning home to your pet will help make it not a big deal to them either. If you walk out of the door without saying a word like you're going to get the newspaper and come back, they may not even notice you left. Where as, telling them to be good, and that it's all going to be ok, and you're going to miss them, and write to them often, may adversely bring out some anxiety. Every time you talk to them in that way they will realize it means you are about to leave them for what feels like forever.
This is the hardest part for most pet owners, but I'm telling you, it will make a difference! When you first see your dog after being gone all day, or even just a little bit, don't go straight to them. In fact, don't even acknowledge their presence. I know, I know. I see you shaking your head, but hear me out. When you play off of their energy level, and make a big production out of coming home, they are going to start anticipating it. Every car that passes, every person that walks by could potentially be a huge emotional reunion of long lost family members (you coming home from work). This also creates a lot of anxiety for them throughout the day with out any outlet until you finally arrive, then it all comes spilling out and you are there reassuring them that it is in fact, a miracle you made it back alive. When you initially ignore the dog, and only let it out of the crate or address it when it is calm, you are showing them through your own actions that it's not a big deal to come home (because it's not and they will survive!) and you are additionally reinforcing that calm behavior with your attention and affection in your own time and on your own terms.
It can be difficult to not put our own emotions on to our dog. But it's true when people talk about animals being able to pick up on what you put out there. Nervous energy in a household can create a nervous dog. A person that is anxious can easily end up with an anxious dog. It is very real for certain behaviors to manifest due to environment and circumstances, so be aware of your intentions and your own feelings when it comes to your relationship with your dog. If you treat the idea of giving them their space as having healthy boundaries, teaching them confidence, and giving yourself the space YOU need, they will see it that way as well.
For more stories, tips and tricks on training or if you have any questions please visit our website at www.dogtrainingredefined.com or email Andrea at Andrea@theanimaldept.com