Tonawanda News —
Although her German shepherd, Abby, and Corgi-Jack Russell mix, Steve, are not marine mammals, she said that having a better understanding of animal behavior and how to use positive reinforcement has helped her out immensely.
“Abby used to become very nervous every time I left the house,” Kayla said. Abby had separation anxiety.
Abby would pick up on cues that Kayla was getting ready to leave, even beyond getting her keys and putting her coat on. If Kayla were to start putting make-up on in front of the mirror, or even put perfume on, it would upset her.
“She would begin to pace around the house frantically and when I would leave she would try to bolt and leave with me,” Kayla said. “When she wasn’t able to go with me, she then took it out on my apartment and belongings. One of the most memorable destruction ‘projects’ she had was ripping apart an entire phone book.”
Kayla realized that separation anxiety is a behavior, and she could train it like it is another behavior. She started shaping a calm behavior using small approximations.
“I might have felt silly or even looked silly at times to my roommates. I started off with things I knew cued Abby into my leaving,” she said. In addition to walking around the house holding car keys, she would also spray herself with perfume or stand in front of the mirror.
Once Abby was calm, she would walk out the door just for a few seconds initially and then up to five minutes at a time.
“As she became more comfortable with me near the door I would stay outside and wait longer before I came back in,” Kayla said. “I would peek through the window and re-enter when she was calm and not frantically looking for me.”