I Solved My Dog's Severe Separation Anxiety with a Dummy Prop Doll
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Dealing with a dog that has separation anxiety can be heart wrenching. As a dog parent, it's natural to feel helpless when you know your pup suffers while you're away, and you may feel like you've tried everything to ease their anxiety. Well, let me tell you, I've been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt – only to have my pup, Charlotte, chew it to shreds while I was gone. For eight years, I tried everything under the sun to ease Charlotte's anxiety. I left the TV on, gave her treats and Kongs, pheromone collars, calming supplements, thunder shirts. I tried all the medications my vet would prescribe - Zoloft, Prozac, Trazodone, and Clonidine. I even enlisted the help of a separation anxiety specialist who guided me through intensive counterconditioning training – nothing worked. So to avoid coming home to a hoarse dog with drool down her chest, bloodied paws, and a damaged doorframe, Charlotte had 7 babysitters I shuffled through any and every time I had to leave the house.
All until I discovered the magic of a $100 dummy prop doll from Spirit Halloween – my new best friend, Kim! I dressed her up in my clothes and treated her like a real human for a full day before leaving her alone with Charlotte. And guess what? It worked.
I can't take credit for this genius idea. A guy named Marc shared a similar story about his mannequin friend, Farc (fake Marc), who helped soothe his Pug's separation anxiety. I owe many thanks to Mark for sharing, but I was shocked that this idea had not yet come up in my extensive separation anxiety research. So, I took the plunge and bought myself a mannequin.
I dressed Kim in the loungewear I wore the day before and spent a whole day treating her like a real person, talking to her, hugging her, you name it. Then, I left her with Charlotte and crossed my fingers.
I could not. Believe. My eyes.
I watched Charlotte from a Wyze camera.* Seconds after I left, she jumped right up next to Kim and got cozy. And slept there with her - for 30 whole minutes! For a dog who had never spent more than 30 seconds alone without going into full panic mode, this was a miracle.
We are still early in the experiment, but these early signs of success have given me more hope than I've had in eight years. I hugged Kim every time I passed by her in the beginning so that Charlotte would think she was real. Now I hug Kim because I might actually love her.
Here's exactly what I did: 1. I ordered this dummy prop doll from Spirit Halloween.* I think this one worked for me because it has a face and because its body is bendy, so it can sit like a person on the couch. Some I saw don't have faces and a true plastic mannequin wouldn't be able to sit or be very comfy to snuggle up against. 2. I gave her a name, dressed her up in my recently worn clothes, and sprayed my perfume on her. I gave Kim a blonde wig because blondes have more fun 🤪 But use whatever you have on hand! Not sure if it matters, but I did this without Charlotte present. 3. I introduced Kim in the same way I would introduce any visitor to Charlotte. I held her up and let Charlotte sniff and greet her. Then I sat Kim on the couch and engaged with her. 4. I talked, hugged, and engaged with Kim as often as I was in the same room. I treated her as I would a guest hanging on my couch. It felt bizarre at first, but I think this was crucial in Charlotte treating her as a human.
5. When Charlotte showed signs of being comfortable with Kim (sitting next to her without my prompting, wagging her tail when she saw her), I tested it out. I gave Charlotte (and Kim!) a goodbye smooch and I walked out the door. I sat in my car and watched her through my Wyze camera.* And viola. There she sat with Kim for 30 minutes, the very first time I left her. When you try it out, I'd recommend starting slow and if your pup starts to panic, it may have been too soon so you should come back immediately and continue engaging with your Kim before trying again. A few things to keep in mind - my dog technically has isolation anxiety rather than true separation anxiety. She is fine as long as she if left with any human person, it doesn't have to be me. I don't know if this would work with a separation anxiety case where the dog is attached to one person and must always be with that one person. Also, Charlotte is very friendly with people. This may not work if that is not the case for your dog. Of course, results may vary just like with any and every other solution you have probably already tried. But I'm so excited to share this because in my countless separation anxiety research hours, this crazy idea has been the only one to work.
So there you have it, folks - the power of a dummy doll named Kim. Who knew that a lifeless piece of plastic could change my life?