These Behaviors May Indicate Separation Anxiety

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Typically, symptomatic behaviors may begin either as the anxious dog’s human prepares to depart, or immediately after they leave. The behavior may continue for 30 to 60 minutes or longer, and in more extreme cases, for the entire length of the owner’s absence – even as much as eight to 10 hours. Destructive behavior is one of the most obvious and difficult signs of separation or isolation anxiety (SA or IA), but it is not the only one. Here are others that can be seen in some (but not all) dogs with SA or IA:

Velcro Dog – SA and IA dogs tend to be clingy even when owners are home – following their humans from room to room, and lying as close as possible when owners are seated. The dog may also frantically try to follow his human every time she walks out the door, even if she’s just going out to get the mail or newspaper.

Pacing – As you make preparations to leave, your dog recognizes the pending event, and begins to stress – often pacing, panting, and whining in anticipation of your departure.Vocalization – It is not uncommon for SA/IA dogs to be very vocal when their humans are gone.
House Soiling – Extreme stress can cause your dog to urinate and defecate indoors. He can’t help it.

Anorexia – Many dogs with SA/IA will not eat or drink when left alone. (This renders the often-given suggestion to give the dog a food-stuffed Kong or other toy relatively useless.)

Crate Intolerance – Dogs with SA/IA often will experience an even greater degree of panic if they are confined in a crate. Dogs who are destructive in the home due to immaturity and/or lack of house manners are often crated to protect the home, but this is generally not a viable option for SA/IA dogs. Panicked dogs have injured themselves and even died in the process of trying to escape from their crates.

The Dog Nanny

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Dog Owners

trainingThese powerful lessons can improve your overall relationship with your dog and improve his behavior as a positive side effect.

Almost 30 years ago, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen Covey was published for the first time. The self-help book went on to be called the “most influential business book of the 20th century.” To date, more then 25 million copies of the book have been sold.

As a small business owner, I found the book very enlightening and helpful, but I mostly found myself relating to Dr. Covey’s “7 habits” as things that would really help anyone who lived with and worked with dogs!

As a professional dog training Instructor, I get to work with people from all walks of life and the dogs they love. Interestingly, no matter who they are, what they do for a living, or what kind of dog they have, their issues are similar: They call me because they want their dog to stop doing “X.” Usually, they say they have “tried everything, but the dog just won’t listen.”

Author
I love the opportunities I have to work with so many amazing dogs. But a lot of what I do comes down to coaching the dog’s owners on how to look at things differently to obtain a new outcome.

With Dr. Covey’s “seven habits for success in business” in mind, allow me to apply them to people who want a more successful relationship with their dogs.

1. Be proactive.
Much of the old-fashioned dog training we were exposed to growing up focused on waiting for the dog to make a mistake and then harshly correcting him. While most of us simply accepted this as “how you train a dog,” we were missing the bigger picture. This method never taught the dog what he was supposed to do in that situation the next time.

It doesn’t make sense to let an untrained dog loose in your house and then follow behind correcting him with “No! Don’t! Off! Stop! Get down! Quit that!” for every wrong decision he makes. It is much more effective and productive to take the time to teach this new family member how to act appropriately in your home.

In modern, science-based animal training we understand the importance of teaching the learner, in this case the dog, what to do by being proactive. To use the example above as what not to do when you bring your new dog or puppy home, start things off on the right foot by first showing your new family member where she is supposed to go potty – before you ever bring her indoors! Stay out there until she goes, and immediately reward her with treats and praise!

Then, instead of turning her loose in her new home, allow your new dog to have access to just one room or area in the house at first – a place where she won’t be able to make mistakes like jumping up on the bird cage, soiling a precious rug, or chewing up a family heirloom. Allow her to relax in an area where it’s safe to explore without being able to make any major mistakes and where her water, food, toys, and beds are located. Reward her for sitting politely as she meets each member of the family and each visitor to the home!

Dogs do what works for them and what’s safe for them. If you introduce behaviors that are safe for the dog and work for you both, your dog will begin to choose them naturally.

2. Begin with the end in mind.
To change an unwanted behavior, you first need to decide what you want your learner to do instead. It is very easy to say, “I want my dog to stop jumping” or “I don’t want my dog to bark at the mailman.” You need to turn that around and decide exactly what you’d rather have your dog do in those moments.

To modify the unwanted behavior, we must be able to picture the final goal. If your dog is jumping on guests, you would probably prefer that he sit politely instead. If your dog is barking, you may decide you want him to play with his toy or go to his bed while the mailman passes by. These are the finished behaviors you can have in mind so you know exactly what you’re going to teach your dog to do.

If you don’t have a goal in mind and you’re only focused on stopping a behavior, your dog will never learn what he’s supposed to do the next time a guest comes to visit or the mailman delivers a package. This will set up an endless cycle of wrong behavior, harsh correction, confused and scared dog, frustrated guardian. This cycle can be broken easily if you begin dealing with your dog with your end goal in mind.

3. Put first things first.
Prioritizing is a necessity in all aspects of our lives. Working with your dog is no exception. There will probably be several things you wish to change or work on with your dog, but certain ones should take precedent. Any behavior that is necessary to keep your dog and other family members safe should be a top priority. This could be teaching your dog to come when called because you live near a busy street. It may be working on creating positive associations for your dog with babies because you’re expecting. If you’ve recently brought home a new puppy, proper and humane socialization should be your number one priority due to the brief window of time puppies have to learn about their world and whether it’s safe.

Focus on teaching your dog whatever behaviors meet your immediate needs; usually, the rest can be handled with proper management such as baby gates, fences, a leash, stuffed food toys, etc. There is nothing wrong with using management to keep everyone safe and happy until you have a chance to work on that next issue with your dog.

4. Think win-win.
Always think in terms of mutual benefit when working with your dog. I doubt you added a dog to your family to spend the next 10 to 15 years in an adversarial relationship. Therefore, it’s not helpful to think in terms of dominating your dog or expecting your dog to spend his life trying to please you.

Instead, make the things you ask your dog to do just as beneficial for him as they are for you. Thankfully, this couldn’t be easier, since most dogs will gladly work for food, toys, praise, and/or petting.

Your relationship with your dog should be like any other in your family, built on mutual respect and love for one another. If you stop and consider how your dog must feel in a given situation – just as you would for your partner or child – you can then approach it in a way in which you both receive what you need in that moment: a win-win.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Humans are quick to demand full and complete comprehension from our dogs. It’s surprising when you consider we expect this from an entirely different species – one that doesn’t speak our language! On the flip side, consider that dogs speak to us all day long with their ritualized body language. Sadly, the majority of humans have never learned this language.

Dr. Covey wrote in his book, “Seek first to listen with the intent to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, then seek to effectively communicate your own thoughts and feelings.”

We must remember that our dogs have their own thoughts and feelings and that the environment we subject them to affects both. If you cue your dog to sit or lie down while at the vet clinic or on a busy street corner and he doesn’t do it, it’s not because he is being stubborn. Your dog may be scared, anxious, or overwhelmed in this situation and feels that it would be unsafe or uncomfortable to sit or lie down. He is not defiantly disobeying your orders. He is responding to his instinct and emotions in the moment. Every one of us does this when we feel scared or threatened.

Learning how your dog communicates with his body means you care about this family member with whom you share your life. It also shows your dog that he can trust you to help him out of overwhelming moments and you will understand what he needs. What an amazing gift to be able to offer him!

6. Synergize.
This means recognizing your own strengths and celebrating the strengths of those around you. You may have adopted a dog because you thought it would be nice to visit nursing homes and cheer up people with a sweet, fluffy therapy dog. However, the dog you end up with might be full of energy and better-suited for an agility field.

Instead of seeing this as a failure in your dog’s ability to be a therapy dog, consider the amazing possibilities you could have doing something more active together. Perhaps this unexpected development will open up a new world to you, with like-minded friends and fun travel. (And perhaps your dog will grow to share your interest in providing comfort to people later in his life!)

Just as you would with a child, try meeting your dog where he is, accepting him for who he is today. Be open to discovering the wonderful gifts he can bring to your life right now.

7. Sharpen the saw.
There isn’t an individual on this planet that ever stops learning. In fact, learning is always taking place, even when we don’t realize it.

If you think of training a dog as something you do haphazardly (when you find the time) for the first few weeks he’s in your home, you will not be happy with the results. Alternatively, if you weave training into your everyday life with your dog, thinking of each brief interaction as a teaching moment, you will be amazed by the outcome. Your dog will receive clear and consistent messages from you in all types of settings and situations. This will allow him to develop into a calm, confident dog who truly understands what is expected of him and which behaviors are appropriate to choose on his own.

It’s not uncommon for someone to ask me, “How long will it take before my dog is trained?” The truth is, there really isn’t an answer to this question because there should not be an “ed” on the end of the word train. As long as we are alive, learning is always happening and none of us is ever fully “trained.”

Instead of being disappointed by this and thinking that you will have to train your dog for the rest of his life, I encourage you to flip that narrative and become excited about the opportunity to share a mutual journey in.

The Dog Nanny

The Challenge of Defusing Intra-Pack Aggression

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My first choice with most clients is this: changing the dogs’ opinion of each other through counterconditioning and desensitization (CC&D).

CC&D for intra-pack aggression involves changing your dogs’ association with each other from negative to positive. The easiest way to give most dogs a positive association is with very high-value, really yummy treats. I like to use chicken – canned, baked, or boiled, since most dogs love chicken and it’s a low-fat, low-calorie food.

 

Here’s how the CC&D process works:

Determine the distance at which your dogs can be in each other’s presence and be alert or wary but not extremely fearful or aroused. This is called the threshold distance. If one dog has a greater threshold hold distance than the other (often the case), work at the greater distance.

With you holding Dog A on leash, have your helper appear with Dog B at threshold distance “X.” The instant your dog sees the other, start feeding bits of chicken, non-stop. Your helper will feed chicken to her dog, too, the instant he notices your dog.

After several seconds, have the helper step out of sight with Dog B, and you both stop feeding chicken.

Keep repeating steps 1-3 until the sight of the other dog at distance “X” consistently causes both dogs to look at their handlers with a happy smile and a “Yay! Where’s my chicken?” expression. This is the physical presentation of the dogs’ conditioned emotional response (CER); each dog’s association with the other at threshold distance “X” is now positive, so they can deliberately look at you to get their chicken, rather than staying intensely focused on each other.

Now you need to increase the intensity of the stimulus by increasing the length of time Dog B stays in sight. Continue to feed chicken when they are in view of each other, occasionally pausing to let them look at each other again, and immediately feeding chicken when they do.

Dogs in the Workplace

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What you (and your dog!) should know before you bring your dog to work.

As the saying goes, “Life is better when I’m with my dog.” I can cite a long list of ways that she makes my days brighter – even my work days! From petting her soft fur or listening to her quiet snoring, to how she makes me laugh as she playfully brandishes her toys in hopes of a game of tug and getting me away from and computer every few hours.

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute reports pets in the workplace can make employers more attractive to prospective employees, increase employee engagement and retention, improve relationships between employees and supervisors, and lower absenteeism. There’s also potential health benefits: stress management, a calming effect, and often an improvement in work-life balance.

It’s definitely nice to reach down and scratch my dog’s ears when I’m feeling overwhelmed with project deadlines. Stepping outside into the designated employee pet play yard helps ensure I don’t sit at my desk and work through lunch every day. Sometimes we spend my break walking around the block. Mostly, as an apartment dweller, I appreciate knowing he’s not stuck inside at home when I’m working long days. It’s a very nice job perk.

Despite the reported advantages, the Society for Human Resource Management reports less than 10 percent of U.S. employers welcome personal pets in the workplace on a regular basis.

While the benefits are notable, pets (for the purposes of this article, we’ll limit our thoughts to dogs, specifically) in the workplace can be tricky. Some office cultures might support an anything-goes mentality where people don’t bat an eye at a rambunctious indoor dog park unfolding in the lobby. However, the attitude of “love me, love my dog” does not generally bode well for harmonious happenings during the daily grind. Bringing personal pets to the workplace, especially an office environment, is a privilege that might be more widely considered by employers if they felt it was less likely to be disruptive.

If you’re hoping to lobby for Fido to join you at work, or your company is considering implementing a pets-at-work policy, consider the following:

 

  1. ESTABLISH BASIC HEALTH AND BEHAVIOR GUIDELINES. It should go without saying workplace dogs should be disease- and parasite-free, clean and well-groomed, and appropriately vaccinated.

In the office, the priority should be healthy workplace productivity. Ill-behaved dogs can be a nuisance almost anywhere, but the stakes are much higher when we’re at work. To keep everyone safe, at a minimum, potential canine colleagues should be of sound temperament, well-socialized to people, and should not have a history of aggressive behavior or biting. Excessive barking, jumping up on people, getting into the trash, marking or repeated housetraining accidents, and inappropriate chewing are all behaviors that should not be tolerated in the workplace.

While the definition of “well-trained” will always be subjective, requiring office-candidate dogs to successfully pass the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test is one way to set a minimum behavior standard. Even better, ask employees to attain the mid-level Community Canine title, a similar, 10-part evaluation, but with elements performed in real-life settings such as busy sidewalks or local parks rather than a training facility.

Attaining these titles requires owners to invest time in training their dogs, and trained dogs are much more likely to be comfortable and behave appropriately in different settings. Plus, owners who participate in dog training programs are more likely to understand dog behavior and dog body language, and are therefore likely better equipped to prevent or address challenges that might arise when bringing their dogs to work.

 

2.MANAGEMENT MATTERS. It’s always important to set dogs up for success. This is especially true when asking them to cohabitate with colleagues who might not be used to sharing their space with dogs. In our opinion, letting office dogs “free range” throughout the office is a recipe for trouble, as it’s impossible to interrupt or redirect your dog’s unwanted behavior when you have no idea where he is or what he’s doing.

Employees with a private office can use a baby gate in the doorway to keep their dogs from cruising the halls without them. If the workplace set-up and dog’s level of training allows, a crate, x-pen or chew-proof tether can be used when owners are unable to supervise the dog, or when the dog needs a little imposed down-time. Make sure the dog has a cozy bed, and use favorite chew items or food puzzles to encourage the dog to spend time on his bed. An office dog doesn’t need to be on-the-go all the time. Dogs home alone spend much of their day quietly lounging; dogs at work can, too.

 

  1. TAKE PROACTIVE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR DOG. “Love me, love my dog” might fly when seeking a life-partner, but it’s a selfish mentality when sharing workspace with others. If you’re lucky enough to be granted permission to bring your dog to work, go the extra mile to make sure your dog is never a nuisance to others.

Respect colleagues’ wishes to decline interaction. Some people are afraid of dogs. Some cultures view dogs as “dirty” animals that should strictly live outside. Some people live with varying degrees of dog-related allergies. And some people are just “cat people” or otherwise choose to be pet-free. Be sensitive and respectful to these differences. Personally, I like to aim for the standard of a well-trained service dog in a restaurant, that is, for most people to not even realize the dog is there, because it’s quietly tucked at its handler’s feet.

That’s not to say office dogs should never been seen or heard, but in an age where fake service dogs are rampant and many dog owners feel entitled to regularly bring questionably or clearly untrained dogs into otherwise non-pet-friendly establishments, it’s more important than ever for responsible dog owners to go the extra mile to show how welcoming dogs need not become problematic for others.

Keep your dog well-groomed to reduce shedding. Have lint rollers and hand sanitizer handy for any colleagues or visitors who might welcome interaction but are surprised by the “magical fibers of love” now clinging to their pants or who might want to clean their hands. Immediately address barking or rambunctious play, especially when colleagues are within earshot and on the phone, in a meeting, or on a deadline. If your dog is overly solicitous of attention from others, direct him to “go lie down,” so colleagues can work in peace.

Give your dog ample opportunities to relieve in approved areas and clean up after him. Keep cleaning products on hand for unexpected accidents or moments of illness. Leave the toy with the 16 squeakers and the animal-product chew stick – the one that smells like warm death when soggy after a good chewing – at home.

And whatever you do, if your dog ever happens to counter-surf someone’s unattended lunch from their desk, immediately offer to replace it, no excuses!

 

  1. REMEMBER, IT’S AN OFFICE, NOT A DOG PARK. Many people enjoy sharing their lives with multiple dogs, but when it comes to dogs in the workplace, there can easily be too much of a good thing. If you have more than one dog, consider rotating which dog accompanies you to the office each day. Even where I work, at a dog-related organization, where everyone’s workspace has been designed to safely manage dogs, and half of the dog-owning employees are trainers, staff are limited to bringing only two personal dogs to work each day.

 

  1. ADVOCATE FOR YOUR DOG. Not all dogs are good candidates for the workplace, even if they aren’t outwardly aggressive. Shy or fearful dogs might prefer the stability of staying home versus the sometimes unpredictable nature of the workplace and its accompanying sense of “stranger danger.” If your dog gets car sick, he might not appreciate starting and ending each day in the car. If your dog is generally indifferent to other dogs, he might not enjoy sharing relatively close quarters with your cubicle-mate’s social butterfly of a Labrador.

 

It’s important to carefully consider your dog’s temperament and overall personality. Maybe he’s not right for the workplace at all. Or maybe it’s best to limit office visits to a couple of days each week.

Even if your dog is perfectly suited for life in the office, it’s still important to set some boundaries. If colleagues have the opportunity to interact with your dog, don’t be afraid to request that they follow certain rules. They might not care if your dog jumps on them, but if you care, insist they ask your dog to sit before petting. They might want to shower your dog with Scooby Snacks all throughout the day. If that doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to set some guidelines. Be nice about it, but it’s perfectly okay to ask that your ground rules be followed.

 

BE PROACTIVE

Welcoming dogs into the workplace can be a great way to boost employee morale, but it’s not without its challenges, and it’s not right for every organization. Careful planning and clear expectations can go a long way in setting up people – and their pets – for success when implementing a canine colleague polices.

 

Take Your Dog to Work Day

Established in 1999 by Pet Sitters International, Take Your Dog to Work Day celebrates the companionship of dogs, encourages adoption, and educates colleagues who don’t have dogs about the joys of the human-animal bond – perhaps they’ll adopt canine companions of their own!

Participating in this year’s event, held nationwide on June 26, 2020, is a great way to introduce the idea of dogs in the workplace on a more regular basis.