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Separation Anxiety And Dogs: The Complete Guide

 

Dog with separation anxiety reading a book on training methods

What is Separation Anxiety?

In Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, Dr. Karen Overall defines dog separation anxiety as, “A condition in which animals exhibit symptoms of anxiety or excessive distress when they are left alone.” You might recognize the symptoms as any of these:

  • Drool, pant, or salivate way more than usual
  • Barking, whining, or howling
  • Pace, often in an obsessive pattern
  • Attempting to escape from the crate or room
  • Destroying items in the home
  • Scratching at walls, doors, windows or floors
  • Chewing up household items
  • Urinating and Defecating
  • Coprophagia

Sounds like your pup huh? Don’t worry, we’ve got you, keep reading 🙂

20 years ago, no one had ever heard of separation anxiety in dogs. Today, it is widely known as one of the most common problems we experience with our beloved canines. And sadly, one of the main reasons that end-of-the-rope owners feel forced to give a dog up for adoption. But as the intelligent beings who’ve brought dogs in our homes, it is our responsibility to fix it (and we can!).

Our mission? Put you in touch with the solution: understand how your dog is trying to communicate with you and how to permanently rewire unwanted behavior patterns.

How to Distinguish Between Separation Anxiety and Bad Behavior:

Dogs are really smart. They live in our entirely human worlds, and by necessity have become so finely attuned to our schedules and patterns. So it’s really easy for our dogs to tell when we’re about to shut their world down, separate them from their pack, remove all sources of love. Humans call this leaving the house.

Knowing they’re about to be alone and dreading it, many dogs will do ANYTHING to get your attention. And that includes bad behavior. Because even being reprimanded for it becomes a reward in which they’ve got your attention.

In these cases, the canine behavior has a quality that we in the professional world call “naughtiness”. Just kidding. But you do know it when you see it; they won’t come when you call, they grab your shoe and run into the kitchen, maybe start digging in the yard.

There is not fear behind this behavior, that is the distinction. The remedy here is more training and careful discipline, and it is fairly easy to overcome.

But what if there is fear behind the misbehavior? Your dog might just have a full-blown case of separation anxiety. But that’s ok too, because we’re about to pinpoint the problem.

Other Potential Problems to Rule Out:

Puppy Destruction
Puppies chew things up. Their teeth are coming in and it’s so exciting and delicious to test them on your shoes! This behavior is almost always just age-related and not separation anxiety. Nothing to worry about.

Bored?
Canines need stimulations like all mammals. If you’ve left them with nothing to do, they’ll find something to do and you probably won’t like their choice nearly as much. If this dog doesn’t seem anxious, it’s probably just boredom/lack of exercise.

Excitement/Submission Urination
Dogs get really excited to greet us, some get too excited and lose control of their bladders. Or maybe pee when you discipline them. To identify if this just excitement/submissive urination, watch for submissive behavior: tucked tail between the legs, flattened ears and lowered head, hunching down low or displaying the belly. In all cases, this behavior is NOT anxiety-related.

Poor House Training
If your dog repeated urinates or defecates in the house, but shows no other signs of anxiety, his symptoms probably indicate an unfinished house training education.

Scent Marking
This almost falls under the category of unfinished house training, but I thought I’d give its own to distinguish a dog that’s deliberately urinating because of the need to mark its territory. It’s a slightly different behavior problem, but once again, unlikely related to a fear of being left alone.

Why Do Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety?

Dogs are pack animals. In their wild settings––evolutionarily where they’ve spent most of their lives––they are never alone and always stimulated and engaged. Now imagine that creature, living your high-rise apartment and surrounded by none of those natural stimuli? (And in fact, immersed in only the confusing ones of honks and beeps and rings they can’t understand). Their perfect, immediately-adapted behavior to this strange world is a lot for us to ask of them. So it’s up to us, their intelligent, loving guardians, to make that situation as calm and happy as possible.

  • Notice: there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that dogs adopted from a shelter are far more prone to separation anxiety than a puppy reared with the same family. It’s believed instability and/or the loss of a significant family member can cause this fear.

So how can we remedy this? Pay the most attention to any changes you make in your life (because your dog is certainly paying attention!). Transitions, schedule changes, any shifts in your normal routine are some of the most common triggers for separation anxiety. Have any of these happened in your household recently?

  1. Change of Owner:
      • Have you just brought a new pup home? From the shelter or breeder? A change in environment or family is a HUGE shift for a dog. Leaving everything they’ve known? It’s no wonder such a radical change can trigger separation anxiety.
  2. Change of Household
      • Moving houses is another common reason. Or perhaps they’ve started going to a boarding facility? Pay attention to any potential change in environment.
  3. Change in Family Membership
      • Did someone new just join the family? A baby or perhaps an elderly relative? Suddenly there’s someone new and they’re taking all the attention away from your dog!
  4. Change in Routine
    • The above are some common examples, but you know your household best. Has there been another change in schedule or structure, such as the loss of a family member or other pet that might cause this new anxiety?
  5. Boredom and a lack of exercise
    •  Sometimes it can simply be boredom. Dogs need stimulation and excitement just like we do. Imagine how you’d feel left in a house with nothing to do for 8 hours. You might be tempted to start some trouble too!
  6. Being left alone for the first time
    • If you’ve got a new dog and leave for the first time, they’re probably going to be confused and unhappy, display all the symptoms we’ve talked about. In this case, it’s important to nip this behavior in the bud before it develops into full-blown paranoia.
  7. Suffering a Traumatic Event
    • A singular traumatic event where your dog is shocked or really afraid can also be a cause. Can you think of anything? Perhaps an unmonitored new time at a shelter or boarding kennel? This can be the trigger if you notice a radical change in behavior.

An important note: Dog separation anxiety is often unknowingly supported by owners. When we make a big show of leaving or arriving, we surround the event with a ton of charged emotion. This encourages our dog to be concerned too (since we’re clearly so excited for some reason!!!!) and thus creates stress around the whole structure of departure/arrival.

How to Treat Separation Anxiety in Dogs:

There are a lot of ways to begin working with your dog’s anxiety, ranging from easy solutions to more difficult work. We’ll begin with the easy solutions––because who doesn’t love an easy solution––try these first before moving into the more intensive ones.

Here’s an easy tip straight from our friend Cesar Milan: Stay Calm and Assertive

When it’s time to leave the house, don’t surround the event with a ton of emotion. Weeping, kissing, saying goodbye, excessive cuddles are all great things in their time and place, but not when you depart. Don’t exude guilt or sadness, instead, project the calm-assertive energy of an owner who is completely in control of the situation and has a plan of action. This reassures your dog that everything is happening as it should be and there is no reason to fear. You set the vibe, they listen.

Get ’em some exercise before work!

This is a great one for all parties actually. I won’t cite any studies for the importance of exercise because at this point we don’t need science to confirm such an integral part of mammalian happiness, but a tired dog is much likelier to avoid trouble than an energetic one. End sessions 15-20 minutes before you leave so they have time to wind down. This training creates a pattern of reward/happiness around your departure because they can recognize they get to go play before! And perhaps even, that we are paying enough attention to consider them as part of our day.

Create a space of fun and safety:

  1. Dedicate a room, enclosed yard spot, or perhaps a crate, to be HIS space when you’re gone. There is safety in rituals and routines for dogs; they LOVE consistency.
      • Pro Tip: A laundry room is usually almost already dog-proofed and easy to convert.
  2. Make sure they have ample access to food and water (and ideally, access to a place to relieve themselves).
  3. Leave some of your clothing in the space to remind him of your presence. Our friends at Adaptil also make great calming pheromones for dogs left alone.
  4. Stimulate his mind! There are tons of great puzzling toys out there intended for dogs at home. We love a well-stuffed Kong.
  5. Shameless plug because how could I not: leave Through a Dog’s Ear music playing. It’s clinically demonstrated to relieve separation anxiety and is a beautifully calming part of your exit routine. I suggest starting the music when you’re home together––it works on humans too––then peacefully make your departure after your dog has laid down for a snooze.

Want more on crate training? Here’s our favorite YouTube on it:

Explore Creative Solutions:

Do you have a friendly elderly neighbor that could come let your pup out early? Perhaps a neighbor dog that gets along with yours could be kept in the same space. A friend who’s having the same problem could perhaps fix yours! Two dogs, one stone 😉 You’ll have to get creative here because it’s so situationally dependent, but your pup will thank you. They’re pack creatures and always have more fun with another packmate around. And of course, you can always pay to board them/find a doggie daycare.

Herbal and Homeopathic Medicine:

Drugs only ever mask the problem and not treat the solution. Plus who wants to be paying for gallons of CBD dog treats the rest of their life? Not me. That being said, many do find temporary relief with a lot of these options, and in combination with a calm training protocol, they can have a positive effect in temporarily assisting tranquility. If you think this would be a helpful part of your regimen, we recommend our friends over at Honest Paws.

 

Conditioning:

I’m sure you’ve noticed already, but all of these options are about creating new patterns. Conditioning is the technical term for this work, and there are varying degrees of difficulty and strategy that may be needed, depending on the degree of canine separation anxiety. For your ease, I’ll start with the simplest before moving into our two-day intensive program.

Establish a word or action

Create a pattern that becomes their new routine and tells your dog you’ll be back. When you authoritatively create routines, your pup takes on the same confidence, such as knowing he can be left alone, because he knows you’ll come back and trusts your leadership.

      • Choosing a word: Create a keyword or phrase that your pup associates with your calm, unemotional departure. Remember: dogs don’t understand language, but they do understand your energy communicated through words. Make sure your phrase conveys the tone you want. I would probably say “Goodbye Yara. I’ll be home after work.”

Mix Up Your Patterns

Dogs are smart. They are constantly studying all of our behaviors, actions, and routines. If you always put on your shoes right before you leave the house for the day, the shoes tell your pup that you are leaving. If picking up your car keys is always a precursor to leaving, your dog may start to panic just at the sight of your keys. Start mixing up your routine. Pick up your keys and start cooking dinner. Put on your shoes and walk to your computer. Do the opposite and put on your shoes, open the door, but don’t leave. The idea is to keep your pup guessing so that he starts to unscramble the patterns you’ve already set in place. This stops his anxiety from building to a fever pitch when he sees the first cue in the departure sequence. Humans are creatures of habit too, so it can be difficult, but think of it as a fun chance to try some variance in your life. Certified Professional Dog Trainer and behavior specialist Nicole Wilde calls it “The Faux Go”. In her book, Don’t Leave Me! she says, “You’ll be teaching your dog that the door opening and you walking out is nothing to worry about.”

If you are training a new puppy or dog that hasn’t been left before, start practicing this method with very short departures initially. Think stepping out to get groceries. If all goes well, start increasing your time, little by little. A human minute may equal a dog hour, so take puppy steps when increasing your time away incrementally.

  • Training Tip: Want a protocol that walks you through it? Separation Anxiety training protocol by famed dog trainer Victoria Stilwell can be found here.

dog with separation anxiety holding a clock

Try House Training Your Dog

Spend time training around the house. Show your dog how to behave in simple daily routines. Little increments and minutes, anything can be an opportunity for training. Instead of just going for a walk, ask him to sit at stopwalks, lay down when you’re having a coffee outside at Starbucks, wait for your OK to greet new people and dogs. Train your dog to sit and wait to be greeted by guests, move aside when you go to the refrigerator, and go to the bathroom on cue. Establishing these routines––and of course rewarding good behavior––helps create new patterns for house behavior that gives them strong guidelines, discipline, and confidence. Dogs want to be good and please us, we just have to show them how.

Have you tried it all?? Then it’s time to dive into our reconditioning program:

9 Steps, 1 weekend

1. Dedicate two, or even three days in severe cases, to having some time you can spend uninterrupted with your dog. (I know, I know, you’re busy and who has two days for a dog?? You do. Because the reward is a lovely balanced dog that fills your house with so much love. Best investment ever).

2. Prepare their den: this looks like a crate, or outdoor pen, or a dog-proofed room like the laundry room example.

3. Give your pup a chance to take care of any bodily functions outside, and then reenter the house together for 30 minutes of calm and close supervision. Introduce him to his beautiful new den with a happy vocal tone, treats, soft Through a Dog’s Ear playing, a stuffed KONG toy, good scents, and your clothing in it. Guide him inside and stay in the room.

4. Initially, stay close and attentive, but not lasered on all his moves. Read a book, check Instagram. Ignore any whining or fussiness. When he finally falls quiet, go over and calmly say hello, give affection. Then go back to your activity. Repeat many times: reward his behavior when he’s silent and not begging for attention. You’re teaching him that whining is not a rewarded behavior, and that you leave and return according to your own timeframe. He begins to understand: if you leave, you will return. During this time, it should only be you two. He needs to learn that its ok to be alone.

5. Now, begin to step away, gradually increasing the distance between you. Leave the room and come back when he’s quiet. Go outside and return again under the same conditions (if you can fit this around your actual lived schedule and doing things, extra credit to you!). Eventually, you can wander around the house without upsetting your dog. He’s not finely tuned to your moves because he’s learning its random and not based on any behavior pattern of his. Therefore, he can’t make you react/come when he’s lonely. Every reentrance, greet him calmly and with love. Reward and tell your dog how good he is.

6. After an hour or so, take a break. Go outside for a pee and play time. Chase each other around and have some relaxed, untrained fun. Then go back inside and resume den training, following steps 4 and 5. This step is important because it clarifies the difference between training and play. He needs to know the difference between unstructured free time and disciplined work.

7. Day two. Continue to repeat steps 4 and 5 from the first day, but a little faster and with more distance this time. Follow your own intuition in determining length. Start to live your life, do chores around the house, but be sure to pop in frequently when he’s quiet and reward the good behavior. Dogs are smart and will very quickly learn they only get rewarded when they’re quiet and calm.

8. Keep increasing your distance. On day three or four, if he’s taking to the training well, try and step outside of the house. For short amounts of time initially. Return after 5 minutes and greet your dog, if he is quiet. You may lose a little momentum here as they are going to be more excited about your reentrance. But wait for quiet, then reward. It’s usually the first 20 minutes of separation that are most difficult. If it’s going well, continue varying times and distances. Remember to mix up the times so he doesn’t start anticipating your return. And of course plenty of outside breaks: young puppies will need every hour, older dogs can go for 3-4 hours, but try for more breaks during this training.

9. How’s it going? Are you stuck on some of these steps? If it’s not taking, you may have to spend longer amounts of time in each stage. Every dog is different and your own intuition will be the best guide for determining how long your dog needs in each stage. If you’re making absolutely no progress and your dog is freaking out, you just might need the personal help of a trained professional. But if it is going well, begin to live your life more normally, checking in and continuing to reward as often as possible with a modern schedule. Your dog, your family, and your clean rugs will thank you for this hard work in the long run. Cheers to you two! You just graduated separation anxiety academy!

happy sleeping dog with no separation anxiety curled around an iCalmDog speaker

 

 

Has your dog experienced separation anxiety? What have you found to help? Sharing your experiences in a comment below so I can improve this guide. Thanks for reading and sharing!

 

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iCalmDog Reggae: 29 Surveyed Customers Transformed Our Belief

We knew iCD Reggae would work––it’s based on the same scientific and bioacoustic principles as our time tested classical music––we just didn’t know exactly how it would bring calm. It’s mostly drums and bass guitar for heaven’s sake!

So we sent out a survey to 29 random customers to learn how it was working in their households, and we heard stories like these:

  • “I enjoy dancing with them to the Reggae music. We have fun”
  • “As the moods of the people change, the dogs are positively affected”
  • “My 4 month puppy stays active but in a calmer, less destructive way”
  • “This music is focusing and invigorating”
  • “Abby has a neurological disorder, but she crawls when I play Reggae for her, I love it”
  • “I really enjoy the reggae and my dogs are settling quicker in the car”
  • “I’ve noticed my mood remains steady and uplifted”
  • “Definitely more effective with the older dogs as I feel the bass is felt as much as it is heard”

These comments share a common thread. A story of dogs who are stressed, but when fun music comes on, suddenly their owners are groovin’ to the upbeat tunes and the whole household gets lighter and happier. The music is collectively relaxing everyone’s nervous systems.

This is the healing power of having fun together:

  • It rewires patterns of fear and stress.
  • It allows you to remember the joy and love from first bringing that furry little bundle into your home.
  • It returns your family to a space of calm and connection.

Healing pet families is why we do what we do.

We’re so thrilled and proud to bring you iCalmDog Reggae, music that brings joy back to your relationships.

♥️ iCalmPet

 

 

And fill your house with some groovy fun!

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How to Tune Your Home Environment: Through a Dog’s Ear Discussions

I started reading the book, Through a Dog’s Ear, soon after starting to work at iCalmPet. Even though the book was published in 2008, I found there was just too much fascinating and relevant information to keep locked up on the shelves! So in collaboration with the author and our co-founder, Joshua Leeds, I’m going to use this space to discuss some of the most interesting and useful parts of the book. According to Joshua, the research and theory explored in this book form the theoretical foundations of iCalmPet, and the basis of all the auditory pet products we bring to the world.

Dogs are infinitely adaptable to our human lives––its why we have them for pets and not cheetahs––they’ve been hard-wired by eons of co-evolution to attune to the rhythms of our lives. But now, more than ever, they have to work so hard to find their place within our hectic modern human environment. 

But what happens when they can’t adapt? When you’re flying around the house late for work, and the kids are fighting, and the kettle is screaming… your dog completely picks up on this energy and looks for the threat and is reaaaally anxious to help!?!

This example is what the sensory environment of your home can present to your pet’s psyche, and plays a huge role in their behavior. Imagine it from their point of view, and how confusing all these signals must be. Now imagine how it feels to your cat or dog, to be in your living space, on an average day. If you’re having trouble with your animal, pay attention and see if their sensory environment might be a stressor. Whether it is the scenario above, or a hundred others, sound and other sense elements have a huge influence on your pet.

 

Through a Dog’s Ear is designed to initiate conversation and raise awareness about the impact of the sonic environment upon our canine companions” 

 

Unfortunately for most of us modern humans, we can’t always control the sonic environment of our homes–surrounded by cityscapes, construction, and very close proximity to neighbors. All day, our dogs hear television noises, neighbors talking, phones ringing, alarms beeping; sonic debris from an unbelievable variety of sources––especially for a creature who hears at 20,000 Hz above humans, over twice our capacity––and just don’t make sense to a creature that evolved and developed all its auditory programming for a life in the wilderness. 

So knowing that sound is only second to the sense of smell, and understanding that in most instances, we are bombarding our pets with sounds they have no control over and no context for… what do we do? Just like people, animals are tuned differently from one another. One can take anything that comes their way; others hide under the bed and won’t come out for three days.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you have to deal with the effects of an unsettled animal?

 

We imagine you’re here because you probably do. And since they can’t communicate with us, we must learn to communicate with them: first by listening and tuning in to their environment. 

 

Like this article? It’s the first in a series of Through a Dog’s Ear discussions. If you’d like to suggest a specific topic or have a thought or comment about this one, feel free below 🙂

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Audio Books for Dogs… Calming or Confusing?

I’d share almost anything with my soul dog, Gina… my bed (by invitation), my food (when it’s good for her), my music, and so much more.

But, my Audible subscription?

Nope!

I REALLY LOVE Audible…  for me. My reading habits have changed over the years, and now I listen to more books than I read. But, my listening titles are for me only. When Gina and I are in the car, I listen to my book on headset when driving while she enjoys her iCalmDog playing in her crate. When she’s home alone, I prefer to leave her with music playing that is specially designed for dogs, rather than audio books that were intended to be enjoyed by 2-leggeds.

Audio Books for Dogs claims to be helpful for anxious pets that don’t like being left at home alone. NPR recently asked me whether I thought audio books are calming for dogs. They included a very short clip of my answer on WAIT, WAIT… DON’T TELL ME! While I was honored to be interviewed on NPR, my reply was much more extensive and inclusive than what aired.

            (Click to hear and/or read all three stories.)

I think it’s fabulous that dog lovers are becoming aware how their sound environment affects their dogs. But, I believe that anxious dogs listening to audio books when home alone could easily backfire and actually cause anxiety. Dogs could experience sensory confusion when they can’t smell or see the person reading the book. Also, lower frequencies with slowed down tempi calm the canine nervous system. Higher frequencies charge the canine nervous system. A woman with a high voice range who gets animated at a peak in the story and starts speaking in louder, shorter tones, could actually stimulate the canine nervous system… not usually a desired behavior for an anxious dog left home alone.

I’m assuming the concept of audiobooks for dogs came from recent reading programs at shelters where children read to shelter dogs. That’s a very different scenario than a dog who is home alone hearing a voice but not being able to smell or see a person. When someone is sitting and reading to a shelter dog, it likely will be very calming to the pup. There’s nothing that would cause sensory confusion. And, many of these programs involve children reading. The dog’s presence often calms them, they are looking at their book instead of making direct eye contact with the shelter dog, and that in turn allows the dog to feel more comfortable. Once relaxed and calm, they’ll often feel confident enough to approach and sniff the child and may even ask for physical contact. They are engaging their senses rather than being put in a situation that could confuse them.

Audio books for my Lab Gina? Sure, if I’m reading to her, but not when it’s a voice foreign to her and belongs to a person she can’t see, smell or sniff. But, that’s ok. When I leave her home, her iCalmDog keeps her company and she does just fine.

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6 Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe on Halloween

 

halloween pumpkin witch dog

It can be very fun for children to dress up as ghouls and goblins. But, dogs don’t understand the concept and can be very fearful of people wearing masks and costumes. And the huge number of children ringing the doorbell yelling “Trick or Treat” can cause excessive barking and put many dogs into sensory overload.

In my early adult years, I had a small dog with a heart murmur that had a heart attack on Halloween and died. The constant activity was too much for him. If I knew then what I know now, I would have kept him away from the stress of all of the noisy activity and immersed him with canine sound therapy.

keeping dogs safe on halloween

1. Keep Your Dog from Turning Into Houdini

Outside of July 4th in the U.S., Halloween is the most popular night for pets to escape their homes. Keep your dog in a quiet back room with some soothing music playing. Or if Buster is near the front door,  make sure he’s on a leash held by another family member. Praising and rewarding him for calm, quiet behavior is also invaluable. It will help inspire him to choose to stay inside. For precautionary measures, it’s best to make sure that all of your pets are wearing IDs.

dogs and halloween

2. Keep All Candy Out of Reach Of Your Pets

Many treats can be harmful for your pets, including chocolate. Laura Cross from Vetstreet tells us, “Sugar-free candy is also a risk, as it may contain xylitol, which can cause low blood sugar and liver damage in dogs.”

keep candy away from dogs on halloween

3. Watch Out for Lit Jack-O-Lanterns

While a small amount of pumpkin is healthy for dogs and cats, consuming an entire raw pumpkin can make them sick. And, if it’s a lighted Jack-O-Lantern, you run the risk of your pet knocking it over and starting a fire. Best to go with the battery operated ones this year.

rsz_catwoman_and_batdog_cropped

4. Pets in Costumes

Some dogs can tolerate wearing costumes. But, many can’t. If your dog wants to get out of his costume, let him. Make sure all costumes are comfortable and that accessories or buttons are not chewable. Gina tolerated her batdog costume because she was very well paid when I put each piece of it on her when we entered the USDAA Cynosport World Games costume contest.

 

5. Tire Her Out

Make sure you get your dog out for a good romp during the day and tire her out. Frequent games of fetch along with some extra training sessions can also help  her be less reactive during the evening festivities.

6. Put Her In A Quiet Room with Soothing Canine Music 

In my early adult years, I had a small dog with a heart murmur that had a heart attack on Halloween and died. The constant activity was too much for him. If I knew then what I know now, I would have kept him away from the stress of all of the noisy activity and immersed him with canine sound therapy.

How do your pets do during Halloween? Thanks for sharing your experiences in a comment below.

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5 Tips for Hiring a Dog Sitter

Guest post by Courtney Heitter from Rover.com.

For many people, summer is the season of travel. There are so many places to see, whether by car, train, or airplane. With this happy season comes anxiety about your dog–where will he go when you travel? It’s important that your dog has a good time on his own vacation and that he’s safe, with any special requirements met.

Whether you’re hiring a family member, neighbor, or someone through an online service like Rover.com, make sure that you choose the right sitter by asking yourself these questions:

1. How much attention does your dog need?

Choose a sitter who can give your dog the time he or she deserves. If your dog needs frequent bathroom breaks, book a sitter who can take your dog out as much as he needs (bathroom break frequency is listed on sitter profiles on Rover). If your dog has separation anxiety, consider a sitter who can be with your dog most of the time because they work from home, or work in a dog-friendly office.

If your dog is used to exercising for a half an hour everyday, let your sitter know. If he needs to go to the bathroom three times in 24 hours, mention it. Keeping his routine as normal as possible is important.

2. How much do you want to be updated?

This may seem like an odd consideration, but think about it for a moment. If you’re normally very involved in your dog’s life, you’ll want frequent updates of his adventures while you’re away. If you want to focus on your vacation, you can ask your sitter to contact you in emergencies only.

Most sitters are happy to send you all of the cute pics they’re snapping for themselves, as they take them, or hold on to them and give you an album of them when you get back. Just be direct in your expectations for a successful experience.

3. Understand your dog’s quirks

If your dog doesn’t like children, this is an important detail to share with your dog sitter, even if they don’t have kids (they might be babysitting one day and think introducing the two would be a great idea). It’s helpful to your dog and the sitter if you explain anything that could be out-of-the-ordinary. If you’re not sure if your dog has quirks, try to think of if you’ve seen him afraid  (thunder, or maybe the vacuum?), and let your sitter know.

If you know your dog is very anxious, it’s even more important that his routine stay consistent and the sitter is aware of this. If you’re nervous about leaving your anxious pup with a sitter, consider teaching your sitter calming routines, like canine sound therapy and wearing a thundershirt.

4. Consider the sitter’s home environment

Some dogs are used to apartment environments and others prefer to lounge and do their business in an enclosed yard. Seeking a sitter with a similar environment to your home could be beneficial.

Keep in mind your dog’s lounging preferences. Tell your sitter if he’s not allowed on the furniture, so the sitter will know to stick to your rules if you don’t want him to develop bad habits. If he is allowed on furniture, tell your sitter that too–your sitter may not feel the same way, and may surprise your dog with a reprimand if he tries to get on your sitter’s furniture.

5. Book a sitter in advance

Pet sitting is largely a seasonal business, meaning your family and neighbors are probably busy during the holidays and summer vacation too, and sitters that you can find online will be booked up quickly. If you’re planning to travel for Thanksgiving, it is wise to start looking for a dog sitter at least a month prior to make sure you have plenty of time to find the perfect fit for you and your dog.

Are there any additional tips you have found helpful when looking for a dog sitter? Thanks for sharing them in a comment below.

Note: The Rover.com link I provided is my referral link. You’ll receive a $20 credit with Rover when you sign up with Rover, and I’ll also receive a credit. Enjoy!

 

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7 Simple Tips for Calming Your Dog During Fireworks

BWP_Gina_Flag_Lisa_Piano_PhotoCredit

July 4th is quickly approaching. It can be a fun holiday for children and adults, but most dogs don’t share their enthusiasm. In fact, almost all people with dogs in the U.S. declare this day the worst day of the year for their dogs. Veterinarians say July 3rd is usually the most trafficked day in their clinics, with clients coming in to get drugs for their dogs.

July 5th tends to be the busiest day of the year for shelters. Dogs become Houdini when they hear fireworks and escape from their yards that appear perfectly secure other days of the year.

7 Simple Tips for Calming Your Dog During Fireworks

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1. Exercise

A tired dog is a happy dog. Take your dog for a big hike early in the day. Play fetch with him. Enjoy some training time together. Tug with her. These are all things that will tire her out before the fireworks begin, so she has less ability to focus on the disturbing noise.

iCalmDog dog home alone

2. Stay home

Keep your dogs inside during fireworks, preferably with human companionship. Bringing your dogs to a fireworks display is never a good idea. Instead, provide a safe place inside for your dogs to retreat. When scared of sounds they can’t orient, dogs often prefer small enclosed areas. I once had a dog who climbed into the bathtub during windstorms.

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3. Remove visual stimulation

Keep your windows and curtains closed. Covering their crate and lowering the blinds can also be helpful. Removing visual stimulation has been known to calm dogs.

Gina Peanut Butter Kong

4. Keep them busy

Give your dog something fun to do that is distracting. Dogs enjoy the challenges of food puzzles. Feed him his dinner in a food puzzle. Freeze a kong with his favorite treats in the morning. For dessert, hand him the kong just when the fireworks start. He may even start to associate fireworks with yummy treats.

Please note: a very sound sensitive dog may not even take food when afraid of the noises and may also need the below suggestions…

Sensory Enrichment

Rescue Italian Greyhound Cyrus gets cozy with his iCalmDog

5. Sound Therapy

Canine sound therapy can be a huge help for dogs afraid of fireworks. The rearranged classical compositions of Through a Dog’s Ear have been clinically shown to reduce canine anxiety, including fireworks phobia. Dogs can enjoy the soothing soundtracks on their iCalmDog, CDs, downloads, or streaming on Apple Music and Spotify. As the pianist on the music series, it warms my heart hearing all the ways the music comforts dogs during stressful times.

Halle  even stopped jumping out of 12 foot high windows on July 4th once she discovered canine sound therapy. Some dogs also benefit from desensitization training programs that help them build a positive association to fireworks, such as Fireworks Prep-Pak.

Sanchez Thundershirt

6. Tactile

There are several canine wraps on the market that reportedly help sound phobic dogs. The original Anxiety Wrap was created by professional dog trainer Susan Sharpe, CPDT-KA. The patented design uses acupressure and maintained pressure to reduce stress. Thundershirt is also a wrap for dogs that provides gentle, constant pressure. Many dog lovers use one of these wraps in combination with canine sound therapy.

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7. Scent

Calm Aroma Mist can help dogs relax and cope more effectively with loud noises and other stressful situations. Spray Calm Aroma Mist in the room and on your dog’s crate. It’s equally enjoyable and calming for people.

Do you have any additional tips for helping keep dogs calm and safe on this noisy holiday? Thanks for sharing your suggestions in a comment below. And feel free to share how your dogs have responded to fireworks on previous holidays.

Gina and I wish you and your canine household a calm and safe 4th of July!

 

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Win an iCalmDog… Proven Canine Sound Therapy!

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It was so fascinating reading the results of our first iCalmDog Survey…

Some of the most popular portable uses for iCalmDog:

  • in the car
  • at the vet
  • at agility trials
  • at dog shows
  • while vacationing

Click to view a full summary of survey results.

And, the Facebook pictures and stories are music to my ears…

Want to win an iCalmDog?

Enter a comment below and tell us how iCalmDog 3.0 would help your dogs and where you’d take it. Or, if you prefer to donate it, tell us how your fave rescue org would benefit. You will automatically be entered to win an iCalmDog 3.0 (Standard model) by Through a Dog’s Ear. (Prize value $89.95)

Want bonus points? The barking Border Collie video is going viral on Facebook. View it here and share with your friends and fans. (Remember to post as public so that all Facebook viewers can enjoy it.)

Use hashtag #iCalmDog in all social posts and tag @ThroughADogsEar

For additional chances to win, share this giveaway on your social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.  Also leave a comment on the barking BC  youtube video. Winners will be chosen by random drawing. The more shares and comments you post, the more opportunities to win!

Already own an iCalmDog 3.0 and want another?  (Did I mention they make great gifts?) Post a review on the model you purchased at iCalmDog.com or on Amazon, if purchased there.

The winner will be announced May 11 in a future blog post. (Make sure you’re a subscriber!) Good luck and remember to use hashtag #iCalmDog so I can easily find all your social shares, posts, and comments!

Please note: Contest is open to Lisa’s blog subscribers. If you purchase an iCalmDog 3.0 before the winner is announced and you win this contest, you can choose to donate your iCalmDog to a rescue or shelter, or we can refund your money. Your choice. Prize value = $89.95

Paws crossed for you and your pups!

 

 

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Case Study: iCalmDog Music Stopped Barking Dog in Under 20 Seconds!

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I was recently in Arizona with Gina for Cynosport World Agility Games. And down in the main arena, I noticed that all of the stimulation was getting to be a bit overwhelming for Gina (and for me too!). To make matters worse, our crating area was near a non-stop barking dog. An anxious border collie that was way too overstimulated!

To help her reduce her anxiety and increase concentration and circulation, I signed Gina up for a canine massage with Dr. Cindy DiFranco while iCalmDog played in the background.

During the 5-day trial, I had been leaving Gina’s iCalmDog on her crate in-between runs. But, the barking dog in our crating area was driving us crazy! So, I asked the handler if I could bring over my iCalmDog to see if the clinically-tested music reduced his barking. I have to admit, Nim’s barking was so intense that I wasn’t even sure it would work, but watch the video below to see what happened in 20 seconds.

How to stop your dog from barking:

That’s the power of bioacoustically-designed iCalmDog music! Even in the most possible stressed environment!

Now how it get it next door to my neighbor’s dogs that are always awake at 3 am…

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Deepening the Human-Animal Bond Through Music

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The American Veterinary Medical Association describes the human-animal bond as
“A mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.”

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Sanchez and Gina lay by the piano every time I practice my concert repertoire. And, other times, I play music especially designed for dogs for them. There have been some very tender times involving music. But, a shared music experience with Gina in 2013 was one of the most connecting moments of my life. I experienced the human-animal bond at a profound and deep level. Time stood still as we listened to music together.

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I was with Gina in the compassion room of an ER veterinary clinic. Her lungs were quickly filling with fluid after eating a very thick saw blade grass. Yikes, the very sharp grass blade was over 9 inches!

There was a chance she wouldn’t survive the procedure. The vet suggested I prepare to say good-bye to her, just in case she didn’t make it.

I told the full story at my recent Canine Classical Concert. Click Gina’s picture to watch the short 90 second video. Find out what happened and hear the music that inspired us to deepen our connection.

It was such an emotional experience that it became the inspiration for Music for the Human-Animal Bond. The music creates well-being for all while supporting an emotional connection between people and their beloved dogs.

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Has music ever deepened the human-animal bond for you and your dog? Thanks for sharing your experiences in a comment below.

Main Photo Credit: Viviana Guzman