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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello
My 20 week old toy poodle lives with me and four other adults of my family. We all give her attention and care but I am the primary caregiver. I read a lot about separation anxiety which brings me to this forum. Most articles I found talk about leaving them alone. My puppy has never been left alone and it is unlikely that this will happen with our lifestyle i. e. someone she knows and trusts will always be home. My problem is her attachment to me. I can’t go upstairs or downstairs without her whaling. She follows me to the bathroom and rarely leaves her bed beside me when I’m working on my computer (5 days a week at least 8 hours a day). She is content to stay in her bed beside me and does not exhibit any negative behaviour as long as I’m there. If I get up from my desk she will quietly just follow me every single time.
I have left her at home and she cries most of the time I’m gone even though she is getting attention and is with her family.
Any suggestions on how we can get her to spend time with other members of my family (someone other than me is usually always home) so she stops getting stressed out about me not being with her at all times?

Thank you
 

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You should all take turns feeding her. Food is a huge motivational tool. Each person should know the routine: Ask for a sit, place dish on floor, give release cue. You can be the trainer, but everyone should follow the same protocol. Another trick, often used by children, is for the new person to give the kibble pieces one at a time.
 

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I would approach this using two tactics in parallel. One is to accustom her the idea that she can safely stay put while you leave the room and come back. The other is to accustom her to the idea that people other than you are fun to hang out with.

To accomplish the first, I would start by training her on a few basics: sit, down, come, touch, and place. "Touch" means to boop your hand with her nose. "Place" means to get onto a mat or towel. Work on these for five minutes at a time several times a day using a mixture of her regular kibble and slivers of a really yummy treat, like boiled chicken, to reward her for each trick.

Once she has a working grasp on all these tricks, start making the place command harder. Have her sit or lie on her mat. Then start walking in a circle around her. She will track you with her head until you get behind her. Then she will probably stand up to keep you in view. Calmly tell her "Ah ah, no" and ask her to sit on the mat again without rewarding her. Repeat, watching her very carefully until you can see her tense in readiness to get up. Before she actually stands up, backtrack until you are in front of her and reward her. Repeat. Push her self control, while trying to avoid worrying her to where she stands up, until you can walk behind her in a full circle. This may take several sessions. Some glitches are inevitable; calmly ask her to sit down again and start over. Throw a party the first time she stays in place for a full circle. Give her half a dozen pieces of chicken, praising her the whole time. It's a tiny step, but for half a second she couldn't see you, and she should know she was a most excellent brave dog for staying where she was told. Finish off the session with one or two simple Touches, giving her only a single piece of kibble or chicken. Then let her go think about how letting you out of view for half a second brought lots more chicken than the Touch.

Keep practicing Place, eventually adding two more hard tasks the same way. One is to walk behind a chair or other visual barrier in in the same room. As soon as you get behind the chair she will probably want to get up and follow you. Put her back on the mat and work on keeping her the same way you did before. Give her a chicken party the first time you walk all the way around the chair. The other hard task is to stay on the mat when you step out of the room. Simply step through the doorway and immediately step back into the room before she has time to get anxious and follow you. Again, give her a chicken party the first time she stays on her mat while you step out of the room and return.

Gradually increase the duration of time she stays on the mat and the distance you travel before you reward her. For example, today I left my young dog Galen sitting on a tea towel in my dining room while I went up stairs to fetch a teacup I'd left in my bedroom. From his perspective I hadn't abandoned him in the dining room; I had simply given him the task of holding down a tea towel. He was fully confident I would come back and reward him for completing his job successfully. And, indeed, I did.

The next thing is to have someone else in your family do the exact same training exercises. Have someone else work on sit, down, touch, come, and place while you sit quietly reading or working on your computer. You can start the easy tasks - sit, down, touch, and come- even before she gets good at place with you. As long as she can see you are in the same room and not going anywhere, she should be fine with spending five minutes earning some chicken from a family member.

Once she is working well with your family member, add a distraction. Get up and move to another chair in the same room while continuing to read your book. Completely ignore her as you do so. Let your family member continue to practice sits and touches to regain her attention. Have the family member play with a tug toy or a ball if that's what's needed to get attention back. Gradually add more difficult distractions, just as you did with the Place exercise. Get up and look out the window before returning to your seat. Get up and look into the closet before returning to your seat. Step out of the room and immediately return to your seat. The idea is to make her understand you aren't abandoning her, and it's fine for her to keep playing with your family member. Gradually increase the amount of time you are out of her sight while she plays with your family member.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I would approach this using two tactics in parallel. One is to accustom her the idea that she can safely stay put while you leave the room and come back. The other is to accustom her to the idea that people other than you are fun to hang out with.

To accomplish the first, I would start by training her on a few basics: sit, down, come, touch, and place. "Touch" means to boop your hand with her nose. "Place" means to get onto a mat or towel. Work on these for five minutes at a time several times a day using a mixture of her regular kibble and slivers of a really yummy treat, like boiled chicken, to reward her for each trick.

Once she has a working grasp on all these tricks, start making the place command harder. Have her sit or lie on her mat. Then start walking in a circle around her. She will track you with her head until you get behind her. Then she will probably stand up to keep you in view. Calmly tell her "Ah ah, no" and ask her to sit on the mat again without rewarding her. Repeat, watching her very carefully until you can see her tense in readiness to get up. Before she actually stands up, backtrack until you are in front of her and reward her. Repeat. Push her self control, while trying to avoid worrying her to where she stands up, until you can walk behind her in a full circle. This may take several sessions. Some glitches are inevitable; calmly ask her to sit down again and start over. Throw a party the first time she stays in place for a full circle. Give her half a dozen pieces of chicken, praising her the whole time. It's a tiny step, but for half a second she couldn't see you, and she should know she was a most excellent brave dog for staying where she was told. Finish off the session with one or two simple Touches, giving her only a single piece of kibble or chicken. Then let her go think about how letting you out of view for half a second brought lots more chicken than the Touch.

Keep practicing Place, eventually adding two more hard tasks the same way. One is to walk behind a chair or other visual barrier in in the same room. As soon as you get behind the chair she will probably want to get up and follow you. Put her back on the mat and work on keeping her the same way you did before. Give her a chicken party the first time you walk all the way around the chair. The other hard task is to stay on the mat when you step out of the room. Simply step through the doorway and immediately step back into the room before she has time to get anxious and follow you. Again, give her a chicken party the first time she stays on her mat while you step out of the room and return.

Gradually increase the duration of time she stays on the mat and the distance you travel before you reward her. For example, today I left my young dog Galen sitting on a tea towel in my dining room while I went up stairs to fetch a teacup I'd left in my bedroom. From his perspective I hadn't abandoned him in the dining room; I had simply given him the task of holding down a tea towel. He was fully confident I would come back and reward him for completing his job successfully. And, indeed, I did.

The next thing is to have someone else in your family do the exact same training exercises. Have someone else work on sit, down, touch, come, and place while you sit quietly reading or working on your computer. You can start the easy tasks - sit, down, touch, and come- even before she gets good at place with you. As long as she can see you are in the same room and not going anywhere, she should be fine with spending five minutes earning some chicken from a family member.

Once she is working well with your family member, add a distraction. Get up and move to another chair in the same room while continuing to read your book. Completely ignore her as you do so. Let your family member continue to practice sits and touches to regain her attention. Have the family member play with a tug toy or a ball if that's what's needed to get attention back. Gradually add more difficult distractions, just as you did with the Place exercise. Get up and look out the window before returning to your seat. Get up and look into the closet before returning to your seat. Step out of the room and immediately return to your seat. The idea is to make her understand you aren't abandoning her, and it's fine for her to keep playing with your family member. Gradually increase the amount of time you are out of her sight while she plays with your family member.
Thank you! This is very helpful. It will take time but I’m confident she is trainable because she is very smart and already has some of those commands figured out. Thanks again.
 
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