The other day I was speaking to one of my clients in our weekly catchup session. I noticed that she seemed subdued and had missed a couple of training sessions. These weekly catchups are where we discuss how things are going, what's working, what's not, how the dog is doing, and how the human is feeling. She commented that she saw the celebration post on Instagram for another client who had graduated from separation anxiety training. This client had achieved over three hours of alone time, a considerable accomplishment. I will always take time to celebrate a client's achievement. Whether it's 10 seconds, one minute or three hours, these accomplishments deserve a celebration.
The client I was speaking to went quiet. I asked her what was wrong. She paused and then said, three hours, wow, we are only at two minutes. It feels like we will never get to three hours. All I can do is nod my head. When a client says this, and almost every client does at some point, it always makes me feel sad. I don't feel sad because they are right. They are only at two minutes, and they want to be able to leave for two hours. Their journey will take as long as it takes, and it does seem impossible. I am sad because the sadness or frustration they are feeling is not deserved. They are falling into the very human trap of comparing their beginning to someone else's ending. It is just not a fair comparison.
Use simple things that you have readily available in your home to enrich your dog's everyday life. Incorporate these ideas into their regular mealtime.
This Enrichment Idea is called The Towel Burrito.
To start, as you roll the towel up loosely, scatter food along the towel as you roll. Make it is easy for your dog to use their nose to unroll the towel. As your dog learns, you can begin to make it more challenging by folding the towel differently or rolling it up in a way that it does roll in one direction.
For other enrichments ideas, visit the Training Tips and Tricks page here.
Need help with separation anxiety for your dog? Hanging With Hounds is based near Victoria, BC. If you don't live near us, you are in luck. We can help dogs with separation anxiety in Canada, the USA, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Schedule a quick chat to learn how we can help you.
Halloween is a fun holiday for many of us. In fact, for some of us, it is our favourite holiday of the year. For many puppies, though, Halloween is a frightening time.
Many of our neighbourhoods transform with new and scary lawn displays. Giant inflatable lawn creatures move in the wind, motion-activated lights and noises startle you as you walk by. These displays are not something our dogs would have encountered before. As the sun sets, the little ghosts and goblins emerge from their homes, excited to be trick-or-treating around the neighbourhoods. Later in the night, fireworks are often set off. These are the scariest thing of all for many dogs. Our dogs are not prepared for the intermittent noise and will go to extreme lengths to escape to find a safe spot to hide.
How do we enjoy Halloween without terrifying our dogs?
- As they say, 'the best defence is a good offence' (or is it the other way around?). Setting your dog up to have a relaxed evening sequestered away from all the turmoil is often the easiest and best approach. Securing them in a room away from all the visitors ensures that they are immune from the craziness. Giving them their favourite chewie means they can hunker down and chew away, while the human family can enjoy the holiday.
- Have background music on to drown out the noises. Play the TV or have music going to dimmish the noises coming in from outside. The sound will help minimize the sound of the doorbell, squeals of terror or laughter coming from outside and hopefully fireworks.
- Do some proactive training to ensure your dog is okay with the kids' costumes (both young & old). Watch this short video for some tips on how to start training.
- If you want to dress your dog up, be sure that you choose costumes that will not frighten them or impact their ability to see and hear. Be careful that the costumes are safe, that they aren't flammable or include anything toxic that may irritate their skin. Ensure the costume is visible and doesn't have anything that can get caught that might injure them or become a choking hazard. Be proactive by introducing the outfit early so that your dog has time to get used to them. And remember, it should be fun. If your dog isn't enjoying it, don't force them. Watch your dog's body language. If you see signs that they are uncomfortable such as lip licks, paw lifts, yawns etc, rethink your choice. Your dog will look just as snazzy with an awesome bandana or coat and will likely have a better time as well.
My name is Xena, I am a 1 yr old Cavapoo, and thanks to Sharon, I overcame my fear and panic. If my mom left me alone, it would take me less than 1 minute to be paralyzed with fear. I cried, scratched frantically, bit at the bars of my crate to try to get to my mother’s lap. If I lost sight of her, I became so scared that she always took me with her. In the winter, my mom made sure my car crate ( which I could relax in even if my mom left me alone in the car) was covered with a quilt so I would not get cold. The seasons changed, and it was too hot to stay in my car crate, so my mom sought a dog behaviour specialist who could help both of us.
My mom found Sharon at Hanging with Hounds, who seemed like a kind, gentle soul who might be able to teach me not to panic when my mom left me for any amount of time. I started to trust Sharon, who would teach my mom how to desensitize me slowly. My mom and I worked hard. Slowly, ever so slowly, over three months, I learned how to relax and not worry or panic when she left me. It is newfound freedom for both of us, but I am so proud after three months, my mom can have self-care time, time to shop, or to do chores without me having a panic attack.
Separation anxiety is unlike any other kind of canine behaviour and the training is unlike any other kind of dog training. It is an exercise in nuance. It is the study of one. When people are living with a dog suffering from separation anxiety they can feel desperate. They are torn between trying to do what is best for their pet and being angry and resentful at the same time. After all, this isn't what they dreamed of when they added a dog to their family. Often, when a client finally reaches out for help, they are at the end of their rope. They have followed all the advice from Dr.Google. They have listened to their family and friends. They have done things they regret and have spent a lot of time and money trying things that just haven't worked. They are tired and frustrated and starting to resent their dog.