Many behaviors that our dogs exhibit are undesirable at best, potentially dangerous at worst. Don't despair! Often the solutions are easier than you think. We can offer safe modifications for these and other problems:
Why dogs jump? Dogs jump up to say hello, quite simply. They don’t know how humans prefer to be greeted, and it never occurs to them that they might knock us over or ruin our clothes. Thankfully, consistent anti-jump training can quickly solve the problem for good.
Anti-jump training when you arrive home...
- Open the door a teeny bit. If your dog jumps up, close the door.
- Repeat until you can step through the door without your dog jumping up.
- If he jumps on you, turn away. If he keeps jumping, go back outside and start again. Whenever your dog keeps four paws on the floor, praise and pet him. Anti-jump training inside your house.
- When your dog jumps on you, turn your back to him. Say, “Too bad” as you turn away.
- When he stops jumping, turn around to face him. If he jumps again, turn your back to him again.
Repeat until he stops jumping. Then pet and praise him.
If your dog keeps jumping up when you turn your back, walk away from him, ignoring him completely. If he follows and jumps again, give him a time-out. Either close a door between you or put him in his confinement area for a minute or two. (The point is not that he is being bad, but that you won’t play when he jumps.) Anti-jump training when visitors come to your house.
- When someone comes to the house, put your dog on leash before you open the door.
- Open the door and invite the visitor in. If your dog jumps up, tell him, “Too bad” and walk him away from the visitor. Once he calms down, let him try again.
- Leave the leash on your dog during the visit. You don’t have to hold it the entire time, but if at any point during the visit your dog jumps up on your visitor, grab the leash, tell your dog, “Too bad” and walk him away.
- Remember to praise and reward him with pets and attention when he keeps four paws on the floor. Anti-jump training when you meet people on the street.
- If your dog jumps up on someone approaching you on the street, tell him, “Too bad” and walk a few feet away. When he settles, try again—if the person is willing. Once your dog can keep four paws on the floor in the above situations (and you have trained sit), begin to ask for a sit before he says hello. With time and practice, your dog will automatically sit when he wants to greet people.
Download the instructions above: Jumping.pdf
There are different kinds of barking. Barking generally falls into five categories. To cut down on any kind of barking, give your dog plenty of exercise and arrange for mental stimulation when he is left alone. Feed him using puzzle toys or stuffed Kongs.
Boredom barking happens when a dog is left alone often and doesn’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation. Dogs are like kids. If you don’t give them something fun to do, they entertain themselves—often in ways we don’t appreciate. So, step up the doggie workouts and get out the puzzles.
Separation anxiety barking is characterized by constant home-alone barking usually coupled with other behaviors such as house soiling, visible anxiety upon departure and arrival, and destruction around doors and windows. In this case, barking is a symptom of the underlying anxiety, which is what needs to be addressed. Call us right away if you think your dog suffers from separation anxiety.
Barrier frustration barking often comes with posturing such as snarling or baring of teeth. The three most common occurrences are: Dogs left in a backyard too long, dogs in cars, or dogs on leash that would be perfectly comfortable with whatever they are barking at (most often other dogs) if they were off leash.
With very social dogs, more time spent playing with other dogs and less time spent behind a barrier will greatly improve the problem. Not-so-social dogs first need to learn to enjoy other dogs. In the meantime, avoid unsupervised time in the yard or car.
In either case, always give your dog a treat when he sees another dog but can’t say hi.
Demand barking occurs in dogs that have learned that barking gets them what they want—balls thrown, doors opened, dinner, or attention. To curb demand barking, immediately stop rewarding the barking: Ignore your dog or walk away when he barks. Pick times when he is quiet, tell him “Nice quiet,” and pet or treat him. If your dog barks when you work at the computer or talk on the phone, preempt his behavior. Settle him in his crate or on his bed with a toy or stuffed Kong before you sit down to work.
Watchdog barking is triggered by sights and sounds such as passersby, slamming car doors, or a cat on the lawn. Watchdog barkers were sentries in a previous life. Teach your dog to respond to noises by getting a toy or barking once, then coming to find you. Keep blinds closed and don’t put your dog’s bed or his confinement area anywhere near a window or bay door. Crating your dog can be a great way to signal to him that he can take time off from his patrol duties.
Download the instructions above: Barking.pdf
Why dogs chew? Biologists tell us chewing is all about toning jaw muscles. Dogs no longer need to split bones and grind down marrow to survive, but the urge is hardwired into them. And into some more than others. Some dogs live to chew; others can take it or leave it. How often dogs chew and what they chew also fall under individual taste.
What is certain is that chewing is normal and healthy, not a behavior problem. But it can still be a regular problem—for you and your furniture.
It’s not a phase. Puppies do chew more, yes. But chewing isn’t like teething in babies; it won’t peter out and eventually stop. All dogs chew some and some dogs chew a lot. Whether you have a puppy or a newly adopted grown dog, give him plenty of allowed things to chew right away to get him hooked on those instead of your shoes.
The things dogs chew. Edibles: Chew bones, pigs’ ears, bully sticks, greenies, raw hides, etc. Non-Edibles: Tennis balls, nyla bones, Kongs (without food), etc. Dissectible Things: Plush toys, rope toys, Hide-A-Bee (Squirrel, Bird) etc. Puzzle Toys: Stuffed Kong, stuffed marrowbone, tricky treat balls, etc.
Experiment to find out what your dog prefers. Always have a mixed selection at hand and rotate different types of chewies to keep your dog interested.
The training part. Step 1. Prevent mistakes. When you can’t supervise, put your puppy or dog in an enclosed, dog-proofed area with a sanctioned chewie.
Step 2. Teach good chewing choices. Audition a range of chewies until you find the ones that most appeal to your dog. Dogs have texture preferences, so try to match what yours like. If he is attacking the couch pillows, try giving him plush toys. If he is eyeing the table leg, try a bone. Praise liberally when your dog chews something allowed.
Step 3. Interrupt mistakes. If your dog chews the wrong thing, interrupt and trade him for something he can chew on. Praise liberally when he does.
Step 4. Repeat if needed. If mistakes happen a lot, revisit step 1. Go back to using an enclosed, dog-proofed area until your dog is consistently making better chewing choices.
Download the instructions above: Chewing.pdf
Many “bad” dog behaviors like digging are developed in our pets because they are just plain bored. Digging is more prevalent in certain breeds of dogs, but any dog that isn’t exercised enough or given enough stimulation and attention can decide to make their own work-out program by excavating your new landscaping. Try getting “Bobo” out for more walks, spend more time with him when possible, make sure he has an appropriate shelter (he may be digging a “bed” of sorts to get cooler or warmer), and give him different toys if you have to leave him unattended in your yard. If he is just obsessed with digging all the way to China, you can try to bury chicken wire or aluminum foil in their favored area (they usually don’t like these under their feet), or better yet designate a spot in your yard for his own approved sand box. Clearly define an area and encourage him to dig there and only there. If you catch him digging out of bounds, you can interrupt with a firm “NO”, put them in their digging space, and tell them “GOOD!”.
Punishment won’t stop a determined dog – you can’t just tell them what you don’t want them to do, give them something you do approve of them doing and REWARD it.
The 2 rules for house-training success.
- Prevent Accidents. Supervise your puppy in the house. Use a crate when you are not sure if your puppy is empty.
- Reward your puppy for going outside. Praise at the right moment, i.e. the second he starts “going.” Reward with a treat after he is finished.
Preventing accidents: Long-term and short-term confinement.
What is long-term confinement?
A place for your puppy to stay when you can’t provide 100% supervision. In other words, when you are out, or busy around the house, and can’t keep your eyes on him the entire time. It prevents chewing accidents, potty accidents, and teaches your puppy to be alone.
Confinement? Surely that’s too strict?
Not at all. It is the best possible start for your puppy in your household. People often give a new puppy complete freedom right away. Then, when he has an accident on the carpet or chews on the legs of the coffee table, they confine him, and confinement becomes a punishment.
Instead, give your puppy a safe place from the beginning, and let him make a gradual and successful transition to his new home. He will be much happier and your furniture will be intact.
When do I use it?
Use a long-term confinement area if you will be gone longer than your puppy can hold it.
Setting up the confinement area.
The ideal confinement area is easy to clean and easy to close off with a door or baby gate. It should be mostly free of furniture and non-puppy related objects. The best places for a confinement area are the kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, or an empty spare room. Furnish with:
- A puppy potty pad or litter box
- Your puppy’s crate (with the door open)
- Water and food bowls
- A chew toy or Kong
Getting your puppy used to his confinement area:
- Step 1. Take your puppy out for a walk or bathroom break.
- Step 2. Give him a chew bone or a stuffed Kong. Leave him alone in the confinement area while you go about your business in the house.
- Step 3. After 5 minutes or before he finishes his chew, let him out but don’t make a big deal about it or make a fuss over him.
Repeat steps 1-3, gradually increasing the time you leave your puppy in his confinement area without leaving the house. Vary the length of your absences, from 30 seconds to 20 minutes, and repeat them throughout the day.
Leave your puppy in his confinement area (or crate) at night. It is normal for him to try a little crying as a strategy to get out, so brace yourself for that. He has to get used to alone-time.
- Step 4. Within the first day or two, start leaving the house for really short intervals like going to the mailbox or taking out the trash. Gradually work up to longer absences, like running errands.
What is short-term confinement?
It means crating your puppy. A crate is a terrific training and management tool. It is useful for house-training, brief alone-time, settling, and any form of travel. Most importantly, a crate teaches your puppy to hold it when he has to go to the bathroom. A crate helps your puppy in many ways—and saves your carpets.
Is using a crate cruel?
Absolutely not. A crate can be your puppy’s favorite place in the world. Think of it as his crib. Use treats, praise, and toys to make your puppy love his crate.
Just remember never to use the crate for more than
3-4 hours at a time, except for bedtime.
When do I use it?
Use the crate for short absences. General guidelines for crating puppies:
- 8-10 weeks up to 1 hour
- 11-12 weeks up to 2 hours
- 13-16 weeks up to 3 hours
- Over 4 months up to 4 hours
Getting your puppy used to the crate.
- Step 1. Begin crate training right away—preferably the first day your puppy is in your home.
- Step 2. Throw small tasty treats into the crate one at a time. Praise your puppy when he goes in to get the treat.
- Step 3. When your puppy is comfortable going into the crate, practice closing the door for 1-2 seconds, then treat him through the door. Let him back out. Repeat this step many times, gradually building to 10 seconds.
- Step 4. Stuff a Kong with something very yummy or use a special bone that will take a lot of time to chew. Put the chewies in the crate. Shut the door. Move about the house normally. Let your puppy back out after 5 minutes or when he finishes his treat. Don’t make a fuss over him. Repeat this step several times, varying the length of your absences from 1 to 20 minutes.
- Step 5. Next, leave your puppy in the crate with something delicious while you leave the house for short errands, like getting the mail or watering the garden. Gradually build your absences.
How to house-train.
- Step 1. Take your puppy outside on leash. Take him to the same place every time.
- Step 2. When he goes, praise. Offer him a treat when he is finished.
- Step 3. If you are in a puppy-safe place, let him off the leash for a little playtime.
If he doesn’t go within 5 minutes, put him in his crate for 10-20 minutes, then try again.
A house-training checklist.
- Take your puppy to his potty place first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, shortly after meals, naps, or play sessions, when he comes out of his crate, and generally every hour or so.
- Until your puppy is perfectly house-trained, always go outside with him so you can cheer and reward at the right moment.
- Supervise whenever your puppy is not crated, especially if he is full. If you must take your eyes off him, even for a minute, crate him or put him in his confinement area.If you see your puppy sniffing and circling in the house, take him out immediately.
How to handle house-training mistakes.
Interrupt mistakes as they are happening. Don’t be too harsh or your puppy will be afraid to go in front of you. After interrupting your puppy, hustle him outside to the potty area. Praise if he finishes there. Clean up the indoor mess with an enzymatic cleaner to remove protein residue that might attract him to the same place again.
Never punish. If your puppy made the mistake one hour or five seconds ago, you are too late. Don’t rub his nose in his own mess or smack him, this will simply make him afraid of you, and he won’t understand why you do it. You must catch him in the act for the interruption to work, and again, you can’t do it too harshly or your puppy will be afraid to go in front of you.
When do I give my puppy free run of the house?
Not until your puppy is chew trained as well as house-trained. This can be as late as 12-14 months old.
At first, confine him to one room at a time. Choose a tiled room, like the kitchen or the bathroom, so accidents can be easily cleaned. Add a room each week your puppy is successful (accident-free), and supervise each time you introduce him to a new room.
For now, enjoy puppy hood - it doesn't last long!
Download the instructions above: HouseTrainingPuppy.pdf
Recommended Classes: Any of our Puppy Programs
Leash issues are a huge problem for the dog-owning public and a leading culprit for why so many otherwise healthy dogs are doomed to life (or usually more accurately, an early death) in animal shelters. Whether it's simple leash-pulling or more significant leash reactivity and leash aggression, the primary thing to keep in mind is that these issues are almost always preventable and manageable when using positive training methods.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not pull on the leash while being walked because they want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha or dominant over their human. There is a much simpler explanation that does not give credence to the myth that dogs are on a quest for world domination!
Dogs love to be outside, and the walk is a stimulating and exciting part of their day, so the desire to push ahead is very strong. Humans do not make ideal walking partners since a dog’s natural and comfortable walking pace is much faster than ours. Having to walk calmly by a person’s side when the only thing a dog really wants to do is run and investigate his environment requires a degree of impulse control that can be very difficult for some dogs to utilize.
That being said, all dogs need to be taught how to walk on a leash in a positive way without pain or discomfort so that a walk becomes enjoyable for everyone.
How To Stop Your Dog From Pulling On Leash:
- If you are overpowered by your dog’s pulling and cannot start the teaching process for fear of being pulled over, then there are humane equipment solutions to help modify the pulling while you teach your dog to walk appropriately.
- A chest-led harness is a perfect training aid, as it takes pressure off a dog’s sensitive neck by distributing the pressure more evenly around the body. When the leash is attached to a ring located on the chest strap and your dog pulls, the harness will turn his body around rather than allowing him to go forward. We recommend this kind of harness for anyone who needs extra help, as safety has to come first. [Link to harness within online store]
- Leash pulling is often successful for the dog because the person inadvertently reinforces the pulling by allowing their dog to get to where he wants to go when he pulls. But you can change this picture by changing the consequence for your dog.
- When he pulls, immediately stop and stand completely still until the leash relaxes, either by your dog taking a step back or turning around to give you focus. When the leash is nicely relaxed, proceed on your walk. Repeat this as necessary.
- If you find this technique too slow you can try the reverse direction method. When your dog pulls, issue a 'Let’s Go' cue, turn away from him and walk off in the other direction, without jerking on the leash.
- You can avoid yanking by motivating your dog to follow you with an excited voice to get his attention. When he is following you and the leash is relaxed, turn back and continue on your way. It might take a few turns but your vocal cues and body language will make it clear that pulling will not be reinforced with forward movement, but walking calmly by your side or even slightly in front of you on a loose leash will allow your dog to get to where he wants to go.
- You can also reinforce your dog’s decision to walk close to you by giving him a motivating reward when he is by your side.
- Once your dog is listening to you more, you can vary the picture even more by becoming unpredictable yourself. This means your dog has to listen to you at all times because he never knows when you are going to turn or where you are going to go next. Instead of turning away from him when you give the let’s go cue, reverse direction by turning towards him. You can turn in a circle or do a figure of eight. Any of these variations will get your dog’s attention. Do not forget to praise him for complying, because the better you make him feel walking close to you, the more he will chose to do so.
Nipping or mouthing is normal puppy behavior, but it can develop into a serious problem if allowed to continue into adulthood. An adult dog’s mouth can be very strong, so even when its nipping is just part of normal play, it can still cause significant damage to human skin. If a puppy is not taught from an early age that mouthing or nipping on skin or clothes is inappropriate, then she is likely to continue into adulthood. Some dogs are more orally fixated than others but every dog should be given boundaries, especially when it comes to using their mouths around humans.
Most mouthing and nipping is playful in nature, but if a dog gets overly excited the nipping can become harder and more difficult to stop. If a dog becomes angry when told to stop, the nipping is more likely to be less play behavior and more behavior designed to control.
Some herding breeds such as Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and Shelties will sometimes nip at a person’s feet or heels, mimicking the livestock herding behavior they were originally bred for. Children are most likely to be on the receiving end of such nipping, especially when they are running around or playing vigorously.
How Can I Teach My Puppy To Stop Chewing on Me?
- Teach your dog bite inhibition from an early age.
- If your dog nips or mouths you during play or at any other time, withdraw attention immediately and walk out of the room. Wait outside for a minute or two, come back in the room and resume play. If the nip happens again repeat the exercise until your dog realizes that nipping stops all interaction.
- If your dog plays without nipping, let play continue.
- Give your dog plenty of chew toys to redirect her nipping onto something more appropriate.
- Encourage non contact games such as fetch or go find. You can play tug of war but make sure you do it with boundaries so that even when your dog is overly aroused, she listens and responds to you when you give her a cue or tell her to stop.
- Avoid wrestling or rough housing with your dog as this can exacerbate mouthing behavior.
- Teach your dog the ‘Leave It’ cue, which is good for impulse control.
- If your dog is getting too excited give her a time out somewhere where there is no human interaction and she can settle before continuing interaction.
- If your dog is a relentless nipper try spraying some taste deterrent on you or your clothes. While this might not make you smell so nice for a while it will deter your dog’s desire to keep mouthing you.
- Do not smack your dog on the nose for nipping or mouthing as this could make the behavior worse.
- If your dog is tense when she nips at you or bares her teeth, this might be a sign that the behavior is less than friendly. Enlist the help of Dream Dogs to help you the behavior can easily get out of control.
Recommended classes: Any of our Puppy Programs
Begging at the table is a common complaint, yet many people consistently reinforce this unwanted behavior by feeding their dogs from the table. The good news is that this is almost always a completely human-initiated problem, and therefore you also have the power to regain control of the situation.
Some people incorrectly assume that begging is nothing more than a harmless – if slightly annoying – behavior that borders on 'cute' in certain cases. But the reality is that like so many aspects of successful positive dog training, allowing minor (or major) begging behavior to continue unabated can lead to more serious issues which can be much more difficult to overcome.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Begging at the Table?
- The best way to PREVENT begging is to never feed your dogs from the dinner table.
- If your dog begs at the table, stand up and block him with your body. Use a vocal cue such as 'back,' while giving him a clear physical hand signal.
- A body block is how dogs control space from other dogs, so your body language sends a clear message.
- Once your dog is at a point far enough from the table, tell him to 'stay' and sit down at the table again.
- If your dog attempts to move, repeat the process until he understands that he can no longer approach.
- You might have to repeat this process a number of times before he understands what he needs to do, so be patient!
- To make it easier on your dog, start the training when there is no food on the table and then proof the behavior by gradually introducing food, increasing its value as your dog becomes more proficient.
- If the above techniques are not working for you, put your dog in another room, removing him from temptation and setting him up for success by not allowing him to practice begging behavior.
- Block where your dog wants to go with your body, but do not physically move or yell at him.
Why dogs steal food? Dogs are natural scavengers and opportunistic feeders, so counter surfing and trash can diving are basically hard-wired behaviors. Smelling those juicy morsels just out of reach and figuring out how to get them becomes a delightful game that needs barely any reinforcement to develop into full-scale obsession.
Prevention: First, last, and in-between.
The best protection against counter surfing is to prevent the habit from forming in the first place. If the behavior pays off once, it is very hard to change—because of the double whammy reward of food and a challenge—so don’t let your new puppy or dog develop a taste for it. Follow these rules from day one:
First, make sure your dog isn’t actually being fed too little.
Second, make sure your dog gets enough exercise and mental stimulation. Many dogs become counter surfers out of sheer boredom.
Third, scavenger-proof your kitchen:
- Always put leftover foods away (this is good food safety advice, too).
- Keep countertop foods in Tupperware containers.
- Keep bread products in bins or jarsPut fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator or well out of reach.
- Install child-proof latches on cupboard doors.
- Use a trash can with a lid or place the can in a cupboard (with a latch).
If the damage is done.
If your dog has once managed to gulp down a loaf of bread while you fetched the mail, chances are you have an incurable counter surfer on your hands. What’s the answer? Manage, manage, manage. In addition to the above advice, consider installing doors in your kitchen and pantry or using a baby gate to restrict your dog’s access anytime you are not around to supervise.
What about deterrents?
There are many products on the market that claim to cure counter surfing. Frankly, most deterrents are ineffective. Hard-core counter surfers are typically highly food-motivated, crafty dogs that are not easily put off. The more you try, the craftier they get.
What not to do.
Don’t scold your dog unless you catch him in the act of stealing food. Dogs don’t understand delayed consequences, so your dog would not know why he is being lectured.
Download the instructions above: CounterSurfing.pdf
Humans find the thought of dogs eating poop (called coprophagia) disgusting, but the unsavory fact is that some dogs find eating their own feces or the feces of another animal, pleasurable.
A dog may eat her own stool or that of another animal simply because she likes the taste. For example, cat poop is high on the list of tasty treats because of its high protein content and smell, but dogs consider deer and rabbit poop pretty scrumptious, too.
Although coprophagia is sometimes the result of a variety of medical conditions (including pancreatitis, intestinal infection or food allergies), most cases are behavioral in nature.
Some Facts About Coprophagia
- Some people think that dogs eat their poop because the dog instinctively knows when the food she is fed lacks a certain nutrient, but even dogs that are fed high quality diets packed with nutrients will eat their poop or the feces of other animals.
- Dogs will play or eat their poop if they are bored or have no toys to play with. The poop becomes a substitute toy that is played with before being eaten.
- Dogs are creatures of habit so poop eating can become a pleasurable habit that is hard to break.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Poop?
- The only really effective treatment for a poop-eating dog is to be vigilant and remove the feces as soon as the dog has toileted so there is no chance of reinforcement.
- As much as you can manage it, remove the poop as soon as it hits the ground so that your dog can’t indulge in the behavior.
- There are some foods that you can add to your dog’s meal such as pineapple which apparently makes the poop taste unpleasant, but some dogs won’t eat their food with pineapple added to it. There are some substances that can be purchased from a veterinarian that can also be added to food and make the poop taste unpleasant, but this only works for some dogs.
- If your dog eats the poop of other animals, keep her on leash outdoors to prevent her from practicing her unpleasant habit.
Recommended Classes: Any of our classes that fit your dog's abilities and your interest.
Separation anxiety is one of the most difficult behavior problems to deal with in dogs because successful modification relies on people being present at all times during what can be a long training process. It is a hugely important problem to solve, both for dog and owner, as separation anxiety is one of the main reasons why dogs are relinquished to shelters every year.
Dogs and humans have a mutual need to form social attachments, and while dogs may suffer from a little separation distress at times, most of us learn to cope with a person’s absence. In contrast, there are some dogs that become anxious when left alone and exhibit some or all of the classic signs of that anxiety including:
- excessive vocalization (barking)
- pacing and restlessness
- whining and crying
- eating through walls
- destroying points of entry
- jumping through open and/or closed windows
Separation anxiety has many causes, but it is believed that genetics and/or an early history of abandonment can contribute to what can quickly develop into a deeply rooted problem which is highly resistant to change.
Before a treatment plan can be designed, it is important to make sure your dog is suffering from anxiety rather than just being a bored dog trying to entertain herself during your absence. Setting up a video camera and recording your dog’s actions while she is alone will give a more accurate picture as to the cause of the behavior.
Why Does My Anxious Dog Destroy My House?
Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety can display anything from minor to major destruction when left alone. Such destruction is normally focused on points of entry such as doors and windows, or places and objects that are more intimately associated with an owner such as shoes, the bed or the sofa.
Anxious dogs often chew things because chewing releases pleasurable endorphins into the body, promoting a feeling of calm – just as some humans release tension by biting their nails.
Of course it can be distressing to come back to a home that has been damaged by your dog, but try to avoid responding using physical or emotional punishment – d these are ineffective and only serve to increase your dog’s anxiety.
How Do I Start Modifying My Dog’s Separation Anxiety?
- First and foremost, anxious dogs require appropriate exercise, a potent stress reliever, and an hour of exercise a day can help lessen a dog’s anxiety, being particularly effective if done just before your departure.
- Boredom and lack of exercise contributes to anxiety. If your dog has been physically exercised and mentally stimulated before you leave, this might increase his ability to cope while you are away.
- Daily exercise can be complimented with a compliance teaching program that allows your dog to learn new basic cues centered on impulse control and problem solving. This helps activate the learning part of your dog’s brain which in turn deactivates the emotional center of the brain responsible for the anxiety.
- It is much easier for your dog to cope with your departure if you make little fuss of her when leaving. The same is true when you return.
- Dogs are also sensitive to changes in their environment and the transition from the energy when you are present to silence in the home when you leave is profound. Leaving lights on and tools like DogTV or playing specially-designed calming music for dogs during your absence will help make the transition easier.
- Desensitization to departure triggers is important, as dogs can become anxious as soon as they see you picking up keys and putting on your coat.
- Masking these triggers by hiding the keys in a different place, using a different bag or not wearing your coat can help, but you might find your dog becomes wise to what you are doing as departure energy is difficult to hide.
- Putting on a coat and exiting followed immediately by a return, allows your dog to see the trigger in a different light – the coat doesn’t always mean you are going to leave for a long period of time.
- Constant repetition over a number of days can help desensitize your dog until departures no longer trigger a response.
- Time spent away can be gradually increased until your dog is confident that you will always return.
Should I Leave My Dog With Appropriate Activity Toys?
- Your dog might be too anxious to eat or play with a toy when you are absent, so it is important to introduce her favorite toys and/or chews while you are present, building up a positive emotion around that particular toy.
- Once that positive feeling around toys has been built you can give them a few minutes before you depart which will allow her to focus on the toy rather than you leaving.
- Interactive toys such as rubber toys stuffed with treats and treat balls can help re-focus the mind, causing your dog to release anxious energy on an appropriate item rather than the sofa.
Treatment for separation anxiety can be highly effective if implemented diligently and a once destructive and anxious dog can become a much more relaxed and contented animal. In most cases, true separation anxiety cases require the guidance of a qualified positive dog trainer to help the behavior modification process.