Question about separation anxiety training

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sourced from: https://www.reddit.com/r/Dogtraining/comments/8w6qiu/question_about_separation_anxiety_training/

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Hello! I have asked this question to our trainer and am waiting for his response, but I’d be interested to see if I can hear experiences on this sub. My question is about identifying the anxiety threshold during separation anxiety training. If you need more info, please ask. Thank you!

So, we have a 7-8mo pitt/hound mix with moderate/severe separation anxiety and some general anxiety. We adopted him 5ish weeks ago from a rescue. While he is a friendly, chill dog in the presence of humans (we get comments on how sweet he is constantly), he barks for the entire time he is left alone, with anxiety symptoms beginning before we walk out the door. He has jumped over gates, but strangely, he has never broken out of crate or torn anything apart (but admittedly it’s been a while since he was left alone.) He is also a Velcro dog, but will often venture outside the room and snooze on the couch (with occasional check-ins) or play with his ball on the stairs. Currently he is never left alone.

We finally started him on 20mg of Prozac this morning. As for training, our trainer has instructed us to give him puzzle toys all throughout the day to reinforce those as a coping mechanism. We’re also starting the standard short absences. Our set up is such that he is blocked to a small room (maybe 150sq ft or a bit larger) where he is able to see the door from which we leave.

Our standard protocol over the past day has been:

wait until he is calm

give him a stuffed Kong if he does not have one he’s already working on

let him get interested in the food

walk calmly to the door, shut it, count to 2-5

open door and walk calmly back in

wait until he settles (usually a couple of mins) and then repeat

continue repetitions throughout the day. Today we have done maybe 25, with varying combinations of one or both of us humans leaving

clarification: we don’t always use the gate to block him from the door, we are experimenting with both the gate and without.

Results:

clarification: we don’t always use the gate to block him from the door, we are experimenting with both sigh and without.

~90% of the time, dog gets up immediately and follows us to the door

dog waits at the door the entire time, but doesn’t bark or whine until maybe about 30 seconds go by (we tried adding a bit more time on, but usually stick to 2-5 seconds before any whining starts)

~5% of the time, dog looks up from food when we leave, but does not move from food. One time last week, he did this for 5 min, absolutely stunning me.

~5% of the time, dog jumps on the door the second it is closed

maybe one time, dog came to door, but then went back to food

My question:

What is his threshold? Is it when he starts whining or when he stops working on his treat and coming to the door? If it’s the latter, how do we work him up to not getting up when we even walk towards the door? It is my understanding that any signs of anxiety are bad to subject them to during training, so if we are doing that by just shutting the door, how do we even start the training?

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