Thursday, June 16, 2011

Separation Anxiety - Bea Busting Out

We've left Bea home alone a handful of times now, and it's been fine. She cries at first, but by the time we get home, she does her crazy butt-wiggle and all is forgiven.

I promise you, one day I will get video of the butt wiggle. She is part dachshund, so when she wags fervently, her entire butt wags. It's some kind of wonderful.

The problem is that the butt wiggle is caused by her separation anxiety. The common symptoms of separation anxiety can be destructive behavior, peeing everywhere, and some serious howling. Bea's is just crying when we leave and following us around when we're home. Not so bad, and we're trying to train her out of it. As much fun as it is for her to greet us like that, we don't like knowing that she's crying in the meantime. You don't break someone's arm just so they'll be thrilled when they heal.

Training a dog out of separation anxiety is a ridiculous process. You basically have to put your coat on and grab your keys, leave, and come right back. Then you do it again and leave for 2 minutes. Then 5. Then 2 again. Then 15. Etc, etc. The idea is to teach your dog that she never knows when you'll actually leave for a while, so why freak out? We're also supposed to ignore our dog being happy that we're home, and only greet her after 10-15 minutes. That's right - we have to trick our dog into not loving us as much, and ignore her. That's exactly why I wanted a dog - so it can we can be utterly ambivalent each other's presence. This must be how rich parents raise their children.

Yesterday, Bea's separation anxiety got the best of her. Like usual, we gated her in the kitchen/hallway area, giving her more room than the average NYC studio apartment. We leave her water, a bone, her toys, and a dog bed - and hope for the best. Also, we drop a frozen cube of baloney in her food bowl and run for it. By the time she's done with it, we're in the elevator. I don't know if any dog trainers recommend the "distract and ditch" method, but we're giving it a shot.

We have talked about getting a nanny cam, less for safety and more for curiosity to see how she spends her day. Is she as big of a lump as she is when we're home? Or does she rock out a la Tom Cruise in Risky Business? Which, btw, is still one of the strangest scenes in movie history. My parents left me home alone a LOT in high school and I never did THAT.

When Sara and I got home, things were not as copacetic as we expected. Like all spring-loaded baby gates, our gate is a piece of crap, as Bea had pushed her way through it. Seems the living room is much more appealing than the kitchen and the hallway. Or maybe she was just tired of her studio apartment and wanted to expand. Movin on up, Bea. Movin on up.

The damage was not huge. The couch was covered in dog hair, and Bea had chewed through an ethernet cable. Not bad, considering the $80 power source to my MacBook was right there, too. A $10 replacement cable, I can live with. Part of me hopes that when Bea bit the ethernet wire, she got a little shock so she learns not to do it again. Not enough to hurt her - just enough to make her think my stuff has an alarm system.

We were mad at Bea, but that did us no good. First, you can't get mad at a dog unless you catch them in the act or they dont know why you're mad. She knows "sit," "down," and "stay" - she doesn't know "go to your room and think about what you did." Second, her adorable butt wiggle makes it REALLY hard to stay mad.

Bea has been super sweet ever since - but we are trying to crate train her now. We weren't doing it before, figuring that she'd enjoy the openness of her kitchen studio. But I also figured that I wouldn't need a new ethernet cable. Sorry Bea - when you try to break out of the yard, you get put in solitary.

The crate training process is simple - it involves us taking her bone and putting it in the crate repeatedly, and doing the same with treats.

"Look Bea, there are great things in that crate! And soon, you'll be one of them."

We hope.

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