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Blog posts from December 2013

Posted on December 12, 2013

Separation Anxiety, featuring Chance

Separation Anxiety, featuring Chance

Meet Chance!

He is an incredibly sweet and adorable seven year old Beagle/Basset Hound mix. Chance's owner's contacted Zen Dog for help with Chance's separation anxiety.  Their other dog had recently passed away and Chance was now having a hard time being left alone for longer periods of time.  It had gotten to the point where the neighbors with young children who trying to nap were complaining something had to be done. 

Luckily, Chance’s owners decided to contact Zen Dog Training. We know that separation anxiety is preventable and responds well to treatment.  An important first step is recognizing that dogs with separation anxiety are not misbehaving out of spite or boredom. Just like humans, dogs have feelings and strong emotional responses. We sometimes compare severe separation anxiety to how a person feels during a panic attack: scared, confused and overwhelmed!

Separation anxiety can be triggered by a life change such as moving, a sudden change in routine, long stay at the kennel or in this case the death of a companion.  Along with the death of his dog companion, Chance was also being left for long periods of time, up to 10 hours, which was also contributing to his anxiety. 

At Zen Dog Training we have several recommendations for helping dogs with separation anxiety. The most basic is to not allow your dog to shadow you around the house.  We recommend using a baby gate or a tether while you're home and ignoring him if he's whining or barking. Doing this for short periods of time several times a day will teach him to get comfortable being "alone" when you're home.

We always recommend an increasing cardio exercise as well as obedience training. Essentially, give him new challenges to mentally stimulate and tire him out. You can also start feeding him using toys like the Premier Busy Buddy Toys, so that he has to work for his food.  Providing him feeding toys or some delicious teats when you leave will help soften the blow of being left alone.

Lastly we recommended practicing many, many short absences during the day.  Start by leaving the house for just 2-3 seconds and then coming back in.  Repeat this over and over until the dog becomes used to you leaving. Now extend the time you are gone to 10 seconds, 30, 5 minutes etc.  Mix up how long you're gone and help your dog learn that leaving doesn't always mean a long period of time alone.

With all of this coming and going try to not make a big fuss about leaving the house or coming home. Acting cool and relaxed when you come and go will help him understand that you leaving or coming home is no big deal. 

It’s important to remember that dogs are social animals and not well suited to be left alone all day. In situations where your dong will be left for 8-10 hours we recommend hiring a dog walker or doggie day care.

These tips will help with most dogs however, if you have a more serious case, please call Zen Dog Training or a professional dog trainer in your area.

For more information on separation anxiety visit Zen Dog Training Online.

Posted on December 5, 2013

Help! My Dog Chews EVERYTHING!

Help! My Dog Chews EVERYTHING!

It's a question we get all the time: "How do I make my dog stop chewing on X, Y, and Z??" The truth of the matter is that dogs are naturally inclined to chew. Dogs explore the world with their mouths the same way we explore and investigate with our hands. They also chew when left home alone because it's something they enjoy doing! The problem comes when your dog decides that it would be fun to chew up your nice new pair of shoes. So what can you do to solve the problem?

First of all, you can prevent our dogs from chewing non-dog items by keeping them all out of his reach. You can make sure to put our shoes away on a shelf when we get home. Or to put away all of your socks in the place he can't get to. If your dog likes paper, pick up a couple of trash cans with lids to keep him from getting at any Kleenex or napkins. If you need to, don't be afraid to use a crate for your dog while he is learning what he can, and can't, chew on — just put his favorite toys (such as a stuffed bone or Kong) in his crate when you leave. And remember: a tired dog is a well behaved dog! Before you leave in the morning, take your dog to the park, go for a jog, or even play fetch in the house — get him running and panting any way you can.

You also want to teach your dog what he's allowed to chew on by providing plenty of legal alternatives. Have a good variety of types and textures of toys for your dog to play with and chew on. He will be less likely to get bored with what he has and more likely to find a fun toy to play with. Also, notice what your dog likes to chew. If he tends to chew on socks or gloves, make sure he has a nice plush (but durable) toy that he loves. If he starts to devour the baseboards in your home, get him a nice hard stuffed bone or an antler to chew on. You can use they toys (especially the plush ones) to play games like fetch or Tug of War to get him interested in the new toys — and to tire him out!

To help him learn what he can, and cannot, chew on you will want to keep a sharp eye on him so you can interrupt him when he goes for something he shouldn't then refocus him on one of his toys. When you see him start to sniff or chew something other than his toy, simply tell him "uh-uh", stop him from chewing and offer him one of his own toys. If you take a minute to play with him with his toy, he'll turn his focus to his own toy more often. By using these three steps, you will be well on your way to teaching your dog what he can, and more importantly can't, chew on!

If you notice that your dog primarily chews while you are gone, or tends towards more destructive chewing, it might be a sign of a larger issue. If you have questions or are concerned please give us a call at (617) 233-5496!

To learn more about Solving Problem Behaviors, check out Zen Dog Training Online!