If your puppy starts to cry when it’s alone in its pen, wait until silence occurs, then go in and make a mild fuss, but not too much, otherwise you may encourage separation anxiety. Don’t let the dog think that every time you come to its area it will be let out; sometimes leave the dog in and sometimes let it out. In other words, be unpredictable in order to avoid reinforcing expectations of attention.
With an attention seeking dog, many people fall into the trap of petting it whenever it solicits affection. When they think they’ve shown it enough attention, they stop and expect their dog to understand that they’ve been fair. What they don’t realize is that the dog has no concept of fairness. All it knows is that if it persists, it can obtain the attention it wants. This only serves to reinforce the dog’s dependency on and control over the owner’s time and attention.
Start reducing dependence of your dog during a long holiday weekend if possible. Begin by reducing the amount of attention received by your dog during a 24 hour period to 25% of what it was. Ignore all the dog’s attempts to solicit attention, whether by nudging you, bringing toys, or looking pleadingly to be pet. You’ll find this hard at first, but you and all your family and friends must be consistent.
Next, start leaving your dog on its own in a room of the house for periods of five minutes while you are still in the house. If the dog begins to cry, bark, or sound excited, don’t go into the room. When a gap in the barking comes, wait two minutes then go in casually, saying nothing and keeping the contact low-key.
On no account should bursts of excitement from the dog be reciprocated. Then wander around for a few minutes and let the dog go free in the house. Ensure that no one pets the dog, no matter how much it solicits praise. The dog’s initial puzzlement or even worse behavior will soon give way to acceptance of the new arrangements after a few days.
If this regimen is adhered to, it slowly teaches the dog that it’s no big deal to be with you or without you. You should aim to leave your dog alone for five minute periods, working up to four to six times a day. When this is achieved without any commotion, slowly begin increasing the period your dog spends alone up to the desired time to fit in with your social patterns. If you introduce this program gradually over several weeks, you’ll have a greater chance of success. But it is important that the regimen continues.
You can combine this method with the next one by giving the dog a part of its dinner via a specially designed food-stuffed rubber toy when it is on its own in the kitchen. This means that the dog is actually rewarded for being out of your company. Your dog should also receive its toys and food when not in your company.
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