So Long! Farewell! Auf Wiedersehen! Adieu!

The Art of (not) Saying Goodbye…

My family & I are pretty big on greetings, expressing love, condolences, happiness and celebrations. In fact, I grew up with my fabulously crazy Mom often taking the opportunity at night times to perform the “So Long!” song that the Von Trapp family children perform in The Sound of Music. I would go to bed giggling at her rendition as she always managed to do the whole thing, growing smaller and more animated as the song went. I found this less amusing when she would do it in my teen years when I had sleepovers, but now giggle once again at her silly antics all to amuse (or embarrass!) her daughter and friends.

{Thanks to super stringent copyright issues I couldn’t find a video for the song to embed, but do yourself a favour and watch the Von Trapp kids perform by clicking here: So Long, Farewell from Iain Gall on Vimeo.}

The Von Trapp Children

The Von Trapp Children

So you can imagine how difficult it was to hear from the Behaviourist that under no circumstances am I to make a scene when leaving, or coming back to the house. No petting, no “love you, see you later”‘s, no belly rubs or happy dances to announce my comings and goings. This was gonna be a hard one to get used to.

This technique is to guard against contributing to potential separation anxiety, and over stimulation and excitement behaviours (inappropriate barking, jumping etc). This is a widely accepted method to combat these dog issues, and when you sit down and think about it, it does make sense (though at first I was adamant that it was counterintiutive – I mean, wouldn’t it be better for the dog to have a signal for when it’s time to prepare to be alone, or celebrate when you’re home?).

We adjusted to the new No Greeting policy pretty well, and I must admit that the changes in Phoebe and her anxiety at my being gone diminished almost immediately. There wasn’t the crying and yelping when I left, and Phoebe no longer barks at me and lunges as I park the car and try to get into the house. In fact, she knows that the calmer she is, the sooner she’s likely to get that much sought-after belly rub!

Here’s what our coming and going routine generally looks like:

Mornings (the last 10 minutes): Greet Phoebe with a tummy rub & tell her to have a good day without singing for the neighbours, make sure all Phoebe’s food, toys and treats are ready, brush my teeth, pick up my laptop, put on house alarm, rush to Phoebe’s “day room”, Wait for Phoebe to sit, put her breakfast bowl down, scatter treats and toys around the yard, get in the car and off to work while Phoebe enjoys her breakfast.

This is a very precise operation!

Afternoons/Evenings: Park car, say quiet Hello to Phoebe, unpack bags from boot of car, ignore Phoebe trying to get my attention, unlock house, switch off alarm, wait for Phoebe to sit or lie down calmly. Give belly rubs! If she’s still excited, I carry on ignoring her till she calms down (doesn’t happen as often anymore luckily), put on the kettle, have a cup of coffee and fetch the remnants of Phoebe’s treats and toys in the garden, Get out Phoebe’s leash for her walk – NOW she can get excited! 🙂

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Separation Anxiety

Tool(s) Used: Low key greetings

Cost: Low

Ease of Implementation: Easy

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 4/5. This helps to keep Phoebe much calmer and less stressed when it comes time for me to leave. As per my neighbours’ feedback, she’s still howling and crying for much of the day, but at least she’s ok during what used to be her most difficult times – the actual act of me leaving and arriving.

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