Separation Anxiety


Here is Juno holding three of her favorite toys very close. Two of these had to be bought in the States because Juno will tear through any locally bought toy in about 20 seconds. Having good toys keeps Juno from ripping up our apartment, so it is worth the extra expense.

While Juno is very good at playing only with her toys when we are home, the second one of us leaves she does something bad. This can often be innocuous, such as going into the bathroom or bedroom (where she isn’t allowed) and pulling an item out (such as a sock or some dental floss from the waste bin), but if we go away for a long time it can sometimes result in the destruction of a valued object such as a pair of nice shoes, or a yoga prop, etc. She behaves differently depending on the level of the infraction. With the minor ones she acts almost proud, prancing around playfully. With the major infractions she cowers under the table and hangs her head low.

I know the dog books we have been reading emphasize that you shouldn’t anthropomorphise dog behavior, attributing intent when it isn’t there. However, it seems hard to deny that Juno knows she is violating a rule, even doing so intentionally. At the same time, for exactly this reason, punishment doesn’t seem to make much sense. If the point of her bad behavior is to violate the rules, punishing her is almost a kind of reward!

So what to do? Well, first we have to understand what is going on. Looking around on the web it seems that this behavior is well known and is referred to as “separation anxiety.” It often happens in dogs who’ve been abused as a puppy or had lots of owners (both of which are true for Juno). It seems the best remedy is to train her to be alone. This means leaving her alone for increasingly long periods of time until she can be alone for at least 90 minutes by herself. It is also important not to act like anything special has happened when you return home (even though Juno is jumping up and down as if she hadn’t seen you in ages).

It sounds like a lot of work, but I feel fairly confident it will work. Such positive training method tips have worked well for us since we started training Juno six weeks ago. Using the “clicker training” we have already trained Juno in a number of difficult to learn behaviors. For instance, she can now do “stay” for over two minutes even if we are very far away (but not yet when we are hidden from sight). She is also quickly learning to “heel”. I do sometimes have to yell at her, but I only do so once she already knows the correct behavior. Mostly the yelling seems to just focus her attention back on me and away from whatever distraction she was occupied with. The books recommend training the dog the positive command “look,” which is probably a better way to accomplish this goal.

I think positive training is the right way to go, and I just bought a number of additional books on the subject so I can better understand how it works. I would also like to get Chinese translations of some of these books, as I can hear some of my neighbors dogs whimpering when they are beaten on a regular basis. I spoke to one student about it, but I’m not sure they believed me when I said that hitting the dog was counterproductive.


Juno went into heat last week, and with so many stray dogs around, we thought it best to have her spayed right away. We have a very good vet whose wife is actually a graduate student in our department. You can see their blog here, full of pictures of all the goats and pigs (as well as dogs and cats) who come in to their clinic.

We were worried at first because we were told that Juno would feel better the next day, but she hardly ate anything for three days and seemed to still be feeling unwell two days after the operation. But on Monday morning she jumped up as if nothing had ever been wrong and was hungry, playful, and seemed genuinely happy not to be feeling unwell anymore – almost dancing.

The stitches and cone come out Friday.


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Thursday Dog Blogging

I honestly don’t know if I’ll be blogging about Juno every Thursday, but since she takes up so much of my blogging time I figure I might as well share some of these photos. Juno’s a fast learner and she’s quickly becoming much more manageable. Of course, when another dog is around that all goes out the window, but there is definite improvement.

I have to admit, taking a hike by the lake in the morning sure beats scanning Google Reader for the latest news.

Dog descending a staircase.

Juno’s favorite new toy.

She regularly gets stuck under the bed trying to fish the ball out.

There are way too many stray dogs around. That’s one reason why we go all the way up into the mountains for our walks. Now she’s going into heat for the first time, so we had better keep an eye on her over the next few weeks – and get her spayed as soon as possible. Its going to be a nightmare keeping these guys away from her!


Mountain Air

As I said in my last post, owning a dog has gotten me out and about a bit more. That and the fantastic weather we’ve had the last few days. There is a mountain path right behind the house, and from here you can see a panorama of the entire valley surrounding Hualien city, with the Central Mountain Range on the left, and the Pacific Ocean and Costal Mountain Range off in the distance. I like taking Juno on this path because even though it is well maintained, nobody else seems to use it! I’ve also included a more recent picture of the dog – a few months older than she was in the last one I posted.

Hualien Panorama

Juno in the shade


In the Simpsons episode about Mojo, the helper monkey, Homer’s lifestyle slowly ruins the monkey’s health.

helper monkey

When a colleague asked if I would take over ownership of his 8 month old golden retriever, Juno, I was worried that the same thing would happen to her. While I’ve always gotten a minimal amount of exercise on a regular basis, I’m not exactly what you’d call “the athletic type,” and I certainly don’t have 1/10th the energy of a young golden retriever!

Fortunately, rather than Juno staring at a computer screen blogging all day, it is I who find myself going on morning walks in the mountains behind my house – something Shashwati points out we didn’t do once all last year! They say pet owners live longer, healthier lives, and more frequent exercise may be one important reason. (This won’t help Taiwanese however, as they seem to walk their dogs by driving their scooters!)


In future posts I will write a bit about training Juno, as well as some of the unique challenges to raising a dog in Taiwan.