Separation Anxiety

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This is something many husky owners talk about. I think at least once a day I see a picture of some part of a person’s house destroyed, a crate destroyed, or tales of possible eviction due to howling.

There are a lot of ideas and articles on how to fix this. As of yet I haven’t seen one on how to prevent it in the first place. Logic would say you have to know what causes it in order to fix it.

Keep in mind I don’t pretend I have all the answers, but I can give you a look into my own life with huskies. I might have stumbled on to the answer, or at least one that explains my dogs. Then you can compare it to your situation and see if it might help.

I’ve never had this problem before that some experience. But recently that started to change, and I had to look back and see why. This is long but you need to see the whole story in order to understand my reasoning.

My wife and her mom took a trip a few weeks back and that left me in charge of the dogs and cats for 10 days. Typically, my wife looks after the huskies during the day while she works on the computer from home. I drive into D.C. to put in my time and then look after the dogs when I get home.

Clue number 1: Until this trip the huskies never had 24-hour connection with either one of us. Their typical day is split between us. Mom during the day and me at night.

The huskies sleep in the basement with me in the summer when it’s too hot outside. I originally started to stay with them to make sure they didn’t eat the house. They never did, and I sort of got used to spending that time with them.

During the week when my alarm goes off I get up and tell them, “Time for work.” Then I run them out the back door and take my shower etc. I wanted my first cup of coffee in silence but that wasn’t to be unless I gave soup bones to them.

This bribe allowed me to wake up in peace, and let my wife sleep who has later hours than me. Forgetting the bone means a very loud squawk outside from Nikki to remind me. Loud enough to wake the dead I might add.

In order to keep my morning ritual nice and peaceful I ran downstairs cussing… but pay the bribe to the queen. This allows me time to finish my coffee and head off to work. Second shift (my wife) will have to deal with it after I’m gone.

On the weekends, I don’t tell them “Work” and we all sleep in. For a long time, this system seemed to work very well.

Now we come to the 10 days of me with them all the time.

I began to notice changes by day 3. Previously the dogs slept on the floor or in their beds. Day 3 Nikki decides to jump on the bed with me and I let her. She doesn’t stay long because she gets too warm. So, we sleep in and I mess with them all day and night. We walk, and we do bike runs and pretty much we are all together all the time.

Clue number 2:

The behavior of my huskies keeps changing. This new pack dynamic allows them to attach themselves emotionally to me even more than ever. In a few days Cooper (Mr. Aloof) even spends some bed time with me.

Nikki is beginning to squawk even if I just go to the garage for a few minutes. She is attaching herself to me so much that I have to be in eyesight to keep her happy. I don’t mind the attention but I didn’t stop to think about what would happen when we returned to the old schedule.

Mistake 1: Paying tribute to keep Nikki quiet is doing just the opposite of what I want. I’m teaching her that squawking is going to get her a treat. I’m actually teaching her to squawk more not less. I’m reminded of being a new parent. Every time my daughter would cry we would run to the crib and see what was wrong. Most of the time nothing was wrong and in fact we were being trained by a newborn.

Eventually we were so tired that we didn’t get up and actually could tell the type of crying. The needy cry went unanswered and low and behold it gradually stopped. The first night we all slept through a whole night was like winning the lottery!

Dogs are creatures of habit just like us. They learn a routine, and they have atomic clocks inside their heads to wake them. To this day there is a 2-3 AM potty break that I’m woken up for.

On the other end of the spectrum when the sun goes down its time for sleep. The dogs are used to me going to bed early because I get up so early. When the sun goes down they are ready for bed just like me.

So here we are after this 10 days and we switch back to the old schedule. Nikki doesn’t like the fact that she can’t spend all day with me doing fun things. Cooper even though not as affected shows similar signs of missing all our time together.

Conclusion: By spending too much time with them they have become needy. They don’t like the fact that I’m not here all the time. They show it in non-destructive ways but annoying just the same. Squawking and Roo-Rooing at 4:30 AM does not make good neighbors.

Solution: Gradually I’ve ignored the squawking. I don’t come running every time there is a disturbance in the force. Let serenity be broken… so that they learn I’m not as well-trained as they thought.

If the age-old rule, “All things in moderation.”  It also holds true for these dogs. You cannot fawn over them 24 hours a day during puppy hood, and then suddenly disappear without some kind of repercussion.

I think Cooper is more laid back because when he was a puppy I had him sleep alone on our deck at night. He may not have liked it so much but it certainly did not hurt him. He had time to learn to be alone, and time to be a dog…not my little baby boy.

Nikki as a puppy slept on the bed with us. To this day she is more attached and needy. Is this a golden rule? No, because it could be she is a female, and Cooper a male. It could even be their unique personalities. There is not enough data to make a call, but this is how it is with my dogs.

Working sled dogs sleep in a kennel. A post and chain and dog house is their home. They grew up that way and they don’t mind. It also makes them want to get out and run when they are unhooked. I’m not here to debate whether you think that is right or wrong. It’s a fact, they are working dogs and that’s what they do.

They are not house pets and they don’t know any difference. To them its normal and they are fine with it. They are dogs not people, and they don’t look at the world like we do. They don’t think in terms of fair or not. If their needs are met (Food, shelter, exercise, love) they are happy.

My Conclusion: We create separation anxiety, or we inherit it from a rescue dog. To fix it means to slowly adjust the dog back to a happy balance between our world and theirs. The dog has to learn to be alone at times, and it has to accept that it will not be fawned over constantly. Don’t fall into the trap of bribing them like I did.

They have to have time to be a dog, and be with other dogs. How you do this depends on your dog and how you live. I gave you the clues and you have to find the answer that works in your own pack. There is no easy quick fix way to do it. They need to be weaned off of the constant attention they have. For that is what caused the problem in the first place.

For me, I’ve let Nikki squawk more and soon she gives up. We still have quality time, we run the bike, and I groom them and they sleep with me. But, I’ve cut back on responding to every whim they have. It seems to be working. I keep them tired with running and that helps as well.

Sometimes you have to let the baby cry if nothing else seems wrong.

Exercise, distractions with toys, even being tied outside can help. An active mind needs to be stimulated in some way to keep from going insane. The husky has an active mind, find a way to keep it busy while you are gone.

TJ

I have a husky puppy…now what?

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My dog Mr. Cooper at 9 weeks old.

To live and learn, that is the message today. Remember when you were a teen? The whole world was out there and you wanted to figure it out. You might have made some bad choices, or good ones. You needed a role model if you will to help you figure out what is right and what is wrong.

The same goes for a husky except you are the role model.

That is called learning about life. It is also what a puppy does in those first few months of his or her life. Good and bad are stamped upon their little brains. They grow so fast, not only physically but mentally that first year.

Begin training as soon as you can. At 8 Weeks old a husky can do more than what you might think. They are not frail by any means.

Remember that they are learning and growing approximately 7 years in our time during their first year. You have an open book to mold them into your life. Don’t waste it because they seem sweet. That will change when the equivalent teen years arrive.

What you get in the end will be a product of the work you put in that first year. You will work hard but the rewards will be equal to what you give.

Cooper and I walked and estimated 1000 miles together his first year. And to this day he is the best dog I have as far as following commands and taking his job seriously. On a walk or on a bike he is all business and that is because I worked with him.

He is well-rounded and socialized, and I think it is because I spent so much time and did the work. You have to work hard to get the results you want. The husky is not a robot, they require your time and knowledge.

When you take on the responsibility of husky ownership, it comes with a long list of things you need to do, and more importantly “LEARN.”

How can you teach if you don’t know your subject?

First you have to learn the breed, for without that you are lost. Study the history, study how they came to be and why they do certain common husky things. If you don’t know that, you can’t help but be behind and left guessing.

Husky groups are great for asking questions. But keep in mind not all huskies are the same. They are a product of the unique environment they live in. Some live in apartments, some on farms, some in Alaska.

Some only are only working dogs, some are pets, some are both. Do not judge someone when you have not walked in their shoes or live in their home!

Offer your advice and let them decide what is best for them.
And for those of you seeking advice, use your knowledge of your own dog to decide what is best.

It’s your dog and your family. You are his/her leader. It’s up to you to do the best you can… no matter what anyone else tells you.

TJ

What’s in a Name?

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What’s in a name?

In this case there is a lot of history in the Poland Spring Kennels name. Jump on over to our web site and read to your hearts content. We look forward to this next chapter in the lives of these amazing animals.http://www.polandspringseppalas.com/3.html

 

Huskies are not for everyone.

 

Learn about the breed before you take on one of these dogs.  Don’t just buy one because they are beautiful. Instead of wondering if a husky is good enough for you, you should be asking yourself if you are good enough for a husky. They are counting on it.

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“I hope I have a good life.
The world is a scary place right now.
I don’t get to pick my family; they get to pick me.
I don’t know where I am going, or what my new home will be like.

I hope my new family will understand me.
I can be the best dog in the world… if they teach me with kindness, and remember that I will always be a Husky.
I have so much to learn, and such a short time to do it.

I hope they will love me even when I make mistakes.
I hope I won’t be forgotten and tossed away.
No matter who picks me, I will give them all my love.
My love is forever; I hope my new family feels the same way?

I hope I have a good life.”

The Siberian Husky

150 Miles in the books

Cooper and Nikki started pulling this 240 lbs of me and the TerraTrike in March. It’s been a really hot summer. Too hot for much running but this morning we made it to a total of 150 miles. The miles will pile on as it gets colder.

TJ

Masters of the Trail

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For thousands of years, we lived up north,
in the lands of Ice and snow.
Living in the freezing cold,
where other’s fear to go.

We share a common bond with man,
that bond will never die.
It was forged upon this frozen land,
when we struggled to survive.

I’ll lead you through the darkest night,
and across the harshest lands.
We know you’ll keep us safe at night,
and feed us when you can.

Our hearts are true and given to,
those that understand.
The perfect bond between,
the husky and the Man.

Our bones are scattered along the trail,
as we blazed a path for you.
We lived, we died, we gave our all,
for that’s what Huskies do.

The storm is fierce, in dark of night,
the winds a blowing gale.
We will lead you home again,
the Masters of the trail.

Todd M. Johnson 2016

 

Resource Guarding

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I spend a lot of time trying to understand why my huskies do just about everything. Some things are easy and then the answer to some behaviors is baffling. Many times it takes several days to put the answer together by eliminating what you do know.

Nikki and Sammie had this fight over a treat, but before that it was brewing anyway. I think part of it is a dominance debate, and part of it is a learned behavior. The dominance behavior is easy to understand as Huskies have a hierarchical pack structure.

Everyone has their place. Someone leads, and the rest follow and that makes sense to me. It’s the way it has been with them for thousands of years. In our case I think it is more than that.

The problem is Nikki and Sammie are both guilty of resource guarding. Now this does not affect us humans as they have never acted aggressive to us over food, toys, or treats. I can reach down and pick up Nikki’s favorite guarded toy and she shows no sign of aggression at all. Same with Sammie so that is a good thing or we would really have problems.

So, I’m sitting around wondering about this one night and it occurs to me that Nikki is small for a husky. I started to wonder if maybe she had to battle for food as a puppy, and maybe was kicked out-of-the-way by bigger siblings during nursing.

I’ve known real children that hoard food because they rarely had food to eat and it left a life long-lasting impression on them. The idea had real possibilities until I remembered seeing all of her siblings at the same time. They were all more or less the same size so I don’t think she was a runt grubbing for a teat.

The answer was right in front of me the whole time. Sammie taught that behavior to Nikki as she grew up. You see Sammie has always kept treats and dared any other dog to take it from her. She would not eat them just keep them in some sort of game. Not a problem until Nikki grew up.

Now where Sammie learned this habit from I have no idea. I got her as a puppy as well as Nikki. It never seemed to have been a problem until Nikki came into her own.

Nikki is the first dog that was willing to fight for it. I believe the combination of learned resource guarding and the urge to move as high in the pack combined… brought it to a head.

Here you have a multiple dog thing to watch out for. A bad habit from one of your other dogs can be learned by your new puppy. It never even occurred to me to watch out for this. Something a puppy learns in that first year is much harder to fix. It becomes part of them, and may never go away.

I have yet to figure out the solution. The obvious choice is to keep them separated during treat and food times. If they don’t eat it…pick it up and don’t give it back. This should teach them they only have one chance to eat it. Better not save it or you miss out.

That is going to be my course of action and see if I can break Sammie of this bad habit as well. If you have any experience with this problem, please speak up. You never stop learning with huskies, and as soon as you think you have it all figured out….wham!

I try to share with you things I’ve learned or am still learning. It should go into the husky file in your head. It might come in handy someday.

Understanding these dogs is a combination of many things, that when mixed together give you an overall picture of what the breed really is. There are variances in each dog but an overall knowledge base can help you in your journey.

TJ

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