Today is a happy day for us because we reached a milestone!
QQ has separation anxiety and is has always been an issue I thought we might never overcome. We tried many methods ranging from training,calming treats, calming music, DAP diffuser etc. I even tried sessions with animal communicators. Nothing has ever worked. He howls and whines and even broke out of his crate when left alone at home. When we go out with friends, he’ll go crazy and start barking and struggling if I ask a friend to hold his leash while I walk away to take a phone call or to go into the store to buy a drink.
I never thought I would be able to leave him outside the store alone, which is why we always either dine in a restaurant with outdoor seating, or we do take out.
Today, we planned on doing take out at a dessert place we’ve wanted to try for awhile. However, the server told us that one of the desserts we wanted to try isn’t very suitable for takeout, as it’s layered and might get messed up. The husband told me to go ahead and eat it in the store, and he’ll wait outside. We’ll take turns, he said.
I got a window seat right by the door. It happened that there’s a parking meter directly in front of the seat. I thought it would be a good idea for QQ to practice his “stay” command. So I told the husband to go ahead and take the first turn.I tied QQ to the meter together with our foster dog. Our foster dog was pretty calm and didn’t seem to mind being tied up and waiting. QQ was okay with being tied up when I was next to him. We practiced his sit-stays for awhile. Then I decided to take it a little further.
I asked him to sit, and then I walked to the door of the dessert store and waited a few minutes. He kept his eyes on me and stayed. Not too bad! I walked back and praised him and gave him treats. We did that a few times, keeping each session very short and rewarding him with treats. Then he started getting anxious. He barked and struggled to get to me when I walked away. When I walked back to him, he actually used his front legs to wrap around my arm and bit my sleeve in an effort to stop me from walking away. I sat down on the sidewalk and held him for awhile. I debated giving up and just doing what the husband suggested – take turns eating and having one of us next to him all the time.
But he calmed down after I held him and the dessert wasn’t served yet, so I decided to try a few more times. He responded much better – there were a couple more barking/struggling episodes, but it seems that as long as we have eye contact, he could stay calm. As our seat is next to a full length glass window, he can actually see us. So I took it a step further – instead of standing by the door, I sat down and maintained eye contact with him through the window. He actually stayed calm! After few more sessions of sit-stay-me walking to stand by the door-me going in and sitting down and resuming eye contact-walking back out to praise him with treats, he finally decided it was okay and lay flat down on the floor! This is his relaxed position! Meaning that we actually get to sit down in the store and have our dessert!
It took about 30 minutes to get to this. Luckily our dessert took such a long time to prepare and serve. I’m not sure if it’s because of the short length of the sidewalk between the window seat and the parking meter where he was tied, and the fact that he could see us the entire time. Or maybe it’s because our foster dog was next to him. Or because he was just tired after the 30 minutes of training. We took about 15 minutes to finish our dessert and during that period he remaining lying flat on the floor, looking at the passerbys and checking in on us intermittently.
I’m not sure if we can recreate this in the future without all the elements in place, but I’m certainly proud that we achieved this today!
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