Alaskan Klee Kai Association of America, Inc.

The Original AKK Breed Club

Separation Anxiety – Two Stories

Number 1: 

   Clicquot had a lot of issues with separation from quite a young pup. He couldn’t be left alone for even half an hour without excessive barking and mildly destructive behavior. We were getting complaints from our neighbors and knew we had to take action. 

    I went to my breed group, the Pacific North West Alaskan Klee Kai, for their wonderful suggestions. Everyone was great, in particular Leslie Welker, Robin and Norman Carlstrom and Bette Cook helped us enormously to apply a number of techniques into something that worked to combat his anxiety. 

    I started with desensitizing him to the routines of leaving that would trigger his anxiety. I would put on my coat and shoes pick up my keys and walk to the door, as he frantically followed. Once we were there I would tell him to sit, then step outside the door, count to 5 and come back inside. I then would go through my normal routine of putting away shoes/keys/coat while making sure I completely ignored his barking or jumping for attention (you will need ear plugs for this!). Only once he was calm did I make a point of giving him attention. I did this every day for about a week or two, slowly increasing the amount of time I spent standing outside the door. 

    When we leave the house, Clicquot gets put in the “dog room” so during this time of desensitizing him to our routines of leaving, I also began leaving him in this room by himself while I was at home doing things around the house, to give it a more positive association. If you crate you dog when you go out, then that’s where I’d put him. 

    Some other things we did to associate his dog room with something positive:

    We fed him exclusively in his dog room, even if we were not going anywhere.  We left his favorite treats around that room, making it somewhere he wanted to go even if we were in the house.  We got him a HUGE beef bone, the type he would have to work on forever and only gave it to him in that room, when we were going to leave the house.  Puzzle treats helped a lot, such as the KONG wobbler, which he again got to play with exclusively in that room. 

   If he barked, cried or whined while he was in his room, I was careful to completely ignore him. Once he was calm, I would wait a minute and then let him out. If he came out calmly, he got attention right away. If he got overly excited when let out, I was again careful not to praise or pet him until he calmed down. I steadily increased the time he was left in the room (while I was at home) by a few minutes or so as the weeks wore on. It’s good to start slow, so you don’t undo all your hard work! 

    Next, I combined those two techniques, first putting him in his dog room, then putting on my coat and shoes and stepping outside. I started off counting to 5 or 10 then stepping back inside. Once he was quiet in his room, I would let him out and give him a little attention.  Eventually, my 5 or 10 seconds turned into me being able to put him in his room, walk outside and around the house for a good 15 minutes and I wouldn’t hear a peep.

    Every time we left the house we would follow a routine – put food in his bowl, get his beef bone, walk into the dog room and call for him. When he came I would make him sit, lie down then put down his food and bone. When he started eating I would walk out of the room without a word, closing the door. We would then leave the house. When we came home, we let him out and would not give any kind of attention (even a look) until he was calm.

    Be patient! We had to do this consistently for about a month or two. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be consistent when doing this. Do it every day, no matter what, until your dog is comfortable with the routine. 

    Though it was hard work, I’m happy to report that he can now be left for extended periods of time calmly!

The neighbors are thankful ;)

Submitted by: Megan Pilkey

 Number 2:

 As we were sitting down to lunch, the neighbor called , “Did you know Zoe was in our backyard?” We were 100 miles away with family. Zosha, our nearly two-year old Alaskan Klee Kai,  was back home with a very well paid dog sitter who was staying IN our house. Desperately, we tried to reach the dog sitter. The story unfolded,  the darling love of our life hid from the sitter, ran from him when he tried to collect her, and then dug a hole under the fence to escape. We ended up sending my in-laws to the neighbors home to retrieve her.

 This latest escapade was but one more feather in the cap of Zoe’s separation issues.

 I’ve worked in a large animal shelter and seen separation anxiety, this seemed like something different. Since we brought her home, she has always screeched when someone leaves or returns to the “Den”. It wasn’t just me (the mom) she’d scream for, but she’d start screeching when we’d drive past our son’s school, or when my husband would come in from shoveling the driveway. This was more of a pack separation problem. She needed… more like demanded, to be with her pack at all times! She was somewhat destructive when we’d leave, but would appease herself with stuffed Kongs. But lord help the eardrums of the first person to return.

 I needed to talk with someone to help understand how to change our behavior and transversely, hers. First to those who know the AKK best, the breeders. Luckily I’d met fabulous, knowledgeable AKK breeders Desarie Fletcher (Kika’s Klee Kai-Huskies in Miniature) and Jennifer Parks (WOW Klee Kai) who have been kind enough to take the place of the retired breeder from whom we adopted. The Facebook message read something like this…”Desarie, Jennifer…help, we can never leave, our Klee Kai is holding us hostage…please advise!!” Desarie and Jennifer asked some pointed questions, and we really did determine that Zoe was doing what AKK’s do, they bond with their pack. Next, consult the behaviorist, Christine Samuelian, a dear friend I worked with at the Larimer Humane Society. Due to our specific answers to her questions and knowing more about the breed from the experienced breeders, Christine devised for us the following plan.

1. Start using a tie-down (harness style not collar) in the house and listen to her howl while we do basic chores. Make sure there is enough positive praise when she is behaving properly.

 2. Over a weekend leave the house for small increments and come back, five minutes, ten minutes and so on. Work way up to 30 minutes and then start over again.

 3. Do not reward the screeching! No eye contact, no touch, no talk until she is calm. Come in, put away groceries etc. As SOON as she calms, pay her attention and praise. Eventually, they get the hint.

4. Don’t make a big deal about leaving either. Here’s your Kong, here’s some lovely calming classical music on, a window to look out of and rooms blocked off for your safety-goodbye.

 We still don’t leave Zoe for more than 4 hours TOPS! And we are lucky that I get to bring her to work when warranted. But we know deep down, she’s just doing what her breed and it’s ancestors have done, they’ve stayed with the pack. Northern breeds are still the most pack-oriented of any domestic breed. It’s a breed trait, not defiance. Its how we, as owners react that will dictate the strength of this natural tendency.

 Lastly, we are on the waiting list with our breeder friends, and hope to have another AKK in our family very soon.

 Rochelle Mitchell-Miller lives in Northern Colorado and  is the proud mom to 3 humans and 2 fur-kids. She has participated in conformation since her Jr. handling days back in the early 80’s and has a passion for animal welfare.

Submitted by: Rochelle Miller 

Permission was granted to Rochelle to use the names and kennels for this article.

 

 

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