[Dear Annie]

To celebrate 1994 as the Year of the Dog, Director and volunteer dog walker, Lucie Tomson, has asked her dog, Annie, to help out with canine concerns. Annie, a border collie, does her best to help her fellow dogs with their questions.

Annie's picture Dear Annie:
I have a problem. When I was just a puppy, I would get nervous when my mommy left me alone, so I would chew stuff. I think this is okay, because when my mom gets nervous, she also likes to chew stuff like chocolate and chips. Anyways, even when I greet her at the door, all waggy tail and smiling, she gets mad at me. I'm really confused. I do not know what I'm doing wrong. Now I'm always nervous when she leaves because I always get into trouble when she gets home. What do I do???

Dear Nellie:
I've heard your story many times before. There is nothing you are doing wrong. Both you and your owner have not yet connected a few things. When you were left alone as a puppy in a great big strange house, you became nervous and experienced what is called separation anxiety. It is common for dogs to chew things when they are anxious.

You would have been better off left in your crate with a few toys while your owner stepped outside for just a few minutes. Then your owner should have returned and let you out (if you were not crying) and done this again, all the time increasing the time you were left alone. Then you would have got the message that when she leaves, she will return. Being in your crate would make you feel safe and not scared rambling around alone in that big house. Even if you became a bit nervous, there is nothing in there to chew but your squeaky toys. They are so much fun, you would have forgotten your troubles in no time.

What you did not -- and could never -- realize is that she was not mad at you for wagging your tail and being cute, but because you chewed her stuff. What your owner does not understand is that it is absolutely useless to reprimand a dog unless you catch them in the act. A sharp "No!" and a loud clap of her hands would have stopped you chewing. A big hug and being given a toy to chew would have eventually told you what was wrong and what was right to chew.

All your owner can do now that you have grown up is to leave you in a proper-sized crate (provided that you are crate trained) with some of your favourite things, and gradually build up your time left alone. If your owner ever lets you out of the crate while you are whining, you'll soon learn that whining will get you out of it. You do not want that because whining brings out the nasties in those owners. Tell your owner not to make a fuss over you when she comes or goes. This will make leaving a less stressful time for you.

It will probably take you awhile to relax, since you feel that every time she leaves, you are going to get into trouble. If she takes the time to gradually get you used to being alone, you will relax and be truly happy to see her come back home from work.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

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