Michael Litzky is the Director of Training for Barking Hound Village Training and is a Certified Professional Canine Behavior and Training Master Instructor (CPCBTMI), a Certified Behavior and Aggression Management Trainer, and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed® (CPDT-KA®). Michael is also a certified AKC® Canine Good Citizen® Evaluator. Michael works with dogs in all aspects of behavior management and obedience.
First, if you haven’t seen, we are very excited to be opening the doors to Barking Hound Village Training in the very near future. Many, many more details to come in the next couple of weeks!
And the timing coincides with something that is on the mind of every trainer I know. We are all waiting for the flood of calls for when the world starts going back to normal, or as close to normal as we can get. When people go back to work and kids go back to school, we’re going to get calls. Lots and lots of calls.
“My dog has started to chew on the doorframe when we leave!”
“Yesterday, our neighbors said she whined and barked for hours!”
It’s not a question of whether or not dogs will experience separation anxiety when people leave their homes again, but rather, how severe will it be? Separation anxiety is a common behavior in the best of times and now that many people have been sheltering at home for months, it may become the MOST common behavior.
And that’s not the only behavior trainers are expecting to see an increase in both frequency and intensity.
“My quarantine puppy, we named him COVID, is getting aggressive. We haven’t been able to have guests over for months and, well, we do like to entertain. But at our first annual Social Distance BBQ, COVID growled at all the guests! Doesn’t he know we like our friends?!?”
A lack of socialization for young puppies and adolescent dogs is sure to cause more fearful, reactive, and aggressive behavior. It cannot be overstated how important socialization is for dogs at a young age. Appropriate exposure to new people, new things, new places, new sounds, and of course, new dogs, is critical to raising a well-balanced, confident, and happy dog.
In fact, change in any form can cause dogs to become more anxious and fearful, causing many unwanted behaviors. Here are a few tips to help your dog go through these transitions as smoothly as possible:
– Try to keep your dog’s routine as close to normal as possible. Dogs do far better with a predictable schedule than one with no rhyme or reason.
– To help prevent separation anxiety, everyone in the home should practice leaving for work or school like normal. Make the coffee, pack the bags, grab the keys. Close the garage door and drive away.
– If your dog is already exhibiting some separation anxiety behavior, give them something high value and engaging, like a Kong toy with peanut butter, to help distract them as you leave. Make sure it is something you can safely leave with your dog when they’re alone.
– It is extremely important to socialize all dogs appropriately, but it is especially crucial to do so with young puppies and adolescent dogs. If there is anything you want your dog to be comfortable with in the future, like guests coming into the home, fireworks on the 4th of July, other dogs, or a nearby park, you should practice exposing them in a positive way while they are young.
– Never force your dog to get closer to something that makes them fearful. Instead, use treats and other good things to give your dog a positive association with the new experience.
– Have guests give your dog treats when they come inside your home. Play firework sounds on the TV or computer while your dog is enjoying their favorite treat. Allow your dog to play with other dogs off-leash in a controlled environment where they feel comfortable. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting your dog enjoy the interesting smells at a park to keep them happy and excited.
If your dog was used to socializing in the past, but they haven’t been going to the usual places or experiencing the usual things as frequently as they used to, they may also need a little help to ensure the reintroduction goes well.
– For dogs that are nervous and anxious, gradually reintroduce them to the experience. Walk them around the outside of the daycare facility a few times before their first day back. Gently play with your dog’s paws and brush their fur regularly to get them ready for an overdue grooming appointment.
– For dogs that are overly-excited or frustrated from a lack of normal exercise, try to get some of that energy out BEFORE throwing them back into daycare or bringing them to the park. It may seem counter-intuitive, after all, you’re paying for daycare to get the energy out in the first place, but dogs that are over-stimulated can exhibit unwanted behaviors causing problems and injury in a social environment. Take your dog on a nice walk before bringing them to daycare. Practice training off to the side for 10 minutes when you first get to the park.
And of course, Barking Hound Village Training is here to help in any way we can. With one-on-one Private Training, Board-and-Train programs, and Group Classes, we’ve got a training option that will fit your dog and your lifestyle.
Our number one priority is the well-being of your dog. We would love nothing more than to help reduce your dog’s fear and anxiety or calm their over-excitement and ensure their transition back to normal goes as effortlessly as possible. Which, of course, will help us achieve our number two priority. Making sure that in these difficult times, your dog can continue to be a happy source of unconditional love and empathy, something we all so desperately need.
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