Dog Separation Training

When you adopt a dog, he has so many things you want him to learn such as eliminating outside or in the right place, being confined or on a leash and many other things.  But he also has to learn to tolerate separation.  And you must be the teacher.

In the wild, a dog never has to be alone. Unfortunately, when you choose your dog to be your house pet, he will abruptly experience separation when he leaves his litter mates and spends his first night in his new home, alone.  And, when his new family goes off to work or school, he is, again, left alone

No wonder there are so many behavior problems when dog training does not include separation training. 

dog training pug destroying shoe

So, as a dog owner, you need to help your dog adjust to being alone. This benefits both you and your dog by:

1)  helping him wean from you which both creates more devotion and less 


2)  helping him feel secure when you are gone from his sight.

3)  helping him be less anxious when you are gone from home, thus reducing possible

     behavior problems due to stress.

4)  teaching him how you expect him to behave when you are separate from him.

5)  helping him build up a tolerance to distractions so he can be a spectator instead of a  

      participant in all activities.

6)  helping prevent him from becoming possessive.

7)  providing the first step to overcoming any fears he might have.

Dog training that includes separation training also helps you establish leadership.  This is important because it will enable you to direct your dog, positively, to a safe place when might have guests over, when you are having dinner or when you just want to read or have quiet time.  So, dog training that includes separation training is a must for you. And for your dog, he will learn how you want him to behave as a domesticated pet living in your world.

Separation training, in part, requires confinement.  So, as a first step, you need to determine how well your dog can tolerate confinement.  Sometimes dogs are afraid of confinement and they are upset when you leave.  Some dogs have barrier frustration; some are afraid of noises and don’t like to be left alone because, if a loud noise startles them, you are not around to reassure them.  Sometimes dogs bark when they are in confinement and then they become dehydrated, thirsty and very stressed.

Separation problems can be avoided or they become a primary problem.  (For a fuller discussion of this area, see the section on Confinement.)  Be sure that your dog training includes training for separation.     

Karen’s knowledge, experience, use of her five-step model (See The Arnoff Model) and 30 years of client successes is why you’ll succeed with Cleveland Dog Training Classes (formerly the Dog-Owner Connection).

Socialization Is More Than Exposure

Proper socialization: an essential part of quality dog training

The kind of dog obedience training for socialization that results in a happy, well-adjusted dog involves much more than merely exposing a puppy to people and environments. Frequently, we at Cleveland Dog Training Classes hear that owners, often those with shy puppies, mistakenly try to socialize their dogs by taking them to dog parks, shopping centers, little league games or group obedience classes for exposure to other people and dogs.  But, in fact, strange people, cheering, jumping, barking and lunging dogs and maybe even with a tense owner, if not properly managed, can be overwhelming and negative.*

cleveland dog training girl with dog

Proper socialization

To avoid overwhelming a dog, Cleveland Dog Training Classes guides you to learn a proper dog training socialization process that includes three elements: 

  • gradual progression
  • positive exposure
  • appropriate timing. 

Gradual progression

When dog training to socialize a puppy, owners must introduce him to people and things in a way that won’t overwhelm him.  Cleveland Dog Training Classes teaches you that, at first, sounds must be soft, motions slow and people and things, few and distant.  In addition, we teach owners that they must be sensitive to their puppy’s feelings and behaviors to determine when it is time for louder, faster, closer and more.  These factors and the amount of stimulation should be changed one at a time and increased gradually. And they should only be changed after their dogs are relaxed and have no stress reactions at the current level. For example, a vacuum cleaner involves at least three variables that affect a dog:  the object, the noise, and the movement.  Cleveland Dog Training Classes teaches you to

  • introduce the puppy to the silent, still vacuum cleaner (object variable).
  • turn on the vacuum but don’t move it (noise variable). 
  • move the vacuum without turning it on (movement variable). 

When the puppy is at ease with each variable, combine them by turning on and moving the cleaner far from him.  Remember to keep the movement slow and the puppy distant at first; then gradually increase the speed and/or decrease the distance. 

Positive exposure

One way a puppy learns whether people and things are positive or negative is by “reading” facial expressions, body language, general demeanor, how big they are, do they stay still, and so on. Owners who want their puppy to approach new people and things with a positive attitude should also maintain a positive attitude .  A puppy learns not only by direct experience but what goes on around him as well.  So, people, like in the article,The Wellmeanings* must put Mr. Goodpuppy in situations where he can only succeed and receive praise. Owners must also protect their puppy from situations in which he’s  most certain to get himself into trouble and experience negatives, directly and/or indirectly . 

(You may enjoy reading about some unintentional mishaps in socialization such as those which occurred in the article, Mr. Goodpuppy’s Not So Silent Night and Mr Goodpuppy and the Well Meanings.)

Appropriate timing

In order to use gradual progression and positive exposure most effectively, it’s important to take first things first.  This means that owners should first introduce Mr. Goodpuppy to people and environments in which the stimulation can be greatly controlled before exposing him to less predictable and possibly overwhelming situations.

 For example, a puppy learns to trust people by first becoming comfortable with his primary family (the most controllable environment) and then being introduced to people who are willing and able to follow the proper socialization process (gradual progression and positive exposure).  The same timing used with people should also be used for environments.  First, owners should expose their puppies to the separate environments of their home (kitchen, family room, bedroom, etc.) and then other less-controlled but friendly environments (Grandma’s house, a dog-lover’s home, etc.).  Eventually, the puppy is ready to go anywhere and everywhere with the expectation that all environments will be safe and friendly.

By experiencing this process for socialization, a puppy will come to expect all people and places to be positive.  Should he then come across an occasional negative (chaotic kids, careless kicks, countless crashes, etc.), he is more likely to see these experiences as exceptions while still keeping his trusting and non-defensive disposition.

The happy ending

 Owners can successfully socialize their puppy by following these Cleveland Dog Training Classes’ teaching methods that, gradually and positively and taking first things first, introduces your dog to the people and things of the “human world.”  By doing this, “puppy parents” will be on the right track to shaping not only a well behaved dog, but also a well-adjusted one, the dog you’ll love to live with.  And, both the puppy and his people can look forward to enjoying many peaceful times together.                                                              

*For fun articles dealing with improper socialization, see  Mr. Goodpuppy’s Not So Silent Night and Mr. Goodpuppy and the Well Meanings

Karen’s knowledge, experience, use of her five-step model (See The Arnoff Model) and 30 years of client successes is why you’ll succeed with Cleveland Dog Training Classes (formerly the Dog-Owner Connection).

Understanding and Treating Dog Aggression

cleveland dog training biting

Routinely, Cleveland Dog Training Classes includes how to prevent dog aggression with appropriate dog training.  Often, however, I am called on by dog owners to deal with their dogs that have problems with aggression.  I prepared

this article to help dog owners and others better understand elements of dog aggression and to provide insight into dog training that includes anti aggression training.

Natural dog drives

Dog aggression comes from basically three genetic drives:  pack drive, prey drive or defense drive.  There are many types of aggression all of which are derived from these three drives.  It’s important to know what drive or drives a dog is in when he is being aggressive because aggression from each drive or a combination should be treated differently. 

In pack drive, dogs instinctively attach to a group and may only be there to reproduce.  When dogs are in their prey drive they desire to hunt and eat.  In their defense drive, dogs attempt to protect themselves, members of the pack or their ‘things’. 

To switch dogs out of their prey drive, I distract them through their defense drive.  To get dogs out of their defense drive, I  distract them through their prey drive.  To switch them to a more inferior position in the dog’s pack drive, I work with dog owners to establish leadership (not domination) in such a way that dogs feel they can predict the consequences of their behaviors and, if they follow their “leader,”  only good things will come of it.  If two or three drives are involved, I always start with leadership and put the dog’s prey drive on command.

I’ve categorized the drives into sub-categories of aggressive behaviors.  Some of the kinds of aggression that fall into the pack drive are: dominance, possessiveness, territoriality, protection, intra-species, competiveness and learned behaviors.

The kinds of aggression that fall under the prey drive are: play, reflexive, predatory, frustration and competitiveness. 

The defense drive category includes fear, defending prey or pack, maternal protection, and a group that, I believe, comes from irritability such as physiological disorders, pain and frustration.

As you can see, some of the drives overlap.  For example:

When a dog growls if you go near his food, he would be defending his prey. At the same time, it is also natural that he would share his food with his pack leader.  2) When a dog defends his home, he is in both pack drive and defense drive.  3) When people come near a mother dog with her litter of puppies, the dog can react from her defense drive, a maternal instinct to protect her puppies which are now part of her pack, or, she could react from irritability caused by physiological factors such as birthing and hormones.

  • How I treat dog aggression; a brief outline

To successfully treat an aggression case. I begin by having dog owners complete lengthy and detailed questionnaires I created from which I am able to:

  •  assess the dog’s natural drives
  • note situations in which a dog might show aggression
  • classify those situations and responses into the different drives. 

In my interviewing process I ask for a detailed description of each aggressive event, including a description of the bite*.  I also look at the environment to see how it may contribute to the aggression.  I, then analyze the data to figure out what triggers the dog’s aggression.

In order to develop a dog training treatment plan to reduce or eliminate dog aggression, I must also assess how much the family is motivated and is capable of learning how to follow the dog training treatment plan I design for them.

Serving as an expert in dog aggression cases

When I serve as a forensic expert involving dogs, I often have only the bite to start with.  As a result, I have to infer from the type of bite what drive the dog was in and whether or not he acted alone.  Understanding different types of bites lets me know the dog’s intention and drive.  I also interview the victim and others. (For a more detailed description on my forensic services see my page on Forensics.)

Karen’s knowledge, experience, use of her five-step model (See The Arnoff Model) and 30 years of client successes is why you’ll succeed with Cleveland Dog Training Classes (formerly the Dog-Owner Connection).

The Unexpected Bite

Karen Arnoff, dog behavior specialist with Cleveland Dog Training Classes warns about the “unexpected bite” and what dog obedience training to do to prevent them. 

By nature, dogs routinely use their mouths for sucking, chewing, exploring, carrying, playing, defending themselves, etc. They rely heavily on the use of their mouth and don’t know they shouldn’t use it to bite people. Most people hope that their adult dogs will have developed good habits regarding mouthing and biting.

cleveland dog training dog aggression biting

But hoping isn’t enough! Dog obedience training requires that owners must take responsibility for teaching their dogs how and when to use their mouths appropriately. They must also learn to recognize the early warning signs of a potential bite. They need to take action to prevent THE UNEXPECTED BITE.

Innate drives of dogs and how they use their mouths

Dogs may bite either intentionally or unintentionally. When dogs bite humans or another animal, they are in one or more of their three drives:

  • Pack
  • prey
  • defense drive

Why dogs bite:

  • dominance
  • possessiveness
  • protectiveness
  • maternal instinct
  • predatory reflex
  • fear
  • redirected anger or frustration. 

Dog bite warning signs:

Owners see, but may fail to be concerned about signs of defensiveness when their dog

  • freezes,
  • cowers, backs
  • runs away
  • growls, snarls (showing teeth)
  • snaps
  • bristles (hackles up)
  • becomes agitated
  • paces nervously or intermittently crouches as if about to attack

Because there is no bite when one or more of these signs are present, an owner may fail to recognize them as warnings. There may not be a bite, yet, because the dog is being introvertedly defensive or his threshold of tolerance to that particular situation is greater than his instinct to bite . . . for the moment.

The “Unexpected Bite” 

When a dog has a history of not biting, owners tend to believe he will never bite. His threshold of tolerance, however, may decreases as he:

  • grows older
  • becomes ill
  • experiences pain
  • reacts to medication
  • matures socially
  • reacts to a change in his environment
  • has a combination of any of these events

and his response may then change to the UNEXPECTED BITE.

Suppose a dog is uncomfortable in hot weather, around children, sudden motion and high-pitched noises. In the presence of only one of these triggers. he may not bite. If, however, on a hot day, a little child is playing near him and then suddenly darts through the sprinkler spray, and squeals with excitement, the dog’s stress level may immediately increase–and then he might react with —THE UNEXPECTED BITE.  Preventive dog training is required.

Or maybe a dog has a low threshold of tolerance to pain, fears being cornered and is also defensive about being grabbed. His defensive reactions could escalate quickly if, on the same day he gets a shot from the vet and he is hugged tightly (cornered and grabbed), once again there might be — THE UNEXPECTED BITE.  Preventive dog training is a must. 

These examples illustrate that it is not necessarily each individual stimulus that produces a bite. It can be caused by a complex of several stimuli. In both examples, the owner may be shocked, thinking, “he never bit anyone before” or “he’s never showed any signs that he would bite.” There is never a bite before the first bite without the ignored or unrecognized warning signs. Owners must learn that the signs of defensiveness are potentially serious and that preventive dog training is required in order to be more assured that the first bite never happens.

Anti-aggressiveness training 

Responsible dog owners will try to make sure their dogs don’t bite.  Cleveland Dog Training Classes helps owners learn how to recognize signs of dog aggression and how to instigate dog training that teaches your dog not to be aggressive.  A major part of this for you, the dog owner, to establish leadership (not domination) and proactively build your dog’s confidence and reduce defensiveness around domestic stimuli. Ideally, anti-aggressiveness training would be routine for all dog owners.

When to seek help

If a dog shows any defensive behavior or overt aggression, a diagnostic session should be done by a qualified dog behaviorist as soon as possible to determine:

·        the dog’s genetic predisposition

·        the contributing environmental factors

·        any physical factors that are contributing to the defensiveness

·        which drive the dog was in (Treatment is different for each drive,)

If a dog has already bitten, too many dog trainers or other dog professionals recommend euthanasia or re-homing. But these may not be the only solutions.  With competent dog behavior counseling, many dogs that have bitten can be and have been retrained to use their mouths appropriately in a domestic setting. 

Working toward a happy ending

For all dogs, prevention, of course, is the best policy.  However, when there is an unexpected bite there is hope.

With an accurate diagnosis, and a comprehensive treatment program including: humans establishing a kind, superior and trusting relationship with their dog;

  • teaching their dog self-control (rather than stopping at just controlling their dog;
  • creating associations whereby their dog views all potentially defense-producing situations as positive and non-threatening

many dogs may be able to stay with their families. And dog owners will greatly reduce the possibility of their loved ones, or anyone, becoming a victim of THE UNEXPECTED BITE.

Karen’s knowledge, experience, use of her five-step model (See The Arnoff Model) and 30 years of client successes is why you’ll succeed with Cleveland Dog Training Classes (formerly the Dog-Owner Connection).

For more information or to make an appointment, call Cleveland Dog Training Classes at 440-349-5022.

©1995. Karen Arnoff. Revised ©2018