We don't need to bully a dog into submission Three weeks ago I visited Ben, a thin and very nervous rescue Weimeraner aged 18 months with chronic separation anxiety.
When his new owners were out at work Ben would cry and bark at the front door for most of the day, sometimes messing on the floor.
Then something happened to make everything much worse.
One evening Ben's owner John came home to chaos.
There was toilet mess all over the kitchen and hallway, and on going upstairs he found dog vomit, clothes and damaged belongings all over the place.
Ben was hiding in a corner of their bedroom.
John completely lost it.
He grabbed Ben, shouted at him and hit him.
Then, as the mists of anger cleared, John looked about.
Someone had broken into the house! He felt mortified.
Although he belonged to the old school of thought that hitting a dog is acceptable, he felt very guilty.
Not only had Ben been terrified by the intruders, but he had also been beaten when his owner came home.
Consequently, Ben's separation anxiety was absolutely pitiful now - when alone, he whimpered, shook, chewed up the skirting board and messed.
Ben was also terrified when John came home.
The dog was a nervous wreck.
John tried to 'make it up' to Ben by fussing him, but Ben just cowered and backed away.
So they called me out.
I encouraged them to look at life from the dog's perspective.
John gradually understood the reason Ben was so anxious when they were out; he also understood why he should never hit his dog.
He was discovering what to do instead.
Yesterday I received an email from John's wife.
After three weeks they are gradually convincing Ben that he can trust them.
With knowledge, they now feel calm and more in control.
Ben has also started to eat again.
He has stopped cowering.
She said "Ben doesn't seem nearly so stressed when we leave the house now.
When we are out we shut him in the kitchen so he feels safe in his corner just as you suggested.
We have had no damage or mess for the last week".
I believe there is no more justification in hitting a dog than there is in beating a child.
People are violent towards dogs through frustration and ignorance.
Whatever a dog does, he has a reason for doing it, and there are kind, compassionate ways of getting the dog you love to cooperate willingly without using physical force, intimidation, punishment or shouting.
Do we want to bully our best friend into submission, or do we want him to cooperate willingly? There are plenty ofDog training association'savailable to find experienced help for separation anxiety, so if you think your dog may have this problem, get some one in to help you.