Trainer Tuesday: Stress from Moving

 

Every Tuesday we will be working with certified dog trainer Lisa from The Noble Hound, Dog Training and Obedience to answer your dog training questions. If you have a question about your pooch, whether it be leash manners, house training, getting along with other animals or anything in between, email us at info@dreamrescue.ca and we will pick a few questions each week to answer.

Erin Dyck: Hi Lisa! We are moving soon, and so our house is in a bit of chaos (more so than usual). There are boxes everywhere, and the dogs obviously know something is up.

They are a bit touchy; the little guys are growling at everyone as they do when they feel stressed out, and Spencer, our only male, has started marking around the house (just little dribbles; he’s still using the great outdoors for “real” bathroom breaks).

What can I do to minimize the stress on them, other than sticking to their regular routine?

Hi Erin,

Congratulations on buying a new house! Moving can be an exciting adventure, but also very stressful for both humans and animals involved. You are absolutely right in keeping up with the dogs’ daily routine. Right now the moving boxes are stressing your dogs out, so switch their brains and make the boxes and chaos fun and beneficial to them! Boxes can be fun right?! Hide some treats and favorite toys among the moving boxes, making the boxes a bit more exciting and valuable for the dogs. Get the dogs to jump over and/or weave around the boxes and play games around the boxes and chaos, but make sure to reward your dogs with their favorite things (food, treats, toys, affection) for being so brave and happy. The key is to make the boxes fun and rewarding!

Another thing you can do is try to exercise the dogs a little extra. Poop them out so that they don’t have the extra energy to convert into anxiety. A tired dog is a dog that isn’t going to think too much!

As for your dog that is marking, try to re-direct just before you see that leg going up. Make sure he’s never around the moving items and boxes unsupervised. The more he gets to practice this behaviour unsupervised, the more he’s going to do it. You want to catch him before he pees and interrupt him before anything comes out. You can say something like “aaaak” to re-direct his silly ideas.

If your dogs need to go somewhere else (a familiar place like another family member’s home) while the move is taking place that is okay too. I suggest doing this on the actual moving day.

Also, if you have access to the new house already, I would take the dogs there to explore a few times before the final move. This will allow them to develop positive associations to the new house. Let them have fun at the new place – interact and play with the dogs, let them do things they love to do, give them some tasty bones or Kongs stuffed with cheese, meat or peanut butter. Make the new place a great place to be!

In general, it’s natural for your dogs to be a little upset about change. That is normal, but you can help them out by making the situation a bit more enjoyable and fun!

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Curb a Barking Habit

Do you dread people coming over and ringing your doorbell? Does your dog seem to bark uncontrollably? It takes a lot of patience and consistency, but stopping barking IS trainable!

Why do dogs bark?

Dogs don’t speak human; instead they bark as a means to communicate with us. Your dog might be barking for a variety of reasons: warning or alert, anxiety, excitement or play, attention-seeking or even boredom. Take the time to listen to how and when your dog barks to better understand why it’s barking.

Training your dog

Now that you understand why your dog is barking, you can work to control the behaviour. Here are some helpful tips to improve your dog’s barking habit:

  • Make sure your dog is regularly exercised – take it for walks, play together with toys or train it a new trick.

  • Do not give your dog attention (positive or negative) for their barking. Positive attention would be petting or comforting the dog; negative attention would be scolding the dog. Any form of attention encourages the behaviour.

  • Use the “be a tree” method to wait out your dog’s barking – turn your back and look away from the dog. When the dog stops barking, you can then calmly acknowledge it. If the dog starts to bark again, return to the tree position.

  • Use the redirect method to change your dog’s focus – call them away from the source of their barking and refocus their attention on something else, like a toy or a trick. When they stop barking be sure to give them lots of praise!

  • Practice makes perfect! Work on the tree and redirect methods with your dog on leash. Get a friend or family member to help with ringing the doorbell or any other actions that cause your dog to bark.

There’s a lot of information about curbing excessive barking online. For further information, consider speaking with a behaviouralist or attending an obedience class.