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5 Easy Tips to Help Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

It’s that time of year again… the kids have gone back to school after an action packed summer. It’s been fun for the children, and Buster has been so happy with the extra attention and playtime. Then one day, his world changes. The house is empty and he’s left home alone. Uh oh, does Buster have separation anxiety?

The stress of suddenly being alone may cause behavioral changes… excessive barking, destruction, escaping, pacing, chewing, scratching, and even the inability to lie down and rest.

While there is no evidence showing why some dogs have separation anxiety and some don’t, dogs are naturally social animals. So much so, that behaviorist and author John Bradshaw says, “Surprisingly, most dogs, given the choice, will actually prefer human company to other dog company.”

The ASPCA states,

“When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.”

What You Can Do to Help Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

1. 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 Buster that you are leaving. If picking up your car keys is always a precursor to leaving, Buster 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 Buster guessing so that he starts to unscramble the patterns you’ve already set in place.

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.” Separation Anxiety training protocol by famed dog trainer Victoria Stilwell can be found here.

2. A Little at a Time

If the kids aren’t going back to school for another three weeks, start practicing with very short departures today. 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.

3. Tire Her Out

A tired dog will less likely be inclined to tear up the linoleum while you are gone. Get up extra early to go for a long walk. Engage in a good game of retrieve. The amount and length of activity depends on breed, size, and age.

4. Training and Dog Tricks

While exercise and long walks are great at keeping him in shape, he’ll get more tired from mental stimulation combined with exercise. I joke that the more I hike with Gina, the better shape she gets in to prepare for even more physical activity. But, add in some agility training, and she actually gets tired. Don’t have any jumps at home? Try teaching Buster some new dog tricks daily.

5. Let Music Soothe His Fears

Don’t leave Buster home alone. Leave him with his own iPawd. While iCalmDog is the portable solution to canine anxiety, the clinically tested music works just as well at home as when Buster is on the go. Thousands of veterinarians and dog trainers worldwide have recommended the slowed down, simplified, classical compositions. Take a lesson and enjoy a soothing sound bath with your pup.

 

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Has your dog experienced separation anxiety? What have you found to help? Thanks for sharing your experiences in a comment below.

 

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5 Signs of a Responsible Dog Owner

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Being a responsible pet parent may have many different definitions. But, it is more than just loving your dog and meeting his basic needs. Being responsible means learning how to understand the world from your dog’s point of view. Dogs speak a different language than people, and they are constantly studying everything we do to understand our behaviors and language. Being responsible means understanding their language and ways of communicating.

Here are some of the ways that you can be a responsible dog owner that go beyond the basics of neutering and spaying, exercising your dog, feeding them healthy meals and treats, and being there for them until the end of their life.

1. You Give Them Space.

Some dogs are very comfortable around a multitude of dogs and activity, many aren’t and need extra space. Learn to read your dog’s stress signals and make sure you keep her in an environment that is safe, determined by her needs. If you are aware of signs of stress in crowds, then it’s better to leave her home than take her with you to your local wine and art fair. Some dog-friendly events aren’t always friendly for all dogs.

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2. You Pay Attention To Their Sound Environment.

We brings dogs into our human world and we say “adjust.” Some do, many don’t. When dogs can’t orient the source of a sound to determine whether it is safe, they can easily go into sensory overload and develop anxiety behaviors along with health problems. Humans hear sounds between 20-20,000 Hz. Dogs hear at least twice as high, sometimes all the way up to 55,000 Hz. While I think it’s great that more events and public places are dog friendly, so often those environments are created for humans. A fundraising party for dogs and their people that benefits your local shelter, doesn’t benefit your dog when a loud band is playing. Please safeguard your dog’s sound environment.

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3. You Treat Dogs Like Dogs, Not Little Humans.

As humans, we tend to anthropomorphize our pets. It’s only natural if we love them. But, when we start to understand life from their point of view, we realize that dogs rarely show affection the way humans do. Most don’t like being pat on the head, especially from a stranger, and most don’t naturally take to hugs.

Sanchez Interception

4. You Prioritize Humane Training.

While it’s our responsibility to train our dogs, it’s also our responsibility to humanely train them with positive reinforcement. Humane training is not only the kind, loving way to train, but it’s scientifically proven and it works and helps to create an emotional bond between you and your dog that is priceless.

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5. You Provide Opportunities for Stimulation.

We can read a book or study a subject online when we want to learn, grow, and educate ourselves. But, it’s our responsibility to keep our dog’s minds stimulated. Feed her out of food puzzles instead of a bowl, enjoy a canine sport together, and teach her new tricks that help her keep thinking and making decisions.

Are you a responsible dog owner? Or maybe you prefer the terminology ‘pet parent’? Thanks for sharing your thoughts on what makes you responsible in a comment below.

 

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Was Your Dog Naughty or Nice This Year?

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While it’s entertaining to think about for humans, very few, if any, dogs want to be naughty. I know it may appear he is misbehaving when you chase him around the house to get the santa stocking out of his mouth. But, to a dog, it’s just a fun game, and the santa hat is no different than a favorite soft toy. In reality, Buster isn’t being naughty. He’s just being a dog.

Gina Santa Hat in bed

Canadian dog trainer Pat Spence shares that dogs misbehave for one of three reasons:

Lack of Understanding

We speak English. Dogs speak Dog. It’s our job to communicate what we want consistently and in a manner they understand. You may think Buster is being naughty for not sitting when you ask.  But, yesterday it was fine when he sat the 10th time you said it. Dogs learn quickly by repetition. He may be thinking that after you say ‘SIT’ 10 times, that’s when you want him to sit. Praise and reward him the first time he sits fast, be consistent every time, and he’ll start sitting when you ask the first time. As Spence shares,

“The more you reinforce his good behavior, the more of it you will see.”

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Boredom and Lack of Exercise and Stimulation

Similar to people, dogs need exercise along with mental stimulation. The two together tire a dog out more than either alone. Personally, it’s one of the things I love about agility.

After walking Buster before work, spend a few minutes with some positive reinforcement dog training and teach him a new trick. If he’s ready for higher distraction dog training, teach him the new trick while you are out walking him. It will put a smile on your face too, because you are building relationship with your dog. And you won’t be coming home to a torn up sofa created by a dog needing more stimulation. Adding some Through a Dog’s Ear music will also greatly help his environmental stimulation when you are gone.

Rewarded for Misbehaving

While we don’t mean to, we often reward dogs for misbehaving. That doesn’t mean we give him a treat when he performs an unwanted behavior. It means that rewards come in other forms. We might be so happy to see Buster when we get home that we praise and pet him when he is jumping on us at the front door. But, when Uncle Charlie comes to visit and he does the same, he gets scolded. That can be very confusing to a dog. Again, reward the behavior you want consistently and you’ll see more of it.

Training Tip: A dog can’t jump and sit at the same time (not even Border Collies). Ask him to sit the next time you come in, mark the behavior with a click or “yes”, and reward. You’ll see more of that behavior. (Note: If you have a very excited dog, try that first by just opening the door, leaving and immediately coming back in. If you wait until you’ve been gone 4 hours, he might already be over the threshold of excitement. Gradually build up to that.)

Gina Sanchez Xmas Chanukah

Were Your Dogs Nice?

I hope all of your dogs are rewarded for being nice this holiday season. If you are looking for additional rewards, our holiday discounts are still available until Dec. 26th, including iCalmDog specials.

Enjoy! Wishing you, your human and canine household a peaceful, calm holiday season!

Editors’ Note:
Gina was framed for the photo above with the santa hat in her bed. Her eye has been on that Santa hat, wanting to tug with it since I brought it home. It’s the day before Christmas and now that I’ve used it for all the photo opps I could find, I finally just converted it to a tug toy for her and asked her to go to her bed with it. No naughty dogs in my home 😉

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Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from our Calm your Canine Companion music series when you sign up for our newsletter and/or Lisa’s Blog. Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!

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5 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog in 33 Seconds

As well as I thought I knew my Labrador, Gina, she even surprised me recently during this recent run at an AKC agility trial.  It never ceases to amaze me how much I continue to learn from my dogs. Here’s what Gina taught me in 33 seconds:

1. Don’t ever give up.

Even when you fall flat on your butt, you never know what will happen next. Get up, go on and finish.

2. Life (and dog training) is supposed to be fun.

Don’t take life too seriously. When life throws you a curve ball, have fun with it.

3. Be prepared.

We practice cues from a huge variety of positions and locations ~ the floor, on the sofa, while doing a plank. And even though I never said “over” from the floor, I never knew how much all that practice would come in handy.

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4. Praise and attention keeps you going.

Gina really responded to all the cheering at the end and picked up speed. Praise feeds your soul, no matter your leg count.

5. Reward. Reward. Reward.

Everybody likes to get paid, even dogs. She was immediately rewarded for a job well done. First with the cheering, next when she jumped on me right after the run, followed by her favorite treat, and then a game of fetch with her squeaky ball reserved especially for agility.

Lisa and Gina Palo Alto Agility

Good girl, Gina!

What life lessons have you learned from your dogs? Thanks for sharing in a comment below.

Photo Credits:
Top Photo: Ian Coggins
Gina Jumping: Erika Mauer
Gina posing with Lisa: Karen Gough

Delivering Calm, four paws at a time…

Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from our Calm your Canine Companion music series when you sign up for our newsletter and/or Lisa’s Blog. Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!

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Are You Still Training that Dog?

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A local business owner, who sees me often with Sanchez, made a passing comment the other day that really got my attention. He said, “You’re always training that dog.” While he didn’t mean it as a criticism, he certainly didn’t intend it to be a compliment, even though I replied with “Thank you.”  A better compliment might have been, “You are always building relationship with your dog.” But, I don’t think that’s what he saw.

Sanchez is seven and was bred to be a guide dog. He loves to socialize, work, and keep his mind active. I read in an article yesterday that keeping a dog’s brain engaged is the key to a happy, healthy companion. This is very true with Sanchez. His mind is always working and even though he gets a tremendous amount of exercise, it needs to be combined with mental stimulation. I live in a very dog friendly town and he goes almost everywhere with me and loves all the attention he gets. Most locals know him by name. I work with him whenever we are in line at the bank, the hardware store, and when he needs a break from being in a down stay at the Apple Store (where I’m loving all of their classes).

You’ll see in the video that I’m working with him on lifting his right and left paws, one at a time, as he mimics me. And this all takes place at the UPS Store in Half Moon Bay, CA. We are working on incorporating this into a Musical Canine Freestyle routine. One of the things I absolutely love about Canine Freestyle is that we can practice it anywhere, in the midst of various distractions. In the process, he is always learning new tricks that keep his mind stimulated while creating a deeper bond in our relationship. After watching the video, what do you think? Is it a benefit to his life that “we are always training?” Thank you for clicking on comment below and sharing your thoughts.

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Is Social Media Helping Our Dogs?

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Casey Lomonaco teaching Meet and Greet with Dogs 

Casey and I met first on Twitter (where I new her as @RBDT), then at the APDT conference, and then in person at her training center in Binghamton, NY

I was having a conversation with a dear friend. He (and many other friends) have noticed my enthusiasm about social media. He was asking me how much time I spent on it, was it worth it, and what is the ROI (return on investment). The question reminded me of when Sanchez was a puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind. I was his volunteer puppy raiser and I was often asked how much time it took to train him. My answer couldn’t be quantified. It wasn’t a set amount of time every day. Instead, training was integrated throughout every day. He went with me almost everywhere and training and socializing took place all the time. The reason puppy raisers are volunteers is because you can’t put a price on the work they do. It is truly priceless. I feel the same about raising any dog, whether a pet, a working dog, or a service dog in training. And, I feel the same about social media.

I am connecting and communicating with a group of dog lovers who believe what I believe. We are all doing our best to improve the lives of dogs, whether we are dog trainers, own a dog business, volunteer for a rescue organization, work full time in another profession and care for our own dogs at home, or create music for dogs. The support we provide each other and the engaging conversations we have on Facebook is something I look forward to daily. And, when I am out living my life, my eyes and heart are always searching for ways that I can contribute to the conversation and engage with dog lovers. While we don’t all agree on every dog subject – whether it be laws on breeding, ways of training, ways of reducing the amount of homeless dogs euthanized every year – we are all connecting through our love of dogs. And it goes beyond social media.

In my travels, I have had the pleasure of meeting in person many of the same people who I first met on Twitter or Facebook. Breaking bread with them and meeting their dogs makes it that much more real. We share our dreams, help each other with business ideas, and want to know much more about our doglife than 140 characters can communicate on Twitter. We tell our stories, reflecting how life brought us into the Dog world in such a magnificent way. Sharing those stories connects us deeper and makes those moments priceless.

Cost of Tweeting = Time

Cost of Facebook posting = Time

Cost of Blogging = Time

Cost of Connecting with Dog Lovers who want to Improve the Lives of Dogs = PRICELESS!

 

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HELP! My Dog Needs His Space!

I just returned from a glorious overnight in Carmel, CA and enjoyed a very lovely stay at the Cypress Inn. Carmel is known to be the dog capital of the U.S. Dogs are welcome everywhere, it seems – shops, galleries, many restaurants, hotels and inns, the beach, etc. Dog water bowls are plentiful in front of many shops, and it’s raining dog treats everywhere. If you are a dog lover, it’s VERY fun! To top it off, the weather was glorious with abundant sunshine. It was a welcome break from the rain we’ve been having. And the Cypress Inn has a lovely lounge with a Steinway grand piano. Readers here know that pianos and dogs are a heavenly combination for me.

The benefits to such a dog-inviting town are obvious to dog lovers. What isn’t so evident to many are the potential challenges that could arise when dogs aren’t given enough space.

I loved dining with my dog. And where else can you have high tea with your dog by your side? However, when it came to choosing restaurants, I tended to gravitate to ones with less dogs, not more dogs. Why? Because many people are unaware of the space that dogs need around them to feel comfortable. I am not a dog trainer, but I would think this would be one of the few topics that every dog trainer would agree with. You put dogs too close to each other, and you are going to run into territorial problems.

A year ago, I was aware of the concept, but my dog Sanchez seemed comfortable in almost any social environment. He was raised to be a working Guide Dog and was socialized in a huge variety of environments as a puppy. And even though he was “career changed” five years ago, I have purposely exposed him to a large amount of social surroundings since then. He’s just a little different now. Maybe partly because he’s older, but more so because a dog very surprisingly attacked him a few months ago. The changes are subtle, but he’s not as trusting of all dogs as he used to be, and he’s not as comfortable when another dog is in the area he considers to be “his space”.

When walking down the stairs at the charming Cypress Inn, if a dog was lying at the foot of the steps in his path, Sanchez just didn’t want to go. If a dog was inching too close to him at a restaurant, Sanchez would crawl under the table. Often, when I would politely ask people to move their dog over, they would say “It’s OK, he’s friendly.” I found it challenging to express to people that it’s not about their dog’s friendliness. I didn’t want to subject my dog to a situation that I knew he wasn’t comfortable with.

Locally, in the parking lot of our hiking trail, I’ve even had dogs run up to my car waiting for Sanchez to come out, and crowding the space in which he exits. I just wait patiently for the dog’s person to get their dog to leave Sanchez’s space before I open his kennel door, even if they say “It’s OK, he’s friendly.”

My question to readers is how to communicate this awareness of dogs and space to others in a very tactful way so that people understand that it’s not about how friendly their dog is. All dogs need space. Sanchez seems to need a lot lately, and I’d like to be able to give him that. I’d love to hear your comments on how you handle this. Thank you for clicking on “comment” below to post your feedback.  

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Through a Trainer’s Ear

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by guest blogger Casey Matthews-Lomonaco, Owner of Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training

Last October, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the city of Oakland to attend the Association of Pet Dog Trainers contest after winning the Dogwise John Fisher Essay contest.  (If you’d like to learn more about one of the world’s greatest dogs, you can read my essay Dances with Dogs about Monte, my reactive Saint Bernard.)

With Turid Rugaas, Terry Ryan, Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, Kathy Sdao, Nicole Wilde, and Bob Bailey speaking at the conference, it would have been impossible for me to tell you which speaker I was most excited about seeing.  While I learned a great deal from all the speakers at the conference, I must admit that the one that impressed me the most, that really made me reevaluate my understanding of how dogs interact with and experience their world, was Lisa Spector and Joshua Leeds’ “Through a Dog’s Ear” presentation.

I’ll admit, when I attended the conference, I was relatively unfamiliar with Through a Dog’s Ear. I knew Lisa as a fellow DogStarDaily.com blogger and as a twitter friend, but I had not read the book or heard any of the music other than short samples.  Nonetheless, I was intrigued and elected to attend Lisa and Joshua’s presentation.

I am so, so thankful I did.  What a wonderful, exciting presentation it was, and waking up to beautiful music at your first conference session of the day certainly starts the day off right.  Lisa and Joshua opened my mind, but more importantly, my ears and made me really think about how much sound actually effects not only our own, but our dogs’ experiences of the world.

Immediately upon returning home, I placed an order for my own copy of the Through a Dog’s Ear book and CD.  I loved it every bit as much as I loved Lisa and Joshua’s presentation at the conference and quickly began to recommend it to my clients. 

The feedback from clients has been overwhelmingly positive. And I was very impressed with the results from a client’s dog that had been anxious when her owner left the house. I had the owner schedule a time every day when she could listen to Music to Calm Your Canine Comapnion with her dog while giving her dog a massage and using T-Touch techniques.  I had her play it quietly when her dog was resting at home.  Then we began to have her play the same music when we started practicing controlled separation.  We’ve been able to see significant progress in increasing duration of separation since the addition of the music combined with massage techniques.  The owner has responded that she finds the music to be exceptionally calming to her as well.

Happily for me, I have found the same to be true.  I am naturally a relatively anxious person.  After hearing Lisa and Joshua at the APDT conference, I began paying particular attention to how the sounds I surround myself with affect me emotionally.  There are certain songs I pull up on my iPod when I need a little energy boost, other songs that prove cathartic when I am angry or frustrated.  Some songs make me feel silly, others make me feel sad.  Through a Dog’s Ear makes me feel relaxed and more focused.

I have traditionally avoided listening to music when I am training dogs since it generally breaks my focus and leads me to be distracted.  I have not found that to be true with Through a Dog’s Ear.  It is especially helpful, played at very quiet levels on my iPod, when I am doing work with Monte on desensitization and counter conditioning for his reactivity to other dogs, a time when I am prone to be exceptionally nervous and when clarity and calm is really needed to ensure our success.

The music has also been beneficial outside of my training.  My anxiety prevented me from getting a driver’s license for quite some time.  I was afraid to drive, and was often anxious even riding in the car.  However, it was important to me personally and to my business that I conquer this fear. 

I recently passed my driver’s test, just months before my 30th birthday!  When I first started driving on my own, I was, to put things mildly, a nervous wreck.  White-knuckled, I was overwhelmed and under-confident.  The punk music that I normally thrive on was not doing me any favors. Despite the fact that I absolutely love punk music, it was certainly not helping me to feel more focused, calm, and collected when driving.

I decided to try something entirely different, “Music to Calm your Canine Companion”.  What an unbelievable difference!  Almost automatically, my brain seemed to clear and my pulse slowed to something more manageable.  I felt focused and less anxious than I had previously.  It was a fantastic experience, and I immediately messaged Lisa to tell her about it on Facebook after that trip.  To be honest, there are still occasions that require I sing NoFX songs as loud as possible at the top of my lungs. But on days like today, for instance, when I am trying to drive on some icy, slick roads, I feel safer driving when I listen to Through a Dog’s Ear music.  It’s like a soothing balm for frazzled nerves, and gives me a feeling of instant safety and focus.

Now that I’ve seen changes both in my own dogs (who are happily sleeping, enjoying Through a Dog’s Ear with me as I write this), dogs belonging to my clients, and yes, in my own behavivor/emotions and those of my clients, I can’t recommend Through a Dog’s Ear often or heartily enough.