Dog Afraid of the Kitchen

This Question Came in Over Email:

Hi Chad,

Our 2 year old Havanese has always loved the kitchen and his food and bed are in there. For some reason, he has developed an aversion to the kitchen and now will not enter it, even for a treat! We have no idea why all of a sudden this has occurred. We do leave him in the kitchen when we go out, but that is not very often and it is a fairly large kitchen and we have done it for 2 years and all has been fine. Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Here is My Response Back:

Hi,

I’m guessing either something negative happened while the dog was in the kitchen, such as a loud noise, or the kitchen has become associated with being left alone. If I was doing a session with you I would do a little behavioral “detective work.” I don’t have much to go on here but something must have created a negative association with the kitchen. Regardless of what started it, you will need to do some sort of counter-conditioning to fix it. Here are a couple of ideas:

One possible remedy would be putting the dog in the kitchen with something special to eat or chew on when you are home. “Something special” means something the dog really enjoys but doesn’t get regularly such as a fresh beef bone or a Kong toy stuffed with something super tasty. The idea is to create a positive association with being in the kitchen that is not connected with your leaving the house. You may need to stay in the kitchen with the dog at first and then practice stepping out of the kitchen but not leaving the house.

I’m guessing there may be a bit of separation anxiety going on here as well. Kind of odd that it would happen after two years though, so I really don't know for sure. You could easily test that theory by leaving the house without putting the dog in the kitchen. If the dog seems stressed then you know it’s about being left behind and not just about the kitchen.

I wrote a short book called Separation Anxiety that might be helpful. It is available at www.thrivingcanine.com or www.amazon.com

If those things don’t work you may want to contact me for a private session. That's really the best offer I can make so we can really get to work. If you are not in the Bay Area we can do a Skype session.

Thanks,

Chad