As our lives gradually return to normal our pups, who have in many cases had the pleasure of a lot of extra quality time with their humans, may start to experience some anxiety. Follow these tips to prevent or treat separation anxiety:
- If your dog has been noticeably clingy, (think spending the entire day on your lap while you binge on Netflix) start by practicing some social distancing with your pup! Shoot for not physically interacting with your dog 50% of the time you are together.
- Start by practicing short periods of separation. Give your dog a high value reward (one that she will get only when you are practicing or leaving the house) like a special chew or peanut butter stuffed and frozen Kong in the area she will be left when you leave the house down the road (crate, loose or gated in one specific area).
- Go about your business doing chores or working nearby while your dog is busy enjoying his treat, first starting in the same room as him.
- As she relaxes start to leave the room briefly (if your dog is very distressed you can start with just walking out of the room and right back in), while she works on her high value treat.
- Increase the time you’re out of the room gradually, increasing only as quickly as your dog can tolerate without getting stressed. If you see him abandon his chew to come find you, start to whine, etc you are going too fast and need to go back to the last time duration your dog was successful.
- Finally, you can work up to leaving the house for short periods of time, starting with just picking up your keys and walking to the door. Gradually increase your time away as your dog remains calm.
- The speed at which you can progress through these steps depends on your dog and her anxiety level.
- Training tip – exercise is vital to helping dogs with separation anxiety. Take your dog for a long walk or run before you leave the house. A tired dog is a more relaxed one!
If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety and you need more one-on-one coaching the team at Bark to Basics is here to help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!
The recent rain in So Cal has many of my clients crying uncle. Formerly housetrained pups are pottying on the floor while others are going stir crazy from lack of exercise. Here are some tips to help your dog (and you!) beat the bad weather blues.
- Establish good habits from the start with young puppies. Resist the urge to use potty pads when it rains (I know it seems easier now but see note number two below!). Instead take him outside and make a big deal about him going even though it is wet.
- If your dog has a tendency to make potty mistakes as soon as the grass is damp go back to the basics. Take your dog out at regularly scheduled intervals (yes, this may mean you need an umbrella) and reward for pottying outside.
- If your dog is particularly stubborn about going in the rain confine her to small area or room (think puppy potty training 101) and try again an hour later. Do not allow her full reign of the house until she is successful.
- For active dogs the lack of exercise that often comes with inclement weather can lead to boredom (read: getting into trouble). Provide mental stimulation with training sessions, chews or Kongs stuffed with peanut butter and frozen, and inside fetch sessions. Try to get your dog out when there’s a break in the rain, even if it’s short lived.
- Take some time to cuddle up with your pup for some extra love and attention, after all, isn’t that what rainy days are best for?
Teaching your dog the “stay” command gives you more control in many situations and is a great safety tool as well. The key to teaching stay is patience! Some dogs, especially puppies, would rather do anything than hold still!
- Ask your dog to “sit” or “down”. If your dog doesn’t know “sit” or “down” teach those commands first!
- Use sit-stay for short periods of time – think at the curb, while chatting with a neighbor while on a walk or checking out at the pet store. Use down-stay for longer duration stays like in the house with your pup in his place (if you missed how to teach “place” check out last month’s newsletter)!
- With your dog in position say “stay” and hold your hand out away from you, palm flat like you are telling someone to stop. After a few seconds of holding the position say “yes” and reward your dog. Remind her to “stay” and repeat.
- Gradually increase your distance from your dog, how long you ask her to stay between rewards and the distraction level. At first you will want to increase one component at a time. For example, if the house is quiet and you are only two feet away ask her to stay in place longer. If you are walking across the room reward more frequently.
- Incorporating toys is a great way to challenge distraction level. Start by holding a low value toy while she stays, progressing in distraction level to squeaking the toy, to tossing it in the air, all while she holds her position.
- When the session is over approach your dog, say “free” and encourage him to get up. Be sure to use your release word at the end of each “stay” session, and do not use the word unless you are done!
- You can also use the “come” command to release your dog. However, a mixture of the “free” and “come” command to release works best to avoid your dog anticipating you calling him before you are ready.
- If your dog gets up say “no” and have him go back into position and try again. If he breaks three times in a row that is a sign that you are making it too hard for him. Go back a step.
- Keep “stay” sessions short and fun, stopping before your dog becomes bored. For high energy dogs or puppies several three-minute sessions per day is more effective than one long one!
- “Stay” is a great command to combine with “place”. Simply send your dog to his place before asking him to “stay”.
Thunder and fireworks and motorcycles, oh my! Is your dog nervous about noises? Help them restore their confidence.
Desensitize and counter condition
- Have high value treats ready.
- Start by making a noise that your dog is afraid of, but at a very quiet level and immediately reward your dog. You can readily find audio of sounds like thunder and fireworks online.
- As she is calm with the low level noise gradually make the sound louder, stopping if she won’t eat or starts to panic, and going back to a softer sound.
- Make it a priority to expose puppies to new sights and sounds while young. This will decrease the chance of him developing a fear down the road
- If you can’t avoid the noise (think thunderstorms and fireworks) be sure your dog has a safe place like a crate or small room he can escape to if needed.
- Use the radio or TV to drown out the noise
- Provide a high value, long lasting treat (stuffed Kong, favorite chew) to occupy him
- Try a wrap/shirt or natural supplements that are specifically designed to calm your dog
- If she is extremely stressed discuss medication with your vet