Frequently Asked Questions from Dog Families
General Dog Training Questions
My dog is --(insert problem behavior here)--! How long before this problem is fixed?
The two variables that have the biggest impact on training outcomes are: 1. the dog's learning curve. Some dogs are quick to training and some need a bit more time to learn the ropes. 2. The owner's commitment and consistency. If you work the training, your dog WILL learn.
There are no quick fixes or magic bullets in dog training. Sorry :)
Up until about a week ago, my dog was brilliant! Now all of a sudden, he or she is different! What happened?!
When a dog's behavior suddenly changes, we always recommend checking in with your vet for an evaluation. Some behavior problems have a medical cause. In some instances, medical intervention alone fixes the behavior and sometimes a combination of medical intervention and behavior modification is needed.
Questions Specific To Canine Separation Anxiety
It seems silly that my dog won't eventually learn I'm coming back. Will he?
It seems counterintuitive that they don't figure this out eventually, but, unfortunately, they don't. In fact, repeated absences will make separation anxiety worse. When you are gone, your dog is flooded with stress-inducing chemicals, which puts him in a non-learning state, and repeated doses of those chemicals sensitizes your dog to your absence. This is why suspending absences during treatment is critical to successfully treating separation anxiety and why it is a nonnegotiable requirement when working with Martin Training & Behavior.
My neighbors are complaining about the constant barking and someone told me I should use an anti-barking collar. Should I?
A dog with separation anxiety is suffering and may show it through desperate barking, whining, or howling. Barking is a symptom of severe panic and getting rid of the barking doesn’t get rid of the panic. Plus, anti-barking collars worsen anxiety dramatically, even if they sometimes silence the dog in the process. For these reasons, we highly discourage the use of shock or citronella spray collars and why it is a nonnegotiable requirement when working with Martin Training & Behavior that no aversive training methods are used during treatment.
It feels like my dog is tearing up things and pooping and peeing because he's mad at me for leaving. Is he?
It sure can feel like it. And that look on your dog's face when you come home? Surely that's guilt, right? Actually, no and research supports this (click here to learn more). Although there is no doubt our dogs feel many of the same emotions we do, there is little evidence that they experience or have the ability to express resentment, guilt, or angry protest. Your dog isn’t angry with you for leaving, he’s terrified of being left alone.
What about crating my dog when I leave?
Most dogs with separation anxiety do better when they are loose. There are exceptions, of course, and sometimes (e.g. puppies that are still potty training) kenneling is necessary. Using a room with a baby gate, or a smaller comfortable room such as the kitchen or laundry room, is an ideal alternative for many dogs.
It will take some trial and error to determine which environment your dog will do best in when he's left on his own. An experienced trainer will teach you to observe and interpret your dog’s body language to help you make the best decision for you and your dog.
I was told that leaving my dog with something yummy to eat when I leave might help. Is this true?
Some dogs, when alone, won't touch food items because they are so anxious. Others will eat, but they'll either experience the anxiety while eating, or the anxiety will come on full force once the food is gone. Martin Training and Behavior recommends leaving food out for the initial steps of training so it doesn't confuse the picture. Once some duration progress has been made, food might be reintroduced as appropriate.
I know people get help from anti-anxiety medications. Is the same true for dogs? Are there other holistic remedies that might help?
Yes, this is true. There are several medications available to support a training program for separation anxiety in dogs. As a dog trainer, I cannot make specific medical recommendations and would encourage you to discuss with your veterinarian. It is important to note that, while medication may help your dog's anxiety, a concurrent behavior modification program, such as systematic desensitization, will be necessary for the best progress.
There are alternative remedies that your dog might benefit from. A holistically trained veterinarian will be able to suggest non-psychopharmacological options.
To read an excellent summary of medications often used with dogs, please click here.
Will getting another dog help my dog?
Maybe, but probably not. There are a small number of dogs that are okay alone as long as they have a canine friend with them. If you think there's a chance this might be true for your dog, we recommend that you enlist the help of an experienced trainer to explore this possibility, and if it is true, to help choose a companion for your dog.
Questions Specific To Separation Anxiety Training
How long will it take for my dog to overcome separation anxiety?
Unfortunately, there is no way to predict how long a particular dog will take to feel comfortable being alone for your goal duration. Each dog is different (as are owners and their commitment to the program), so progress may happen within a few weeks or not for months.
It's particularly important to understand that progress in the beginning stages of treatment will be necessarily slow. We have to take the time it takes to build a strong foundation of trust for your dog. Often, once that foundation is built, learning begins to accelerate.
How much will it cost me to work with a trainer?
The cost will depend on the length of treatment. An experienced canine separation anxiety trainer invests considerable time creating specific, individualized plans, reviewing video regularly, giving feedback, and adjusting the written criteria based on reading the dog’s body language and assessing his progress, and charges for these services accordingly. The goal, always, is to help you learn to do what the trainer is doing and, at some point, to hand over the reins for your dog's treatment.
Because the laying of a strong foundation is a priority with successful separation anxiety treatment, Martin Training & Behavior requires an initial minimum commitment of four weeks.
Are there alternatives to working with a trainer?
Martin Training & Behavior firmly believes that systematic desensitization is the best training protocol for dogs with separation anxiety. If you are very organized, methodical, and motivated to help your dog feel better about alone time, you may have success from two other sources: Malena DeMartini's book "Treating Separation Anxiety In Dogs", and her "Mission Possible" Online Course. You can find out more about these resources at malenademartini.com
Questions Specific To Group Dog Training Classes
I don't know if group training will be the best fit for my dog. Should I give it a try?
Observers are always welcome to watch classes to get a feel for how they are run. You are also welcome to talk with the facility owner or the class instructor before signing up for class if you have any doubts you or your dog will be successful. Our priority is that all class attendees have a great group experience.
Will it be possible to make up a class if I must miss one?
Sometimes we are able to accommodate you attending another class to make up a missed class. However, this is only possible when there is an opening in the class. For this reason, we encourage you to consider your schedule for the 6 weeks you will be attending classes and make sure there are no foreseeable conflicts.
What vaccinations do you require for my dog to attend class? Do you accept titers?
We follow the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s (AVSAB) Position Statement.
Puppies need at the minimum: 1st round of the DHLP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus) and Bordetella (Kennel Cough) vaccines at least 7 days prior to the first class AND their 1st round of de-worming.
Adult dogs (6 months+) need at the minimum: DHLP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus), Bordetella (Kennel Cough) and Rabies (if age appropriate) vaccines at least 48 hours prior to the first class.
We also highly recommend, for the health of your dog, that they be current on both heartworm and flea prevention.
When medically appropriate for your dog, positive titers are acceptable in lieu of vaccinations.
Will there be class on or around the holidays? What about bad weather?
There are a few holidays during the year that may fall on class days when classes will not be held. Classes on other days may also be postponed to accommodate the holiday schedule. These include Thanksgiving and Christmas. Other holidays will be considered on a case by case basis. You will be notified in advance for postponed classes due to holidays or for other postponements (such as weather that impacts safe travel). In the case of a postponement, classes will be scheduled such that you get your full course of individual classes.
What are the class prerequisites?
What else should I know before class starts? The only prerequisites for puppy classes are that your dog is of the proper age for the class you are signing up for (7-16 weeks for Puppy Prep; 20 weeks-12 months for Surviving Adolescence), is properly vaccinated (see question/answer above for more details) and that you attend the mandatory orientation before starting classes. Once you register for your puppy class, the instructor will send you a link to introductory documents you will find educational.
Why is there a mandatory orientation for classes?
Before attending a puppy class, you must attend orientation at the facility. The orientation familiarizes you with the facility and gives you a crash course in dog behavior, dog learning, and training. Having this knowledge prior to starting class will ensure that class is successful for both you and your pup.
Is it okay if I bring other adults to class?
Yes, please do! The more, the merrier! It's good exposure for the other dogs and having family members and friends hear the instructions straight from the trainers will help everyone follow the same training game plan, which fosters consistency.
What about children? Yes, please do!
We love having kids in class! It's good exposure for the other dogs and kids make terrific trainers! However, it must be understood that not all pups attending class will be familiar with and/or comfortable with small people. For this reason:
Children should not be allowed to approach or pet any dog without the owner's clear invitation and/or permission.
No running or gymnastics, please.
Children must stay with their family (unless they are participating in a class activity) and be supervised by an adult. To ensure success for all, we encourage you to bring quiet activities for your children to engage in during class time.
It is understandably hard to both pay attention to your dog and supervise very young children. For children under the age of 5, please ensure an adult is present who will be supervising the child(ren).
As needed, class staff reserves the right to request that an additional adult attend future classes to supervise the child(ren).
More questions about dog training with us or in general?