In order to understand how to deal with dog separation anxiety, you first need know what it stems from. Dog Separation Anxiety is a result of the owner giving in to their puppy’s whining. He might cry because he’s in one room and you’re in another, or you went outside while he was left in the house. Some Golden Cocker Retriever owners, rather than correct the problem, put their dogs on drugs to keep them mellow and unexcitable. Drugs used for this purpose will make the dog lethargic and unresponsive, and it’s bad for their health. Obviously, this is not the way to deal with it.
If your dog convinces you that he just can’t bear to be without you, you’ve bought they lie. He’s actually appealing to your sympathy and demanding your attention to get his own way. Once you realize that’s what’s going on, you’ll see his behavior much more objectively and be able to take the necessary steps to correct it.
Spend the time to train him in other areas first, like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘down’, ‘come’, etc. He needs to learn that you are the one in control, not him. Often, the time spent training him will satisfy his demand to get your time, but more importantly, he’ll begin to learn YOU’RE the boss and that he can’t always have what he wants, or when he wants it.
The method that’s been found to be most effective is using a short leash on his collar, leaving it on in the house so you can use it to correct him. Practice by gating him if possible and leaving the room so he thinks he’s alone, but always keeping an eye on him secretly. When he begins to cry and act up, go to him but not with the same sympathetic voice he’s used to. Firmly hold the leash and give a quick but firm jerk to let him know his behavior is not pleasing to you, while at the same time telling him, “NO”. Then leave the room again, but still secretly watching.
If he begins again, repeat the “NO” and jerk on his leash more firmly. You may need to repeat this many times if he’s particularly stubborn, or if this habit has been going on for a long time. He’ll not take kindly to giving in when it’s something he’s not used to doing. For a dog that just beginning the whine-cry technique, it may only take a few times before he gets the message and readily submits to better behavior.
One note of caution here: If you’re diligent to the point where he stops acting up when you “leave”, but then he reverts back to the whining again a few days later, don’t be so distracted or tempted to give in. We sometimes get busy with phone calls, computers, or TVs and totally forget to continue to follow through on our training. It only takes one time for our Golden Cocker Retriever to figure out that his crying will work if we’re busy with something else, and he’ll take full advantage of every opportunity. Before you even realize it, you’ll be back at square one and need to start all over. So, be alert and make sure his cute, sweet face isn’t training you instead of the other way around. Always remember, you own him … he doesn’t own you!