I don't know about you but I must have 1000 photos saved on my phone of my dogs sleeping. Why? I guess they just look so peaceful.
But for dogs with separation anxiety, sleeping when their owners leave the house just isn't an option. They are way too stressed to do so. In fact, they are too panicked to think clearly whatsoever.
So when a client sends me a video of their dog sleeping while they are on the other side of the door, there really is nothing more heartwarming. I love to see it because it means the training is working.
This is because we train in such small increments in regards to the owner's absence that the dog is so chilled and doesn't even notice the tiny increases in time. And hey presto, before you know it you have a dog that can easily tolerate alone time and simply chills or sleeps while they are gone!
So if you want to help your dog sleep instead of being scared while you are out, here are the five things you have to do:
1. Manage your absences
2. Ensure your dog has ample exercise
3. Ensure your dog has ample mental stimulation/enrichment
4. Use a camera or app so you can watch your dog while you are out
5. Start training today. The longer you leave it, the worse your dog will become.
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Sometimes outside (scary) noises can be very detrimental while training a dog to be okay with being home alone. So what can we do about it?
Have you tried putting the radio or TV on for your dog?
Even better, did you know that you can actually buy music especially tuned to the frequency of your dog's ear with the goal to help calm your dog?
Through The Dog's Ears, by Joshua Leeds and Lisa Spector, uses the latest science "to help alleviate separation anxiety, excitement with visitors, thunderstorm panic, and other behavior challenges" and is supposedly "psychoacoustically designed to calm your canine".
Another company is The Pet Calmer which uses a Bluetooth speaker "pre-loaded with frequency-modified music specially composed for canine hearing frequency level. Music has been clinically tested and proven to calm canine behaviours, reduce stress, and restore behavioural balance. Solve separation anxiety, noise phobias, excessive barking, ideal for grooming, dog training and therapy sessions. Portable for dog walking, car/air travel, veterinary and therapy visits".
Other alternatives include white, pink, brown or grey noise. These play noise at a low frequency to help calm the dog but, interestingly, for some dogs brown noise is a little too much due to its low rumbling so you are best to test out which suits your dog the most. You can buy many of these as apps for your phone etc. It's just a case of doing some Googling.
The bottom line is there are options that may help to mask the noises that actually make your dog fearful and may aid in the treatment of separation anxiety. So now it's time to do some research and work out what is the best fit for your dog.
Before any sort of separation anxiety training can start with your dog there's one thing you need to do ...
What does this mean? It's impossible. I can't not leave my dog alone for the rest of its life!!
Well actually, you can ... but just while training is ongoing!
Managing our absences is a way to keep our dogs going into a panic state - that's the very thing we want to avoid because every time they go into a panic it only serves to confirm their fears and make them just as bad, if not worse, the next time you walk out the door.
So yes, it may seem unfeasible to do this but it's the very thing that will get your dog over his panic.
And while your dog is never alone, we start the process of gradual exposure therapy and desensitisation to your absences. And we do it ever so slowly and in such small increments your dog doesn't notice the time increases.
So what does managing your absences look like?
It can simply mean calling on friends or family to babysit your dog, whether at your house or at theirs. It could mean doggy daycare or a professional pet sitter. Or it could also entail undertaking some obedience training so your dog knows to be calm when out and about and you are able to take them with you eg cafes and restaurants.
And if it's not too hot and your dog can cope with it, it might mean taking them with you in the car whenever you have to go out. Of course, if your boss is open to it, maybe there's also the option to take them to work with you.
Yes, managing absences isn't easy but it can be done and in the long run it will speed up the training process so your dog can cope while home alone.