As we head into level 2, out of our bubble. People are going back to their busy work and school schedules. But our best fur friends are staying home. It’s going to be quite a change for a lot of doggies that have become quite accustomed to having a human shadow all day and night.
Trainer's top tips for dealing with Doggy separation anxiety in level 2
“If you start leaving the house again. Who will be around to say “ooooh big stretch” every time I do a stretch?” - credit to @dog_feelings
Dogs are social animals and in general love being around their people. So yes, this will be another adjustment for them. They will miss you.
So here are some suggestions to make sure your dog isn’t stressing out while you are at work.
- Make sure your dog has adequate exercise and mental stimulation
- Provide enrichment in the form of toys, puzzles and chews!
- Hire a dog walker / trainer
Providing your dog with adequate exercise and mental stimulation is one of the most simple and effective ways to mitigate undue stress. Just like us if your dog doesn’t get to stretch her legs or use her amazing problem solving brain. She will start to get bored. Boredom is one of the most common causes of destructive behaviours.
If you get home and find that the couch has been chewed. This is NOT your dog being vindictive or trying to get back at you for leaving the house without them. This is a displacement behaviour. Your dog is bored, stressed or lonely. They displace this physical and mental energy by chewing on the couch. It’s a natural doggy thing to do. So if you find your dog has dug up the garden or gotten into the rubbish bin, don’t get mad. Take a breath and remember it’s a sign that you need to provide more enrichment and perhaps manage the environment better. E.g. purchase a garbage bin with a heavy lid or put it in a place that the dog can not get into.
Positive reinforcement training is a great way to engage your dogs amazing brain and provide them with mental stimulation. Take a handful of your dog's food in the morning and use it to do a little fun training session with them. You could take the food out on the walk and reward your dog anytime she does something you like. Or you could do some training at home. Use that feeding time as enrichment time and you are less likely to have a bored and destructive doggo. Check out Force Free Dog Training NZ for some great ideas and conversation about training your dog with positive reinforcement.
Enrichment toys, puzzles, chews and brain games!
Teaching your dog to enjoy being by themselves is a lot easier if they can keep themselves busy and happy, chewing on a bone, solving puzzles or working out how to get treats out of their enrichment toys. Pet Direct has some awesome options for food enrichment toys / puzzles. Use discount code HOWL for $10 off your first purchase.
I love Kongs and think that every dog should have at least two! If you know that it takes your dog 10 minutes to get through one kong then you can guess that they will be happily busy licking out their treats for 20 minutes if you have two! Another fun one is the Kong Wobbler or Treat Tumbler!
You can also make your own food puzzles.
There are a plethora of amazing ideas shared on the facebook page Canine Brain Games and Enrichment. Start by giving your dog these enrichment toys and brain games when you are home. So that they are totally relaxed and can focus on working out the puzzle without the stress of you leaving right away. This way they don’t associate the game or puzzle with you leaving every time. Supervise them to make sure they are safe and that they are actually loving that puzzle. Your dog will quickly out smart beginner level puzzles and will be ready to try harder ones. The longer your dog can stay focused on working out one of these puzzles, licking, chewing or pawing to get the food out. The longer you will have peace of mind that he isn’t getting into trouble at home and instead is chilling out with his kong, chew or toy. So it’s really valuable to build up the duration of time and the amount of interest your dog has in these sorts of brain games and puzzles.
The ultimate way to break up her alone time at home is to hire a professional dog walker and/ or trainer. Finding a professional that you like and trust will have a great positive impact on your dog's life, and yours too.
I have had the pleasure of working with many families and their beloved dogs. These dogs genuinely become a part of my extended fur family and I love them so much. When I arrive the dogs are excited to see one of their best friends and are ready to go play and train. Using positive reinforcement intrinsically strengthens the bond between trainer and dog, it builds the dogs confidence and is so much fun! The dogs truly love their training and they can’t wait to go for our adventures. Out on the walks I use positive reinforcement to shape desired behaviours. It is an empowering experience for the dogs because they are made to feel like winners! When I leave the dogs at their home they are happy and relaxed after a fun and empowering walk. They enjoy a stuffed kong or a scatter of treats each time I leave. This way they aren’t sad to see me go. In fact they are relaxed, in their bed and almost always looking at me with these “OK Sam, that was fun, now hand over the stuffed Kong and go, thank you very much!” eyes. I laugh and smile because they are happy even when I’m leaving. The dogs are likely to have a nap and chillax until their parents are home. I am very grateful to call this my job.
To find a professional dog walker in your area, I suggest using this directory to reach out to a dog trainer in your area. They will be able to recommend professionals in your area that use up to date, ethical and humane techniques with their clients dogs. Click here to go to the directory for Association of Pet Dog Trainers NZ
Nothing beats having a friend to play with. I mean a human friend. As a professional dog walker and trainer myself, I have seen how happy and relaxed the dogs are in my care. Because they know one of their best friends is coming to visit and break up their alone time at home.
Your dog walker will become a big part of your dog's life, and will make a positive impact on yours. It is of utmost importance that you know what your dog is experiencing, how that walker or trainer operates and that you ultimately trust that person with your fur baby.
My simple tips for vetting a potential dog walker:
- Go for a walk with them. If the walker does not allow you to walk with them to see how they operate this is a red flag.
- Ask what qualifications do they hold? Have they learnt about dog body language and pet first aid?
- How will your dog travel with them? Do they have a specific set up in their vehicle?
- How many other dogs will be walked with yours?
- Are they insured?
- What will happen in the case of an emergency?
All dog walkers LOVE dogs. But I believe making sure that you know what your dog is experiencing and that it’s something you agree with is very important. This is your fur child after all.
Take the time to find a dog walker / trainer that you will trust to take the very best care of your dog. This will give you ultimate peace of mind and your dog will thank you for it.
Lastly, if your dog is showing signs of extreme stress or separation anxiety get in touch with
As always don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly through my website www.howlistichelp.com.