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Discussion Starter #1
We are starting to leave Ozzy alone so he gets used to it and is comfortable. Only the job is all mine and I feel a bit overwhelmed in general. My OH leaves for work in the early morn and then Ozzy cuddles with me until it's time for breakfast. It's absolutely no problem for him to leave the house. But me, that's a different story.

At first I was sneaking out when my OH was home, getting Ozzy used to being without my presence and building their bond. He was fine without me, I never made a big deal when I returned.

But if he sees me leave, it's all over. He cries/whines, barks and even howls pretty much the whole time I'm out. How do I know? He throws a tantrum when I leave for a couple minutes every time. Btw I'm also the one who brings him for walks, to the pet stores and puppy class, so he often thinks he should be coming with me I think.

Today my OH was saying it's time I started leaving him alone. He wanted me to go to the pet store without Ozzy to get food. It was a snow day and my street wasn't plowed, so I decided to take him for a walk at the store parking area since out was plowed and brought him on with me to get his food. Once we returned I decided to shovel the driveway, and this would be his time alone today (day 1). But he cried repeatedly the whole time. I gave him a fish skin piece I bought at the pet store earlier before I went out, and maybe he stopped howling to chew a bit, but it wasn't long before he was howling and crying again. I went in for a second to get something, showed him calmly the fish skin and held out a bit for him to chew. He was crying a bit as he chewed, I could tell his anxiety was high. And when I went to leave he kept dropping his fish skin over the entrance stairs. He didn't care about his fish skin and only that I was leaving without him.

He finished the fish skin once I was back, I know he was really into it, but more anxious than wanting to eat/chew.

So not knowing exactly how to handle it, I pretended I couldn't hear him and got the shovelling job done (maybe 10-15 mins).

I plan to leave for 10 minutes everyday for now, but there's no threshold for how long I can leave without a reaction. It's honestly before I even get the door closed.

So all I can think of is leaving often for 5 seconds and gradually increasing the time. But I also have to do things without him, so is it 'ok' to also leave for 10 minutes a day even though he is wailing?

His trainer says 'who cares if he's whining' and my OH says he'll see he's crying for nothing because he'll see I (we) always return.

I'm so confused with all these new training methods, and I never dealt with a dog with anxiety issues before. But he's obviously pretty attached to me (afraid of strangers and other dogs) and hides behind me or under my legs. I feel I'm messing everything up! And feeling a bit inadequate because I'm the one who has to deal with this.
 

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Hi. I think what you are posting about might be partly anxiety about you going, or partly fear of missing out - or a combination.

He didn't care about his fish skin and only that I was leaving without him
This is an indication that he is a bit upset, whichever the reason.

all I can think of is leaving often for 5 seconds and gradually increasing the time.
That is pretty much it, I'll come back to this.
is it 'ok' to also leave for 10 minutes a day even though he is wailing
No, and this -
His trainer says 'who cares if he's whining' and my OH says he'll see he's crying for nothing
- is worrying from your trainer.

Basically I think Ozzy has got used to you being there, and that's fine, but building independence needs to be done slowly, or he will get upset and if you go too fast it just reinforces in his mind that being alone is bad and scary. What happens if you leave him in one room while you go to another (I think we have spoken about the Flitting Game before)?
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Well he will wimper if one of us goes to the basement without him, or sometimes he will bark when I go down without him, but we are still working on that. Other rooms seem to be not a problem. He still wants to be next to me often and follows me a lot when its just me home, but he will stay lying in another room or play by himself in a different room when I'm busy with something really boring (haha 😉). After he does his business outside, I will sometimes come to the deck (if it's really cold or rainy) and he will sometimes stay out alone by himself sniffing or whatever. So in general, we get a lot of space outside. I have even started letting him come in and up the deck stairs by himself, so I think once he felt comfortable with the stairs, he knew he wasn't stuck outside and was ok with me going inside. He's always coming inside right after if I go inside, but at least he is able to have a bit of independence there. My OH puts him down the stairs and watches him do his business from the deck and lets him come back up by himself, so the only difference is I prefer to go with him to do his business and other times we play outside.

I also think it's a bit of he feels left out mixed with he's worried about me leaving, good call. I think it's something we can work on though. I'll tell you he's really into his 'tartar' bone we gave him tonight, he didn't care that I went up to get something and just kept chewing.

5 second thing: I think I'll have to start even smaller (my gut and from reading here). I have fiddled at the front, moving my shoes/keys and not leaving, but as soon as I go to leave the house, he starts. I guess tomorrow I will try 2 seconds. I'll do 2 seconds a few times each hour and gradually increase hopefully to 5 by the end of the day. He's a very quick learner, so I have confidence it can work. It'll just take a LOT of patience.

His trainer: I don't know what to say. She said I have to work on seperation anxiety and basically told me I have to go (leave him alone). She asked if it's a bad thing if I leave, I'm like of course not. She answered then why would he think it's bad? Or something like that. I told her he cries when I leave, explained how I was leaving him with my OH first getting used to that and she told me in his mind I'm telling him he needs to have someone there (basically I'm not leaving him alone).

So I'm being pressured to leave him alone, being told I'm babying him ect. And it looks really bad in class when he won't go with or up to anybody and hides behind or climbs my legs. Btw he wouldn't go with the trainer when she was taking each pup to the front (or back) and demo-ing "wait". Ozzy was hiding behind my legs. She told me to face sideways and step away. I looked like I was playing Twister by myself. He kept following me and not going to the trainer even with the yummy freeze-dried cheese she had. She tried throwing pieces in front of her and everything. She ultimately got him to sit from a distance and quit there not to frustrate him and said that's good enough and I can work at it at home.

So in general I'm feeling really conflicted, probably exactly the way Ozzy is feeling.

Also btw, sorry for the novels
 

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No need to apologise about the novels, the more detail the better. As you know, I'm fond of Emma Judson's advice, she is an expert on separation anxiety. One of the things she always says is that you cannot fix anxiety while the dog is in a state of anxiety. And to me, that makes perfect sense. Have you ever come across Maszlow's Hierarchy of Needs? It is a fairly old psychology theory but the fact it is old is good, it is still quoted because it is sound. It basically says that we are simply incapable of focusing on certain higher functions (like learning) unless our basic needs (like safety) are met. Imagine trying to do a crossword in a burning building. Where is your focus? Or, if you think you have lost your purse, you can't focus on preparing dinner (even if you are hungry) until you have looked for it? So Ozzy can't relax if he is worried about being alone.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs - Wikipedia

So your instincts are good. The idea to prevent separation anxiety is to be back before the dog gets upset. If he is upset, you have let him get to the stage of thinking being alone is in fact bad. That isn't going to teach him it is ok. Also, self soothing and leaving him to cry it out could do more damage than good -


You want him to notice you coming back rather than going out iykwim. So, if that means you spend a couple of hours each day, maybe one in the morning and one in the afternoon, yo-yo-ing in and out of your house, that might be the next step.

I still think Ozzy is a normal pup and it isn't SA yet, but it might be worth having a long a look at the sticky thread here -

 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Thank you very much I have some stuff to read. But this morning we are back to opening the door and shutting it 😒
But I still think he thinks he is missing out or should come too more than me leaving him.

Update: he didn't whine the last time 🤗
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
So I'm awful with this. I haven't made much progress here. Not blaming anyone but myself.

Being pressured to go out without him, but he still whines, barks and sometimes howls when I close the front door without him. Today I tired yoyo-ing, but because of the cortisol thing, we didn't make any progress. I gave him a chew, but again he gives it up when he sees me leave and doesn't go back to it until I'm back. I stopped yoyo-ing bc at this point I think I'm reinforcing the bad reaction. Now he is chewing his chew and whimpering like I'm going to leave again. I was trying to get him to chew while I was gone, but it didn't work.

It's going so slow, I'm probably not putting enough effort into this, but I'm so discouraged. I'm worried I will have a big problem. I will start yoyo-ing again as soon as I can.

So now what? Wait 3 days and try shutting the door for 2 seconds cuz that's where were at. Taking a long time to increase the time away.

I feel I'm messing everything up and the pressure I face is stressing me out.

Also just for info, I noticed he has no prob when my OH leaves for work in the morning. But if he leaves at any other time, I have to call Ozzy away from the door, give him a good treat and play with/walk him to get his mind off him leaving. He says Ozzy is different with me leaving, but I don't think he knew Ozzy reacted when he leaves at any other time then to go to work. So I've asked him to do the same for when I leave. My idea is to try to make it a fun thing when I leave. Idk what to do.

Ozzy also started going down the stairs at the entrance and out the front porch. So I'm going to have to teach him to wait at the top of the steps (small entrance area). I'm wondering if some of the boundary training Kikk does (like for property line or street) that I could try for the door?
 

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Can I ask, do you pick this up and do it for a while, then sort of relax and give up on it for a few days or weeks? Or have you been consistent with practicing every day?

No judgement or criticism, it will just help me understand better.

And - re-read your post from the other day when you said how well he was doing. Celebrate the successes, and remember progress isn't linear - some things ”click” and some things take longer. So don't beat yourself up.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
No I haven't been too consistent. We are on curfew rn, and with the holidays, I laxed it. Again, blaming myself.

So I guess in a day or two I go back to 2 seconds or whatever it is. I don't want any reaction right? If he barks, cries or whines I'm moving too fast? I will go back to trying my hardest with yoyo-ing. So when should I try again? Tomorrow? Later today?

The trouble is mostly the pressure on me. I went out the other day out of pressure and audio recorded him. I waited till my OH was 5 mins away (coming home) and left. Ozzy cried and stopped, started again and paused. When my OH came back 5 mins later after I left, he was quiet, so at least that was good. My OH said I have to do it again this week. It's the pressure I'm getting and me having to move so slowly.

Again last night, I was asked to go grocery shopping while leaving Ozzy alone. I said it was too long and I'm not doing it. So I'll be grocery shopping later today once my OH gets home and he can tend to Ozzy for a while.

And what about training the barrier thing?
I think it was this vid
 

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How old is Ozzy? Where did you get him? What do you know about his parents, upbringing, early experiences, siblings, etc? After about 16 weeks, your puppy's openness to new experiences drops significantly making learning new, potentially scary things takes more time and effort.

I tend to agree that your trainer doesn't sound like a great fit. I'd shop around and find one that specialized in fear. I also recommend Help for Your Fearful Dog and Culture Clash.

Part of him getting used to not having you around is that you're 'absent' while still in the room. This may be hard for you but ignoring him for short periods that slowly increase is a very baby step toward you not being there at all. This means no eye contact, talking to him, touching, nada. He is Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense as far as you're concerned.

Perhaps instead of cuddling in the morning, you do some training and games. This will do several things: stimulate his mind during and after your done, give him structured interactions where he has to earn your attention and build his confidence. Make a safe (nothing will fall or shift) little obstacle course that encourages him to use his mind and physical body. Have your OH do that same. Make sure he is hungry when you need him to be distracted. Use his food as a training tool.

CBD also works well for fear and anxiety. Can really take the edge off.

Considering the fearfulness you described around strangers, other dogs, puppy class and your absence, unfortunately, I think your dog is well on his way to separation anxiety. That doesn't mean there's no hope! It just means you are going to have to roll up your sleeves and commit. And it is not surprising you feel overwhelmed; dealing with fear and anxiety is quite tricky because your margin for error is razor thin and you have to be very consistent.

Waste no time in finding a better trainer, make a plan, stick to it like glue and you will start to see improvements. Good luck and hang in there : )
 

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I've never trained the barrier. And, it's something I can't imagine ever needing to train. If my dog isn't enclosed in the garden, he is on a lead. I do train a good recall and emergency stop for when we are out.

Anyway, back to alone time. Let's break it down into smaller goals. How is he with the flitting game? Will he stay in one room when you go to another?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks World Ready Pets 1st for reading my novel, 2nd for your response. Ozzy will be 24 weeks in two days. We did get him early at 7 weeks as the breeder pretty much insisted he was ready to leave. I don't know very much or anything about his siblings, we picked him up the day we met him and confined to the kitchen bc of Covid. The breeder brought him to us. She is 80YO and Ozzy wasn't outside once before we brought him home and absolutely zero socialization. Bad sitch I know.

I like the plan to ignore him. You are right, I'm spending too much time with him. I will have to do the ignoring thing slowly as well because it feels really weird, but I do think I'm too concerned with him having something to do. And I couldn't help myself wanting to play with him. But I do think it could help to encourage him to do things on his own and entertain himself.

We get up a hour or two later after my OH leaves for work (we don't cuddle anymore, Ozzy goes back to his bed). My OH leaves really early for work, like before 6am. He has his breakfast in a snuffle mat and then we go for a walk. I do a training session at least once a day, are you suggesting I do a session when my OH leaves for work or before I leave? I actually did try that once when I left once my OH got home. I could certainly do more sessions with him.

My OH gives him a meal (if it's time) in a food dispensing toy and plays ball hockey with him in the basement. Ozzy goes nuts at the hockey stick (not the ball 🙄) and my OH is very skilled at deaking him out. Ozzy has a blast and loves it. Or he takes him outside to investigate. I just tried to ask him to make it really fun when I leave. Hoping it becomes a good thing when I leave.....
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I've never trained the barrier. And, it's something I can't imagine ever needing to train. If my dog isn't enclosed in the garden, he is on a lead. I do train a good recall and emergency stop for when we are out.

Anyway, back to alone time. Let's break it down into smaller goals. How is he with the flitting game? Will he stay in one room when you go to another?
Ok sure, let's break it up. Yes he's much better with the flitting game. I can go downstairs without him or up, but eventually he follows because he wants to know what I'm doing. Same with the loo. He sometimes doesn't follow, and if he does, he sees what I'm doing and goes back to whatever he was doing. He gets bored with following me when I'm busy and when I'm playing the game. He is good when I'm having a conversation on the phone or standing with him in lead having a conversation.
 

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OK, that's good. I'd just take the next step of switching between flitting to another room, and flitting to outside your door. Ideally, set up a device to observe him so when he looks up from whatever he is doing, like eating from his Kong, you can walk back in. And make a plan - say, X number of times a day devoted to it. It is all about repetition and making your coming and going commonplace.

So try to do it every day, several times, so it becomes just another part of the routine.

Then, it would be the next step, building up his alone time. But thats a little bit away yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
OK, that's good. I'd just take the next step of switching between flitting to another room, and flitting to outside your door. Ideally, set up a device to observe him so when he looks up from whatever he is doing, like eating from his Kong, you can walk back in. And make a plan - say, X number of times a day devoted to it. It is all about repetition and making your coming and going commonplace.

So try to do it every day, several times, so it becomes just another part of the routine.

Then, it would be the next step, building up his alone time. But thats a little bit away yet.
Ok I can do that. The only trouble with that is he doesn't go for kong. He leaves it until I come back. But I moved too quickly. If I go back to just flitting x number of times out the door, I probably wouldn't give him a treat or at least not a kong. I could use your opinion, but I'm thinking until he is ok with me leaving, there's no point in giving him a kong. I would give him a kong once he's cool with me leaving.
 

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The Kong was only a suggestion because most dogs will be occupied with one, but it's all down to what Ozzy likes - if a Kong doesn't occupy him, absolutely do what you suggest and wait until he is better at you going.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks Joanne 😊 You've really helped me feel better about the whole thing, I really needed that.
So I've been flitting out the front door and he doesn't react until after about 5 seconds. So I'm at 5 seconds, but at least it's a starting point. I have more confidence I can make this work 😏

Furthermore, I've been trying to flit more during the day and giving him less attention. He seems fine with it. He occupies himself chewing on this, chewing on that, ect. But the good thing is he is not whining and doing his own thing. Also I'm not going outside with him the whole day like before. I'm encouraging him to hang in the backyard by himself a bit. He investigates but returns back faster than when I'm out with him, but it's encouraging to see him sniffing on his own.

He does his own thing more when my OH is home too. Because usually we are talking together and not paying all attention on Ozzy. He still gets lots of attention, but it's not constant. So I'm trying to follow suit the same during the day when it's just him and myself.
 
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