Author Archives: renee

Help You Can Give To Your Separation Anxious Dog

If you haven’t read my first article about Separation Anxiety, please read it before reading this one (scroll down this page to see it). Judging from the amount of comments, likes and shares in that article, I can see that many of you, or your friends, are dealing with this issue. I will provide as many suggestions as possible so you can, at least, get started on your own to improve your dog’s anxiety. However, I would still urge you to hire a Behavior Consultant who is very experienced working with SA, or visit with a Veterinary Behaviorist at some point to help you get as much success as possible.

It is important NOT to leave your dog alone until you are seeing some success with your teaching your dog to accept being alone. More often than not, I will recommend to clients to take their dog to a doggy daycare 2 to 3 times per week, as long as the dog gets along with other dogs. Daycare has a 2 day effect because they’re still tired the next day. Some doggy daycares can leave a dog crated (if she’s crateable!) if she doesn’t get along with other dogs, but will play with the dog or walk her periodically through the day. Of course, hiring a pet sitter to come a few times a day can also be helpful. If you have a friend or relative who would be willing to take your dog, that also would be very helpful (as long as your dog’s anxiety doesn’t involve one specific individual who leaves. If any of these suggestions would not work for you, there are still things you can do.

Purchase an Adaptil, Dog Appeasing Pheromone diffuser to help your dog feel more relaxed (aka DAP). This product is available at Amazon. Many veterinarians also recommend this product. The DAP Diffuser needs to be plugged into an open outlet that is not blocked by anything. If your dog can remain in a crate, plug the diffuser into an outlet nearby. The liquid in that diffuser will last around 30 days. Don’t neglect to have a refill on hand. The liquid will emit through your house wherever you plug it in. I love this product! However, if you have a pet rabbit or bird, you cannot use this.

I have discovered FREE music choreographed specifically for dogs with SA to help them relax or sleep. The music can play for as long as 10-15 hours (please avoid leaving your dog alone for that long — EVER!). You can download this music to your TV, computer or phone. Sometimes, I’ll play this music just because I like it too. However, you need to play this music randomly throughout the day when you are home. You don’t want your dog to think the music means  You’re Leaving!

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcasa&p=calming+music+for+dogs+with+separation+anxiety#id=1&vid=862f1927fa965c00febf50ca145649a4&action=click 

Teach your dog to wear a Thundershirt. I call this “Hug Therapy.” Thundershirts are available at several retail stores (Bed, Bath & Beyond, Petsmart, Petco, or www.thundershirt.com). The thundershirt is guaranteed and you can return it within 30 days for a full refund!

There are some good calming treats available. Give the recommended amount to your dogs at least an hour prior to your leaving your house. If you have a pet sitter come during the day, ask to give your dog another one before leaving. When going to these companies, type in the names of these items into their search boxes:

  • Zesty Paws, Calming Bites – Available at http://www.amazon.com
  • VetriSCIENCE, Composure Pro – Available at http://www.amazon.com
  • Bach Flower Essences, Pet Rescue Remedy – Available at: http://www.entirelypets.com

Make sure to give your dog some mentally stimulating activities to keep him occupied so she’s not thinking about being alone all day long. Here are a few ideas:

  • Keep at least 3 frozen-filled Kongs in your freezer all the time. Freezing Kongs makes it more of a challenge for the dog to lick all the goodies out of it. I suggest soft mixtures like peanut butter, yogurt, cream cheese, or banana. Mix whatever soft food you’re putting in with chunked up bits of healthy biscuits (never Milkbone!! – not healthy), fruits or veggies, or left-over kibble.
  • Provide your dog with a Kong Wobbler. This is a wonderful food-release toy that your dog must push around in order to get treats or kibble to come out of a hole that’s on the side of it. Teach your dog what to do with it and get all excited when encouraging him/her to interact with it.
  • Hide treats around the house in little containers. Put them just slightly underneath your furniture, in the kitchen just underneath your oven or sink. Hide treats in corners and areas that she has to work in order to get them. I like hiding a couple treats in cardboard boxes (remove all staples) and scattering those boxes around in rooms where dogs are allowed to be.
  • Take one or two pieces of your laundry and fold some treats in them. It will comfort the dog to have something of your scent while hunting for treats.
  • Have you heard of a Snuffle Mat? Check that out at www.amazon.com. It’s  kind of a new thing. It’s a mat with tons of folds in it to hide kibble and treats to keep your dog busy hunting for a long time. If you purchase this, make sure to see how he uses it before leaving him alone with it.
  • If your dog loves to shred newspapers, then let him have newspapers you’ve already read, to shred when she’s alone. All you’d have to do when you come home is throw the papers out.

Here’s what I definitely do not want you to do:

  • Never punish your dog! I realize how difficult it is to come home and see destruction, or pee and poop on your floors. But… your dog is already suffering from anxiety. Punishment creates more anxiety! When you leave, he finds things to do (like destruction) to occupy herself until you come home.  Peeing and pooping in the house is not spitework. It happens because she is stressed to the max!
  • If you just rescued a dog, or if you just brought home a new puppy, do not make a big deal when you leave your house or when you return home. It may sound cruel, but when my dog sees me coming home, it actually takes him a minute or two to come greet me! It’s a calm greeting! I just tell him, “you be a good boy” when I leave, and “hi buddy” when I come home. That’s it! Believe it or not, some of my clients are so used to acting woeful when leaving and excited when returning, it is harder for the humans to change that habit than the dog getting used to its human’s new greeting routine!
  • Again, if you just rescued a dog, do not allow him to sleep in your bed for at least a year! Separation anxiety is very common with shelter dogs. They’ve already lost a home or two. Sleeping in your bed will only make him feel more dependent on being close to you. Don’t add fuel to a possible fire!

I have some referrals for you if your dog is suffering from this emotional disorder:

  • If your dog’s SA is severe (a lot of damage to the structure of your house, poop all over walls and ceilings, dog is escaping the crate and injuring himself, broken glass where dog has attempted to escape), you must see either your own veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist. A dog that’s showing severe SA will likely need to be put on medication. However, don’t think meds are going to be a cure! Medication will help your dog to be able to learn better when doing behavior modification training. If you live anywhere near Mount Laurel, contact Dr. Shana Gilbert-Gregory at Mount Laurel Animal Hospital. The address is 220 Mount Laurel Road, Mount Laurel, NJ. Call (856) 234-7626 for an appointment. She also makes house calls.
  • If your dog is struggling with SA, but some of his behaviors are causing him to become injured, I can also recommend a certified SA trainer, and can work with you either by phone or remotely using Skype. Her name is Leslie Wiesler. You can contact her on Facebook by typing in her name and messaging her.
  • I also work with dogs that suffer from SA. When speaking with me on the phone I can often determine whether or not you first need to speak to your vet or to Dr. Gilbert-Gregory before doing behavior modification: (609) 280-9338.

I hope these suggestions are helpful in making your dogs feel less anxious! But there is more work to be done…

 

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety is one of the most complicated behavioral issues dogs can develop. Separation Anxiety (SA) is an emotional disorder. Dogs are such social beings, and when we bring them into our homes and expect them to be alone for up to 8 hours, 5 days a week, it can sometimes be very taxing on them. To make things worse, we don’t realize our dog is suffering from anxiety because we’re too quick to get angry at them for making a huge mess in our house. People come home from work and discover their dog has eliminated in the crate, or all over the house. People are shocked to see their dog ripped into the pillows of their sofa and chairs and there is pillow-stuffing all over the house. Dogs with SA commonly chew the walls and woodwork around windows and doorways! Some dogs are so anxious to escape their crates, they will actually break their teeth trying to escape through the wires of it, or they will chew a hole in the airline-carrier crate to get out. Dogs with SA can bark or whine for hours throughout the day causing the neighbors to complain.

Many of my clients exclaim “My dog knew he did wrong because when I told him he was bad, he looked guilty. She cowered and ran behind the sofa!” NOOOooo! Dogs do not feel guilt! Cowering and running away is an attempt to escape your anger. Reprimanding only increases the anxiety. This can happen over and over again, but the dog only continues its destruction and elimination.

Let me give you a few reasons dogs develop SA so you’ll have a better understanding of how this disorder can happen:

  • You are a teacher and are home all summer. You figure this would be a great time to get a puppy because you’d have plenty of time to spend with her. Then… you go back to work in the fall.
  • Your teenage daughter always takes your dog for a walk and plays with him when she gets home from school. She’s graduated from high school and just left for college. Your dog is alone now for several additional hours until you come home.
  • Grandpop has lived with you and your family for many years. Your little dog loves him and spends hours sitting on his lap everyday. Sadly, Grandpop passes away.
  • You and your family move to a new home. You spend a week getting settled in and then go back to work. When you return home, you’re shocked to see the dog has chewed all around the wall and woodwork of the front door and insulation is exposed.
  • You adopt a beautiful dog from the shelter and spend a 3-day weekend with her. On Monday… you go back to work.
  • You purchase 2 littermate puppies and are so impressed with how close they are. You make sure to put them both in the same crate, and they are together 24/7. Sometime later one of the dogs needs to go to the vet, and the other dog winds up having a major panic attack! The same thing can happen when adopting 2 shelter or rescue dogs at the same time. They can bond and their over-the-top closeness is encouraged.
  • Shelter dogs commonly develop SA!

I will follow-up with another article offering some ideas to help dogs suffering from Separation Anxiety.

 

 

TRAINING DOGS WITH RANDOM REWARDS.

A common complaint people have when training their dogs using food rewards is, “my dog won’t do anything that I ask him to unless I have food in my hand!” Well, first you have to ask yourself if you’ve trained your dog to follow a cue while you’re showing him a piece of food. If you have that food right in front of the dog’s face, your dog will learn food is part of the entire cue for doing that particular behavior. That’s why he isn’t following your request when you omit that part of the cue. Think of that food as a paycheck. Nobody gets paid on Monday morning before they do their job, right?

Ask your dog to do something simple, like “Sit.” If he sits for you, bring that food out either from behind your back, or from out of the sink, or have someone else hand you that food that was hidden from view. Do a few easy repetitions of having your dog sit, and reward with a treat. Then ask him to do something a little harder, but make sure it is an already-trained behavior. Produce the food reward as I just suggested. This should do the trick with future training.

Figure out what behavior(s) your dog is excelling at, and begin putting that behavior on a “Random Reinforcement Schedule.” Have you ever sat in front of a slot machine? If you have, you know that sometimes the machine pays you, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we might win 50 cents and sometimes we might win 50 dollars. A random reinforcement schedule is based on the “Slot Machine Principle” which states, “sometimes you get paid and sometimes you don’t!” Atlantic City makes a fortune because of this principle. Trust me, I know because I get hooked every time I’m down the shore 🙁

Keep in mind, however, that if your dog does a behavior perfectly in the kitchen, he needs to learn that same behavior in many different places inside your home. Dogs do not generalize well unless it’s a traumatic experience! Then go outside and begin to train that behavior right near the house, then further down the driveway. You’re now adding the distraction factor to your training.

I’m going to give you a random reinforcement schedule below to help get you started. You can then develop your own random schedules as your dog gets further along with other types of rewards. These subsequent schedules should use less and less food treats and more of other types of rewards. Make a list of all the things your dog loves and use them in your Random Reinforcement Schedules.

Ideas for other types of rewards could be:

  • Praise
  • A short game of Tug
  • A short chase game (he chases you)
  • A short game of frisbee
  • A chance to chase a squirrel
  • Fetching a squeaky toy
  • Applause
  • Petting

Here are two samples of Random Reinforcement Schedules. The numbers listed are those times that a dog does a behavior in which he is rewarded with food. All other times are rewarded with alternatives.

1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16,18, 21, 22, 23, 26.

Here’s one more to follow:
2, 4, 7, 10, 12, 13, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22, 25, 26.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SHELTER DOG TO ADOPT

Do your research first! You want to make the proper selection by researching the breed(s) that may work well for your family’s lifestyle. Two very helpful books to help you figure out which breed (or mixed breed) to adopt for your family’s lifestyle are: Animal Planet’s “Complete Guide to Dog Breeds” by Diane Morgan (available in paper and digital (ibooks), and “Meet Your Dog,” by Kim Brophey (available online in e-book and also as audio). Nothing is 100% guaranteed, but this sure is a good way to get started before you walk through the shelters.

The problem with going to the shelter prior to doing your research is… you will fall in love with a dog! It’s very easy for all of us to make an impulsive decision. This happens a lot, and then within the first couple of weeks, adopters may already be feeling remorseful about having made a bad choice. Doing your research and making good decisions can prevent you from having to return a dog back to the shelter. 

Observe the dog’s behavior and demeanor with everyone in your family. When you’re observing the dogs in their cages, look for the dog that seems happy and excited to see all of you.  However, some dogs can’t stop barking because they’re so anxious and miserable in that environment. It’s a good idea to ask to meet and interact with a dog outside where he’s feeling less confined.

I know it’s very sad to see a dog hunkered down at the back of the kennel, but I would avoid that dog unless you are experienced working and living with very fearful, and possibly aggressive dogs. Don’t think that your love will cure him and all will be fine!

Remember that there is always a ‘honeymoon period’ when adopting a dog. That honeymoon normally lasts anywhere between 2 weeks and 6 months (I adopted a dog years ago that took one solid year before I learned exactly who he was). Little by little your new dog will eventually show some behaviors that you hadn’t seen before. As he becomes more secure in his new home and environment, and as you develop a relationship with him (based on trust!), he will become the dog he was. This is why early on, you must train your new rescue with positive methods! You must set some rules (sit for everything he wants and all food, and no attention on demand), create some boundaries from the start (no sleeping in your bed for at least a year!), and no spoiling tactics because his past life was most likely very bad!

Watch for soft body language when considering a dog. Is the dog playful? Does he seem happy to be around you, your husband and your children? If he seems anxious during your entire visit, but you still like him, try coming back the next day or at least a second time. He may remember you and feel calmer. I visited my last dog at the shelter 3 times! I also walked him each time. If you want to do that, and a shelter staffer says that “you’d better decide because other people are interested in him,” don’t feel under pressure! Take your time!

Is he very quiet? Quiet doesn’t mean he’s a calm dog or that he will be calm always.  Many times those quiet dogs are actually “shut down” from being extremely stressed or having gone through some trauma. This is called “learned helplessness.” They’ve lost their home and are now in a very anxiety-producing environment. Again, come back and meet him a second time!

Does he accept petting from you and your family? When you are petting him, does he maintain that friendly demeanor, or does he freeze? Some dogs do have handling issues. To help that dog, he will need some behavior modification training.

Sometimes adopted dogs are fearful around men and have a difficult time adjusting to them after adoption. Make sure all the males in your family are with you when you make this very important decision to bring a dog home. I’ve met families who adopted a dog when the husband was on a business trip at the time. Or, the husband was at work and came home later in the evening after the dog had been there for several hours. What a disaster that can be! Dogs can see this “new person” as an intruder!

Do You Already Have a Dog? If you do, you’ll need to bring that dog to the shelter to see if your dog and the prospective new dog get along. Remember that nothing is 100% guaranteed. Sometimes dogs will play with each other at the shelter, but once they’re home and together, squabbles can occur, often due to competition for owner-attention or other resources.  Your dogs will need you to provide excellent guidance and leadership skills to keep peace between the dogs at all times.

When determining if both dogs are going to get along at home, an obvious red flag would be that one or both immediately show inappropriate behavior during their initial meeting. Another red flag to look for is if one or both completely ignore the other.  Ignoring doesn’t mean things are fine and dandy.  It means there’s a problem!  Don’t assume that things will change once the adoption is finalized. Also, don’t let anyone at the shelter try to convince you that everything will eventually work out, even when you see these red flags! The truth is, there is never a guarantee that those dogs will accept one another later on!  What you see is potentially what you can get! You don’t want to experience the heartache of returning the dog.

If you already live with a female dog, consider adopting a male. More than one female in the house can a bit risky because serious fights can break out. They don’t call them “bitches” for nothing 😉  If you already have a male and you want another male, the risk is not quite as high as two females, but you may see some competitive behaviors and/or urine marking in the house once they’re living together. If you already have two males living successfully in the home, the best dog to adopt would be a female.

When you bring your new dog home, and you do have another or more dogs, keep the new dog behind a gate for at least 1 week. When feeding your dogs, let them see each other during meals through that gate!

Walk your new dog with your resident dogs (1 at a time if more than 1) preferably with a second handler. One dog walks behind the other and then switch that up. Each dog will become familiar with the other dog’s scent and will get more and more comfortable with him. Place a towel or sheet that has your resident dog’s scent on it and place it in your new dog’s crate (do the same with your own dog). When you feel it’s safe to allow the new dog to interact with your resident dog(s), keep a short leash tab attached to each of their collars in case you have to quickly re-direct one of them. If everything seems okay, supervise them when they’re together for a week or two. Don’t rush any of this!

Be sure to ask questions about the dog you’re thinking of adopting.  Here are a few suggested questions you might ask:

  1. What history do you have on this dog’s past?
  2. Was he or she an owner surrender? If so, what were the reasons the owner brought him to the shelter? More often than not, former owners avoid stating the reason or they lie.
  3. Was the dog a stray? If so, he may be an escape artist, so you’ll need a secure fence (not invisible).
  4. How long has the dog been at the shelter? Dogs that spend several months to a year in a shelter can deteriorate over time (especially Pitties). They haven’t been in a normal home environment for a long time, and have experienced a lot of stress. Your prospective dog may need extra time to adjust to your home and you’ll need a lot of patience and understanding during that adjustment period.
  5. Has he ever been adopted out and then returned? Hopefully, the shelter staff will know why he was re-surrendered. If the dog was returned because he bit someone or because he couldn’t get along with someone in the family, you’ll need to seriously consider those reasons before making your final adoption. Please remember, it is a heartbreaking experience to return a dog!
  6. Did anyone at the shelter do a temperament test on a dog you want to adopt? Unfortunately, I’m learning that several shelters are no longer doing temperament tests.
  7. The most significant part of temperament testing is to find out if the dog guards his food, bones, toys or people (known as resource guarding). Dogs can guard anything. Ask someone to test the dog before taking him home. Resource guarding requires some behavior modification, so you’ll need help with this and it isn’t something to punish!!!
  8. If you have a cat, some shelters state they cat-test the dog and he was fine. I caution you against adopting a hunting dog or herding dog if you already have a cat! 

Once you make a decision to adopt a dog, seriously consider taking your new dog to a group training class early on if he’s comfortable around other dogs. My recommendation would be to attend classes at Wonderdogs in West Berlin, NJ (www.wonderdogs.com). If you find that your new dog has any serious issues (biting, resource guarding, separation anxiety, leash reactivity, etc.), consider hiring a positive reinforcement Certified Behavior Consultant who is very experienced in doing behavior modification. Positive training is critically important. Your trainer can help you resolve serious issues early on.

My last blog was titled, “Advice to Adopters of Shelter or Rescue Dogs.” It’s a little bit further down my Facebook page and also on my blog page. I strongly recommend you read this also!

Good luck 🙂

Copyright: Renee Premaza, 2018

ADVICE TO ADOPTERS OF SHELTER OR RESCUE DOGS

Very often, when we adopt dogs from shelters or rescue organizations, we wind up feeling sorry for them. We spend much of our time trying to make up for all the bad times they may have experienced before they found us.  Please read the following advice and information as it is very important for us to set our new dogs up for success in their new homes.

  • Avoid pitying your newly rescued dog or he will become and remain pitiable forever!
  • Gradually introduce her to friends and family members within the first 2 days and continue socializing.
  • Dogs have no morals. They will not know proper behavior unless they’re taught how to behave appropriately in your home.
  • Begin training your dog in obedience and manners shortly after adopting.
  • Often there’s a honeymoon period lasting from 2 weeks to 6 months before the dog feels comfortable enough to be himself. Expect to see some changes in his behavior as time goes by and he becomes more confident that your home is his home.
  • Your dog may feel stressed for awhile. He may be pretty quiet reserved.
  • Assume that s/he may have housetraining accidents.
  • Crating a dog is not cruel. Dogs usually enjoy the feeling of being in a den. But rescues may not be able to accept crating.
  • Beginning on her 2nd day home, teach your dog to be alone for short periods of time, and then lengthen those periods a little each day. If you do not do this, you could create a dog who panics if he’s alone!
  • Avoid all physical and verbal punishment! Harsh punishment interrupts all learning & creates distrust.
  • If you discover your rescue has a serious issue, get professional help as soon as possible!
  • Never let your dog think that your hands are weapons OR chew toys!
  • Always acknowledge good behavior, either with treats, toys, praise or petting. That’s how he will learn what you expect from him.
  • Do not compare your new dog with any dogs you had previously! Dogs are not clones of one another.
  • Feed your dog twice a day and provide fresh water all day long.
  • Walk your dog twice a day, even if you have a fenced backyard. Walks provide both physical and mental stimulation. Allow her to sniff her new world.
  • Do not leave your dog out in the yard unsupervised, especially in the beginning.
  • Never leave your dog chained or tethered unless you are right with him!
  • Do not allow your dog to bark or chase people along your fence line. Bring him inside.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Dogs do not have human reasoning ability!
  • Do not spoil him by allowing him up on furniture or to sleep in your bed! This privilege can be given only after she learns how to behave politely through positive obedience training.
  • Teach your children to respect your dog. Do not let them pull tails or ears or sit on your dog.
  • Give your children a dog-free safety zone to play with their toys or run around.
  • Provide your dog with a kid-free safety zone to rest and/or enjoy a favorite chew toy.
  • Supervise your children and involve them, if possible, with your dog’s training.
  • If you have a baby, never allow ANY dog to be on the floor with your baby! Remember, dogs do not have morals. If baby grabs, pulls or throws a toy, your new rescue may not accept that!
  • Be patient with your newly adopted dog. Most times there is little or no known previous history about rescues. Set her up for success by training her and providing the necessary mental and physical exercise that ALL dogs need every day.