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Separation Anxiety And Your Dog: The Complete Guide

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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:

  • Drooling, panting, or salivating way more than usualdog with separation anxiety cowers in crate
  • Barking, whining, or howling
  • Pacing, 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.

dog with separation anxiety gets cuddled dog in crate with separation anxiety gets soothed dog cured of anxiety cuddles with owner

What’s the Difference Between Separation Anxiety and Bad Behavior?

Bad behavior is your dog acting out before you leave, just so he can have your attention. Separation anxiety is a phobia: there’s actual fear behind the behavior.

How to know what’s what:

dog outside with no separation anxietyDogs 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 for work.

Knowing they’re about to be alone and dreading it, many dogs will do ANYTHING to get your attention. And that includes bad behavior. Even being reprimanded becomes a reward because 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

dog with high anxiety in a yard

your 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.

meme about domesticated dogs anxious

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.
  • Aging dogs can also develop separation anxiety as their senses weaken and perceived stimuli decrease.

So how can we remedy this? Pay a ton of attention to any changes you make in your life––because your dog certainly is. Transitions, schedule changes, any shifts in your normal routine are some of the most common triggers for separation anxiety.

Common Triggers of Separation Anxiety:

  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.

dog behavior and training through music

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.

Solutions: How Can I Treat Separation Anxiety in My Dog?

dog yawning no separation anxiety

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––before moving into the more intensive ones.

5 Immediate Solutions:

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!

dog on beach with no separation anxietyThis 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, 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:

dog together with no separation anxiety

Do you have a friendly elderly neighbor who’s home all day and could come let your pup out for a pee break? 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: How to Re-Wire Old Patterns

dog training separation anxiety

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. He’s ok being 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

dog with separation anxiety holding a clock

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.

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 stop-walks, 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.

 

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

9 Steps, 1 weekend: Reconditioning Protocol

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.  dog cured of separation anxiety with music

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 together.

4. Initially, stay close and attentive, but not lasered on all his moves. Read a book, check email. 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 in the house. He needs to learn that it’s 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 ’em how good he is.

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

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 length 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!

 

 

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

 

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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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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.

Gina snooker jump EM

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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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.