Last month, I discussed how physical and mental exercise can help alleviate behavior problems related to boredom when dogs are left alone. This month, I’ll discuss general confidence boosting training exercises that can also help a mildly stressed dog.
Please note: If your dog is showing signs of serious separation anxiety, it’s always best to contact a training professional.
Your Dog’s “Go To” Place
Our bedrooms are sanctuaries from the busy world and dogs also deserve a place of their own. This exercise will make your dog’s bed a happy place where they can retreat in times of stress.
- Toss a food treat on the bed. Repeat this at least 10 times.
- Once he/she is eagerly running to their bed, add a verbal cue such as “bed.” Point to the bed if your dog doesn’t respond to the word. Reward your dog for walking over to the bed.
- Add a down cue after your dog is standing on their bed. Reward this action as well.
- Soon, he will walk over and lie down on his bed for a single cue. Begin to wait a second or two before giving him the treat.
- Practice sending your dog to bed from different places in your home, including the front door.
Stay commands can be paired with the “Go to Place” exercise or done on their own. “Stay” means, “stay in one spot until I come back and release you.” Remember, it isn’t reasonable to ask your dog to stay when you are away from home because she will need to get up and move around during the day.
- Begin by teaching your dog to stay when you are in sight.
- If your dog can do a solid stay for 10 seconds with you in front of her, begin to make it harder by walking around the room.
- Always return to your dog to release him from the stay.
- Think about the 3Ds of stay - distance, duration, and distraction. Work on one “D” at a time, gradually increasing the difficulty level of the command.
Duration —How long you are asking your dog to stay?
Distraction —What is going on that might be interesting to your pup? (Including your motions- moving around, touching a food container or picking up a toy.)
- After your dog can hold a stay for 30 seconds while you move around the room, you can try your first out of sight stay. Walk out of the room, turn around, and walk right back in.
- Gradually build up the distance you are out of sight.
- Remember, the “Stay” command is hard for dogs! Give them an easy one once and awhile to keep the game fun.
- Out of sight training and a safe place can help dogs that are experiencing mild levels of stress at home. They are also useful training techniques to get our dogs out from underfoot and impress our holiday visitors.