What are pre-departure cues and do I need to avoid them during separation anxiety dog training?

separation anxiety dog training pre departure cuesPre-departure cues, aka PDQs, are anything that may signal to your dog that an absence is coming and they are going to be home alone. These can be things that happen before you walk out the door, such as picking up keys, or things that happen after you leave the house, like driving away in a car.

The first thing you should do is to make a list of things that your dog may notice when you leave that could be potential triggers and whether these cues are avoidable or not during the training session. Think about everything that you do prior to leaving. Something that may seem insignificant to you, like checking the stove to ensure you haven’t left the oven on, may not be insignificant to your dog.

Common Dog Separation Anxiety Training Pre-Departure Cues

Here is a list of some of the more common pre-departure cues:

departure cue list for separation anxiety dog training

Sample List of Pre-Departure Cues

  • Keys
  • Shoes
  • Pocketbook
  • Showering
  • Locking Door
  • Starting up Car

Maybe putting shoes on can be avoided by leaving them outside the door or putting them on hours before you are planning on leaving. Additionally, at the onset of training, you may be only going into the hallway or backyard, so locking your door or taking your keys aren’t initially a priority. As you get up to longer and longer durations, though, you may have the need to lock your door. For each person and dog, these cues will vary. Taking a shower may not have any effect on one dog. However, this may immediately trigger another dog.

Adding in Pre-Departure Cues in Separation Anxiety Dog Training

When starting separation anxiety training with your dog, it’s recommended that you try to build up duration leaving before adding in any pre-departure cue that is avoidable. After building duration, add the next most important cue into the training plan. As you add a cue in, the absence will become more difficult for your dog. You should drop the departure time down to a lower duration to start with the new cue added.

The goal of training is always for our dogs to be successful. It is better to drop the time down and leave for 5 minutes with an added cue than to have our dog get over threshold by leaving for 15 minutes, which our dog had done in the past without the cue.

Having trouble incorporating departure cues into your separation anxiety training?  Get in touch to schedule a 15 minute zoom call or phone call to discuss your dogs training and next steps.

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