You’ve probably heard of this one – the old ‘no petting, no talking, no eye contact’ upon entering and leaving the home strategy. This is not something I do all the time (depends on the personality of the dog), but when I first started working with animals, I couldn’t bring myself to do it at all. It seemed kind of mean. Over time, I tried it with some of my most anxious clients and found that within a few minutes, most dogs that struggle with anxiety are visibly comfortable and relaxed. Of course, it’s not for every dog, but if you think it may help your anxious pooch, it’s worth a try. You’re just gently showing your companion that you’re calm and relaxed and that helps them to feel calm too.
You might find the whole ‘ignore your dog’ routine rather off putting at first. We like to think that dogs are people, but really, they’re dogs. It’s easy to impose our human perspective onto our furry companions, but when we do, we’re not seeing them for the full, gorgeous beings that they are. Our mistake is understandable. I mean, if I walked into a room and someone ignored me for a few minutes before they said hello, I’d think they were pretty rude. Dogs, not so much. You’re just showing them that leaving the house and arriving home are no big deal and that all is well. A minute or two before you leave and when you get home (give or take, depending on your companion) can make a world of difference for an anxious dog.
As an added bonus, this can be a beautiful way to greet dogs when meeting them for the first time. Sometimes it even works for dogs that have a tendency to jump up on people. A friend of mine has a super adorable (and very hyper) dog that loves to jump on people as she greets them. She’s a teen and you know how super excited they can be. When I started with the whole ‘I don’t see you’ routine, her behaviour changed drastically. Within 5 minutes she would become calm, relaxed and a delight to be around.
If you’re thinking about giving this technique a try, I would love to hear from you. Let me know how it went!