In life with your dogs, there are things they need and things they don’t.
The number one thing dogs need? CLARITY! If your training in struggling or you aren’t getting the behavior you want from them, chances are you aren’t clear enough or you’re creating conflict.
What doesn’t help? Using a stern voice. Good training (and clarity!) will help your dog improve. You can get the same results (if not BETTER) by using a neutral or happy voice with your dog when giving them a command.
Watch this video to find out how clarity and vocal tone can affect your training.
Did this video help clarify something for you? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Businesses are beginning to open up and while you may not go back to work just yet, you may start to leave your house more often for other reasons.
Have you thought about how your new puppy or dog might react to your disappearance after being home so much?
You aren’t alone. A number of you have written me to ask about this issue.
A couple years ago, (initially unbeknownst to me), Rae, my 4 year old Aussie, realized that when I opened my bathroom shade, it meant we were ready to go downstairs. But as the sun came up earlier and earlier in the Spring, I started raising my shade earlier to use the natural light as I put on my make-up. Raising my shade no longer meant we were ready to head out and start the day.
Rae was incensed! Why weren’t we headed downstairs!? She started staring at me, wiggling, whining and then started barking!
It took me a while to figure out why. The shade was her cue!
This was interesting to me and I wondered how long it would take her to desensitize to the shade – to stop pairing the shade with going downstairs.
So I tested it.
Just like us, your dog makes associations based on past experience and behavior can even becomes automatic. A sudden change in that association can now cause your dog to get anxious, just like it did with Rae and the shade.
And when that association tells your dog that you will be leaving… and probably for a long time… the anxiety can be profound enough to basically cause a “panic attack”.
With a “panic attack”, your dog can become destructive. Very destructive. Not to be spiteful or to “teach you a lesson”, but because your dog gets so upset, worried and panicked that that energy is released in the only way they know how – whining, barking, having accidents or chewing. They can’t control it!
Next thing you know, you are getting the rugs cleaned… again…, replacing furniture or worse… on the phone with contractors getting estimates on repairs to the door frame, cabinets and more. I have many photos from clients with huge holes in their walls, dog with injured paws and more. The damage from a panic attack can be astounding as well as scary and dangerous.
Remember that your dog has a whole different sense of time and little to distract them from thinking about you, so even when they don’t panic, they may be depressed and/or wonder if they’ve been abandoned every time you leave.
Here are 3 ways to get started to help prevent and treat separation anxiety:
Separate from your dog for short periods of time, at random times. Slowly increase the length of time but continue to separate at random times and for random amounts of time so your dog won’t know if you are leaving for 1 minute, 1 hour or 1 day.
Change any cues that can mean you are leaving.Pick up your purse, put on your coat, grab your keys, put on your shoes or whatever you normally do when you leave your house, at random times, so your dog does not always pair these as cues with your absence.
Make departures and arrivals boring. Very boring. It’s hard to do because it feels impolite not to say goodbye when you leave, but it can help lower your dog’s anxiety.
Not your problem? Your dog has always been fine when you left in the past? That is no indication of what might happen when you return to work.
So, get started nowespecially if you have a puppy or even more so, if you have a rescue. It’s really important to prepare your dog for a change in schedule.
Remember I said I tested how long it would take Rae to stop reacting when I raised the shade? As it turned out, it took about 11 weeks.
Yes, 11 weeks.
Get started now and get your dog ready for the changes ahead.
Start today by picking up your keys before you go to bed, putting on your jacket for breakfast and pretending to set the alarm before you settle in with a good book on the couch. In the long run, these little things will benefit both you and your dog.
Thanks for reading and now I’d love to hear from you. Please scroll down and leave a comment.
You have more power than you realize. In the case of your dog, you need to mind your own business before you can hope to have a dog that listens…
…because what is your dog listening to anyway?
The state of your mind affects how you feel and your dog picks up on that feeling. Your body language and chemistry are totally different when you are stressed or sad or excited or joyful. The changes can be subtle.
But your dog doesn’t necessarily know WHY you are feeling that way. They guess based on past experience and their own feeling and reactions.
That lack of clarity can cause your dog to become excited, happy, confused, concerned, fearful, anxious or a host of other emotions. How your dog reads a situation can affect whether or not they can listen to what you are saying or listen appropriately. They may become completely distracted by their own emotions in reaction to yours.
Think about how you can tell as soon as you walk into a room, whether or not you are welcome. Likewise. your dog can tell how you feel.
Visit this thought in your mind for a minute… close your eyes and imagine you are late walking into a conference room and everyone is looking at you! Those in the conference room may be annoyed because you are late or thrilled to see you because they were worried about you. Can you tell? Do you feel welcome? You can usually sense the energy in the room instantly. Can how you feel affect what gets accomplished at the meeting?
Now, imagine you are a substitute teacher walking into a math class with a group of rowdy teenage kids on a beautiful Spring day. What’s the mood of that room? What if they look at you like fresh meat?! LOL Or what if they don’t look at you… at all? How do you feel? What is the energy in that room and can you follow through on your plans for the day?
You don’t necessarily pick up on every eye squint, posture change or smirk but overall, you have a sense of the energy and it can affect you.
Your dog senses your energy and mood in the same way. Maybe even more so. The longer you live with your dog, the more in sync you can get and your dog learns when to be more cautious or sometimes when to “ignore” your mood. Just make no mistake… your dog feeds off of your energy and bad energy makes it harder to focus, listen and learn.
Watch the video above and then try this exercise:
Think about something that annoys you or upsets you, like the upcoming election or some one you are struggling with at work and then train your dog a simple skill. Watch their body language and be aware of yourself too.
Then later, try it again, only this time, first think about things you love or are looking forward to like a vacation or your favorite meal or even put on an upbeat song that you just love and makes you want to smile… and then train your dog the same skill in the same place in the same way.
Do you see a difference in yourself? In your dog?
Watch the video and let me know how the exercise goes for youin the comments below.
Four years ago in November, I was sitting with a huge phone book size catalog on my lap in a folding chair. It was a hot, dusty day at the large State Fair arena in Tennessee watching the Australian Shepherd National Specialty Show.
With dirt on the pages, my pencil scratched as I took notes on breed lines, breeders and rescues, carefully watching the dogs in the ring. In between, I talked to owners.
I knew I wanted a puppy that minute and couldn’t wait to hold one in my arms, snuggle and begin our life together, but I also knew I needed to do my homework… especially since I wanted another Aussie. Loving this breed is my “poison”… haha! I used to say to myself, “WHY!? WHY do you have to love this difficult breed!?”
Still… it was SO hard to wait! Can you relate?
But it is so important that you get the right dog for you and that you are the right person for the dog. You’ll hopefully have many years together so get started out right.
Look on youtube and you’ll find tons of videos showing children and adults opening the huge box with the puppy inside! There are screams and laughter and tears all around and it’s SO EXCITING!!!
…BUT they don’t show you what happens later that day or the next day or the next when the puppy is peeing on things, biting or even growling because it’s become terrified.
Now that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t give a puppy as a big gift. You can.
Just do it right so your child, parent or significant other AND the puppy get off to the best start possible and avoid causing any trauma.
First, make sure a dog is really going to be welcome and planned for in your home. Do you know what characteristics are important to you when choosing a dog? Do you have the time and energy that a puppy needs? Do you have experience raising or owning a dog?
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that a puppy can make a good idea for a gift…
…IF your loved one would have gotten the puppy anyway…
…AND if you give the puppy in the right way.
So if you think you might go for a puppy as a gift, watch the video below and watch for more videos coming up to help you choose that puppy or dog and for more specifics on what you need to have ready.
I have practiced veterinary medicine in the Cleveland area since 1990, with behavior medicine as my primary interest. I help improve the behavior of dogs and cats through a variety of online courses. I also offer one-on-one and group behavior training sessions in the Northeastern Ohio area.