Take your keys to bed and your dog will thank you for it

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 now especially 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.

Why dogs listen in the sport of agility


Sometimes your dog can be so frustrating! You’ve trained them to come when called or to walk next to you nicely on leash, but now… they won’t do it!

Is your dog “blowing you off”? Is it just that they won’t LISTEN!?

No. Dog’s don’t blow you off and they are always listening – really.

It could just be a simple step in your training that is missing. Sometimes you need to break a step down even more than you would ever think to get the results you want. 

This morning, I came to this realization with a skill that I need when I run my dog on the agility course. A simple – seemingly simple – skill but very very powerful. And I NEED it!

So watch this video and learn how forgetting to break down a skill to the smallest pieces might be holding you back and get some better results with your dog.

Then comment below and let me know if it’s a revelation for you too!

Mind your own business!


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: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Lake House Series Video 8: Practice With the Emergency Down

Lake House Series Video 8: Practice With the Emergency Down

<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/272808935?color=ff0179&title=0&byline=0" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><p><a href="https://vimeo.com/272808935">Lake House Series Video 8</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/playtobehave">Carolyn Lincoln, DVM</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

This is Dr. Carolyn Lincoln with Play to Behave and I’m here at the Cleveland All-Breed Training Club. It’s an AKC club. I’m here with my dog, Rae, she’s two-year-old Australian shepherd. I’m just going to show you the next piece of the emergency down which I mentioned in another video before. If you missed that you can go back and see it here!

Also, I wanted to tell you that on Tuesday mornings at 10:00 if you live in the Cleveland area, and you’re interested in agility, we’re going to be doing some beginning agility during that time. It’ll be sort of a drop in, I just have to clear everything with the club so I’ll let you know, and I’ll let you know the cost and all that. Just ask me if you’re interested.

Now, back to the emergency down. The first piece I told you to teach your dog is to go out, so they go away from you and then you can teach them to sit and up lie down at a distance. I have that with her, and so I’m going to ask her to come to me, and as she’s coming I’m going to ask her to lie down in the process. I want her moving and running, and as she’s coming I’ll ask her to down now.

We did this a long time ago, probably a year ago and she was good at it, but now I really need this for the lake house so I’m going to practice it more often. I did this one session with her on the other live, so you didn’t see that, so she’s a little better now, but she was coming to about maybe two feet from me in lying down. Of course, I want her farther out, I want her to lie down as soon as I say it, but we can’t expect to have the finished behavior immediately. This is just the process, so you’re going to be able to see that.

Right now I’m going to send her out and I’m going to ask her to lie down, if she doesn’t, and then I’m going to call her to me. As she’s coming, I’m going to say down, and I always use the hand signal always, always, always, because they might not be able to hear you wherever they are. As soon as she goes down, tell her, “Good girl”, and she gets rewarded for frisbee. I’m not using treats today, I’m just using a frisbee, this is her favorite thing and she’ll do it for that. As time goes on I’ll have her farther and farther away.

I’m going to go behind me right now, I’m going to ask her to go out, I’m going to call her to me, ask her to down, and then reward her with a frisbee. “Ready? Lie down. Free. Down. Yes, good girl.” That’s pretty good because she was about two feet away. What I did wrong is I threw the frisbee really high, and I don’t want to do that because they can get hurt coming down and she actually did last week.

“Low. Out. Down. Free. Down. Good girl.” If you saw before, I only did about 10 repetitions and she was coming much closer, now she’s farther. It doesn’t take that long to teach your dog this.

“Go. Good girl. Lie down.” Notice, always use a hand signal. “Free. Down. Good girl. Go get it.” I have a release word which is free. I could use the word come and have her come to me, because I didn’t actually asked her to stay. “Down. Free. Down. Good girl.”

So you see, over time she’s going to get better and better at this, and no matter what she’s doing she should lie down. “Rae, come, lie down, stay.” I’ll be able to use this out at the lake house, but of course I have to practice it out there too out in the grass. I’ve done a little bit of that, but not a whole lot.

How long did that take me? I mean this video is taking a little time, but actual training that I just did takes almost no time at all, so you can definitely fit this into your day. Doing it a couple times a day, you’d be amazed at how quickly they learn and how fast they change.

This is Rae, and she’s signing off. I’m Dr Carolyn Lincoln with Play to Behave. Again, I’m at the Cleveland All-Breed Training Club. It’s an AKC Club. I teach here, I actually do it on a volunteer basis. We have lots of great classes, so if you are interested whether it’s tracking, obedience, rally, agility, whatever, the AKC club in your area, if not this one, should have a lot of variety and you might want to get involved.

If you’re interested in a class coming up, let me know for the summer. Okay, signing off, have a great day.

Lake House Series Video 7: Your Dog and Strangers in the Home

Lake House Series Video 7: Your Dog and Strangers in the Home

<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/272790945?color=ff0179&title=0&byline=0" width="640" height="1138" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><p><a href="https://vimeo.com/272790945">Lake House Series Video 7</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/playtobehave">Carolyn Lincoln, DVM</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

Hi, good morning! I am at our lake house and I just wanted to check in with you because we’re having some windows put in today. It’s somewhat heavy construction. Two guys showed up with a huge truck. Here’s the way I managed this and the way you can do this with your dog. First, I got her here before they got here. I had her in a crate, in the car. Then she heard me talking to them, she heard the truck come up, she heard all of that. Then they started carrying things in while I started getting things set up too.

So, all this time she’s listening, hearing their voices, smelling them and getting a feel for what our interaction is going to be like, so that helps calm her down. Or keep her calm I should say.

I want her to be protective. I should mention, I’m talking about Rae, my young dog. She’s two year old Australian Shepard. She’s very excitable and protective and I want to make sure that she welcomes people into this house. So, I’m working on some of her behavior as we move to this new house.

I brought her a bone and she just found it. So that’s going to keep her busy today. We’re going to be in a side room and I’m going to be working on some business work for the online class that’s coming up, or membership that I’m going to be doing. And she’s going to be in this room with me.

So this is Dr. Carolyn Lincoln with Play to Behave and you can find out more about me at playtobehave.com. Basically, this is part of series called the Lake House Video series that is just sharing with you how I’m moving to a new place and how I want to get the dogs used to the new neighbors and new people around. This series should help you if you’re doing some of the same things or you’re trying to get your dogs used to strangers and so forth.

So, one of the best ways to help your dog adjust if you have people coming in your house is to go ahead and let them get used to the sounds and the smells of the people that they don’t know. Then have them in a separate room, if possible, for a period of time until they relax and then they can go out and meet these new people.

Now, since this is just construction that’s going on, I’m probably not going to have her go out and meet them. Maybe at the end… I don’t know, we’ll see. For the most part she’ll be on a leash if we go out and she’s just going to be in this room with me or I’ll put her in a crate. I can always bring a crate in this room if I need to, but it’s a really small room and I’ve just got the door closed. So, that’s where we are right now. She’s going to have a bone to keep her happy and she has barked which, as I’ve said before, is great because I want her to be protective, but I don’t want her going crazy and barking all the time and being obnoxious. I think it really helps if you let your dog get used to listening to people’s voices and smelling them before they’re ever introduced. Especially if they’re confined in a safe area where they feel like they don’t have to necessarily do anything.

She’s been great. She’s really been great. They’re out there working so I’ll take the phone out there and show it to you a little later, but right now all they’re doing is putting up plastic and starting to take the molding off the windows. So we’ll get some new windows! I’m really excited about it.

Alright, you guys all have a great day and I’ll check back with you and let you know how things are going. And if you have any questions about your dog getting used to people coming into your home, let me know.

This is Dr. Carolyn Lincoln with Play to Behave. See you soon.

Lake House Series Video 6: Lying Down on Command in Emergency Settings

Lake House Series Video 6: Lying Down on Command in Emergency Settings

<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/270885120?color=ff0179&title=0&byline=0" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><p><a href="https://vimeo.com/270885120">Lake House Series Video 6</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/playtobehave">Carolyn Lincoln, DVM</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

Hi! One thing I really want with my dogs is an Emergency Down. That is when my dog drops into a down no matter where they are or how fast they’re running if I command them to do so or if I ask them to do so. I also want to be able to do it with a hand signal, so I want to be able to raise my hand, lower it, and as long as they’re looking at me, they should go into a down. I call it an emergency down because that’s when you usually would need to use it. So, if I’m out at the lake house and somebody’s coming to say hello to me when I’m not expecting them and my dog’s outside, she starts barking and running towards me or towards the person. In this case, I can ask her to lie down. Same thing if she’s chasing something. She sees a goose or a coyote or something like that, I can ask her to lie down and she should lie down right there. I want to show you today how to teach your dog that behavior.

I’m Dr. Carolyn Lincoln with Play To Behave, and you can find out more about me at playtobehave.com. Now, I’ve taught this skill to Rae before so she does know it. Hopefully she will be a good demo dog today on camera because it’s been a while. But also, I need to do this regularly so that it becomes an automatic behavior for her. It sort of was before, but I didn’t push it that hard.

So, to get your dog to have an automatic behavior … What I mean by that is that you want to do it so many times that your dog no longer thinks, they just do it. It gets taken over from the thinking part of the brain, or the frontal lobe of the brain, into the more primitive part of your brain where you do things automatically. So, you know how you can drive to the store and sing at the same time? That’s because you’ve done it so many times that it’s become automatic behavior, and your brain is able to do more than one thing at a time. So, I want them to do the behavior first and ask questions later. Does that make sense? Anyways, you just do it enough times, repeat, repeat, repeat, then you will get the behavior to be reliable.

Okay, the first thing I need to do with her is to show her that being away from me is going to be valuable. So, that’s all I’ll show you today. I’m just gonna be throwing treats at a distance, and after a while she should figure out, well, there’s no point in coming back to her because all the treats are always out here. Even if I come back to her, I have to go back out there to get the treats. And I’m just throwing them. I’m not asking for any special behavior at all. I just want her to be away from me. And that’s the first thing. As I’m throwing it, I’m gonna be using my hand with a signal to say, “Out,” which means I want you to go away from me. Now, I will use that in agility. You don’t necessarily need that, but it’ll help you when you wanna practice and teach them the emergency down. So, as I throw the treat, I’m pushing my hand out and saying, “Out.” All she’s learning is to go away from me. Later, I’m gonna teach her while you’re out there, I need you to sit and lie down.

Now this assumes that your dog already knows how to sit and how to lie down, and if they know those, they’re gonna be more than happy to do it far away from you if they’re already getting treats far away from you. We’ll see how she does. I’m gonna turn the camera on her. As I said, it’s been a while since we’ve done this, but I think she will remember it.

“Rae, out. Out. Out. Out.” Do you see? I’m just keeping her out there away from me and using the word “Out.” Out. “Good girl.” And this is what the finished behavior will look like as I can usually tell her to sit down. “Come. Good girl.” So you can work on your recall as well. “Rae, out. Good girl. There you go. Sit. Yes. Down. Yes. Good girl.” And I can just toss the treat out there. I didn’t ask her to stay, so that’s okay, she got up. “Out. Good girl.” See why you need to use a light colored treat on the dark floor? “Good girl. Rae, sit. Yes. Good girl. Catch.”

Okay, so all you’re gonna do is start using small treats and … “Rae, come. Good girl. Here.” And you’re going to ask them to go out and put your hand out. “Out.” And just keep throwing the treats to keep the out there, and pretty soon they’ll learn that they should stay away. Now this is in a controlled area in a small house, area in my house. It’s different than doing it outside. So once I know I have this really good inside, and you can see that I do have it pretty good, we’ll be taking it outside here at the house where she’s more familiar, and then we’ll take it to the other house inside, and then we’ll take it outside there. So that’s the plan. “Good girl. Very, very good girl. Sit. Yes. Good job.”

Just to summarize that one more time, when you want to get started with your dog this way, you want to get a bunch of little treats. Just have them handy. You might only do 10 or 20. And once or twice a day, or at least three times a week, let’s say, you’re going to throw that treat and at the same time push your hand out, say the word “Out” so that your dog learns, “I’m gonna go away from you.” And you’ll find that your dog will figure this out and they won’t come back to you. Now, make it easy on them. Don’t throw it too far. Use a treat that’s easy to see on whatever flooring you have. So if you have a dark floor, use a light treat, if you have a light floor, use a dark treat. Okay? Have fun with it! If you have any questions or comments, go ahead and email me. And again, this is Dr. Carolyn Lincoln with Play To Behave, and you can find out more about me at playtobehave.com. Happy training.