Puppy Potty Training (it works for adult dogs too)

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA CSAT

Potty training is simple, but not alway easy. It takes vigilance and patience in equal measure.

  1. Management

While in training your dog should have two states of existence 1) supervised  2) safely confined.  You are eliminating (pun intended) any chance of a mistake.  

Never set yourself up to ask the question,  “Where’s the dog?”  There’s a good chance they are in the next room peeing. And that’s your error.

  1. Making outside your dog’s first and best choice 

Take your dog on-leash to the chosen outside area in which he or she is to eliminate.  

Optional: Give a verbal cue such as “go potty” or “do your business.”  Choose something you are comfortable saying in public.  

Praise and treat immediately upon completion (follow up with optional play or petting).  You’re teaching your dog to trade urine and feces for a high-value reward and that’s better than simply getting relief in the dining room.

Clean up the mess.  

DO NOT IMMEDIATELY REQUIRE YOUR DOG TO COME INSIDE after eliminating.

  1. Catching mistakes

Ignore mistakes you didn’t see happen.  They are ancient history to your dog.

Interrupt mistakes you see.  Joyfully take your dog outside and finish step one.

Never scold or yell at your dog.  This could make them shy about eliminating in front of you and slow the process.

  1. Knowing when to go

Try often.  We are always looking for opportunities to reinforce this good behavior.  

Always take the dog out immediately after: waking up, eating or playing.

 

What is Separation Anxiety? (and other big questions)

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA CSAT

Dog Separation Anxiety is a label we attach to a syndrome of behaviors. Dogs, when left alone, who do one or more of the things listed below are often referred to as “having” separation anxiety.

  • Barking
  • Whining or crying
  • Howling
  • Digging at the floor near exits
  • Scratching doors and walls
  • Chewing around doors and windows
  • Losing control of their bladders or bowels
  • Panting
  • Pacing

Some trainers refer to this as dog isolation distress, as it only occurs when the dog is alone. They reserve the term separation anxiety of dogs who have attachment to one specific person. Nonetheless, Separation Anxiety is widely accepted as referring to dogs who panic when left alone without humans in general. It sticks. So, we’ll go with that term.

Dog Separation AnxietyDid I cause my dog’s separation anxiety? Probably not. Let’s go ahead and lift that weight off your shoulders right now. Your dog’s behavior is not your fault. There’s a lot of emerging research about separation anxiety but specific causes still elude us. It’s safe to say that attention, love, allowing them on furniture, or staying home with them for many hours a day are not causes. Lot’s of folks do those things and there’s just no significant correlation to suggest a link to separation anxiety.

How do I know for sure my dog has separation anxiety? Your Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) can do a live video assessment of your dog when they’re alone to help you determine that. You can also set up a live video link yourself without a trainer monitoring. Leave and watch your dog’s behavior on your phone or tablet. Do you see any of the behaviors listed above? Does it look like your dog is panicking?  If so, separation anxiety might be the problem.

My dog follows me everywhere. Is that separation anxiety? No. This behavior, whether you find it cute or annoying, shows up in a ton of dogs who have no other indicators for separation anxiety. Interestingly, some dogs with separation anxiety don’t do this at all.

Will my dog grow out of separation anxiety? It’s doubtful. I won’t say that there aren’t some dogs who adapt and appear to resolve their own behavior. There probably are some. However, they would be the exception to the rule. The more common trend is the separation anxiety behaviors solidify and sometimes intensify over time.

Will medication help my dog’s separation anxiety? Only a licensed veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist can prescribe or even consult with  you about behavior medication related to separation anxiety. FDA approved medications do exist. Are they right for your dog? I don’t know. We do know that in many cases medication in combination with behavior training can be effective.

Can separation anxiety be cured? I don’t use that exact word. But, it can certainly be helped. Certified Separation Anxiety Trainers (CSATs) like myself have had excellent results extending the time our clients’ dogs can spend alone quietly and calmly. It’s a fairly straightforward process. However, this does not always mean the process will be easy. A CSAT dog behavior coach can help you navigate the tricky parts and assist you so that your dog’s training will go as smoothly as possible.

How long will it take? Your CSAT dog behavior coach can help you set your dog up to succeed as fast as your dog is able to go. We bring our A-game to the process and we help you and your dog find your A-games as well. We also help you set and track measurable goals. The exact speed of progress is different for each dog. It can also vary (speeding up and slowing down) throughout the course of training. Broadly speaking, we suggest people think in terms of months not weeks.

Can I do separation anxiety training on my own? You can. In fact, in my opinion we CSATs should all be teaching our clients how to work on their own after they’ve worked with us. There are also good online courses for dog separation anxiety (and more in development). We can recommend some of our favorites.

Do separation anxiety trainers come to my home? Usually not. That’s actually good news. It means you can work with the CSAT of your choice no matter where you live in the world. Separation anxiety training is a clear process designed to teach your dog to become more comfortable (calm) staying on their own. Having someone come to your house to teach your dog to be alone doesn’t make much sense once you think about it. Come over. Now leave. Then, of course, there’s be the question of how we monitor your dog when we do leave. Better to have the video link set up from the get-go so we can help monitor and assess  your dog’s alone-time behavior no matter where we are.

Is separation anxiety training expensive? Yes and no. It depends on who you ask. Compared to a 6-week basic obedience class, yes it’s very expensive. Broadly speaking a multi-month course of separation anxiety training with a credentialed trainer is comparable to a multi-week board and train. It’s much better value for money. You are getting months of daily customized one-on-one coaching. CSAT dog behavior coaches are very transparent about pricing. My separation anxiety prices are on my web site.

The first step, though, is free. You can follow this link to set up a free 30-minute separation anxiety call. I’m sure you have questions I didn’t cover here. You can ask those on the call. And, of course, I’ll get to learn more about you and your dog. And yes, it’s really free. You can sign up for your first 4-week training package on that call. But, you don’t have to.

For me this is the big question: Is there hope? Yes! Absolutely, there is hope. Countless dog guardians have walked the path to recovery from separation anxiety ahead of you. And, I’m here to walk it with you – every step of the way – as long as you need me. Seriously, if you have read this far you’ve already taken the first step. Let’s keep going.

 

Michael Baugh is a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer based in Texas. He also helps families with dogs who have other behavior issues including aggression.

 

 

Covid Pets and the Unexpected Fallout

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA

Nineteen months ago, none of us really knew what was coming. Dog behaviorists and trainers predicted and increase in behavior problems from dog separation anxiety to puppy socialization issues to increased resource guarding. We got some of that right. We trainers also braced ourselves for a collapse in business. I had one other trainer working for me in April 2020. At the time I didn’t know whether or not we’d survive financially. In an interview with KTRH Radio in Houston I talked about how we were rebuilding our business model, just so we could make it. Some of our worries and associated predictions were well-founded. There were some increased (and interesting) behavior problems that cropped up. But we got another part completely wrong. Business was going to boom. In fact, we were about to be in over our heads with an increased demand for help.

By some estimates pet ownership increased during the pandemic by more than 40-percent. People who had never had dogs before got dogs or puppies. People who had one or more dogs got a second or a third. By mid 2021 the trend was so apparent it became a meme (apparently air fryers sales did well too). At first glance this may look like great news. We all want to see more cats and dogs adopted – and that was happening. But as with many good things in life, there was a flip side.

As early as Fall 2020 veterinary practices were becoming overwhelmed. All of these new dogs and cats needed medical care. Scheduling a standard vaccination appointment for tomorrow or the next day was off the table. The wait time became a week or two or more. Wait times for emergency care (unless your pet was critical) increased to as much as 8 hours. Even in normal times veterinary medicine is considered an at-risk profession with a higher-than-typical suicide rate (physicians and other caring professions are similarly at risk). Now, with the added cases and little time in the day to catch their breath, veterinarians are burning out. Many are leaving the profession or shifting specialties. Others are dying. Not One More Vet (NOMV) is an organization founded to help keep veterinarians healthy, alive, and in the profession they love. NOMV and your own personal vet will always appreciate your kindness and support.

Dog trainers and behavior consultants were caught in the storm of demand as well. We here at The Behavior Group had to adapt quickly. What started as a two person operation in March 2020 is now a five person operation. (See: Inside Michael’s Dogs – How We Survived 2020). We did well, but one of our trainers got buried under a huge caseload. She had to step away for  break and then eventually left the group. While this person is doing exceptionally well now, other trainers have reportedly left the profession permanently. The ones who remain have full schedules with no openings for 2 to 3 months.

If you’re tempted to roll your eyes at my complaints about being too busy, I get it. Fair enough. The real problem goes beyond just that, though. None of this is happening in a vacuum. Veterinarians and we trainers are all tasked with helping people who, themselves, are under unprecedented pressure. This was literally the subject of my last newsletter. Life is hard right now. The real problem is a toxic blend of more dogs, more demand, and a client base that is hurting more than ever. I’m hearing about the fallout from my friends, fellow trainers, and vets. I’m also seeing it on social media. A well-respected trainer with more than 20-years experience recently posted that they’d considered closing their doors and quitting the profession. But why?

“What people don’t see, or hear, or read,” They wrote, “is what we take on every single day. The hysterical voicemails, the impossible cases that are immediate emergencies, the rude comments, the pressure of social media, the incessant demand for attention right away. The texts at 11pm [demanding]  response or [they will write] a negative review. People truly have no idea. It is not playing with puppies all day.” 

Some people are, frankly, thoughtless and unkind. Another trainer put it in the form of a meme (left). “People are feral since the lockdown, I swear.”

Please do not misinterpret this is a cry for help. It is more of a peek behind the curtain – a look at how the sausage is made – choose your favorite metaphor. Covid puppies. Covid pets. This unexpected fallout. These are all our issues to take on as trainers and behavior consultants and as veterinary professionals. We know self-care. More importantly we know that caring for each other is even more powerful and essential.

I’m not claiming to have figured all this out. But, here is what we are doing in our group. A few months ago we brought on Stephen Kelly as our Client Care Lead. His role is to support our clients and our trainers, both. Stephen can help you with anything from rescheduling an appointment to fixing a typo on your email address in our files. He helps the trainers by assisting you as well, so they can focus on the thing they love – teaching and training. All of us work hard to communicate our process and what we have to offer (I think we set the standard in client learning and support).

We also clearly communicate our boundaries. Boundaries in our group are so important. It’s why we have a clear cancellation polity (this actually helps you plan better, too). We have boundaries around when we accept texts – not just from clients but from each other. This clarity about boundaries lets you know when you will have our full attention. We take days off. These days are do-not-enter zones for recharging our emotional and intellectual batteries. They are so important to us. But, don’t underestimate how important they are to you as well. A rested trainer is smarter, more creative in their teaching and training, and more empathetic.

Empathy. So much of our work is about standing with you as you navigate the path of learning with your dog (it is sometimes a difficult winding path). I’ve been here. I am here with you now. That’s empathy. First Aid Arts posted a Vimeo video with Brené Brown in which she says, “I find Empathy to be infinite. I think it gives back tenfold what you put out. It’s sustaining” There interviewer, named Travis, then jumps in and says, “If you’ve done the work and you have your boundaries you could tread that water forever.” Brown responds, “Okay so, Empathy. I’m quoting Travis here. Empathy. If you’ve done your work and set your boundaries you can tread that water forever. Amen!”

I’ll second that. Amen, indeed.

Michael Baugh teaches dog training in Houston, TX. He leads Michael’s Dogs Behavior Group – and amazingly talented team of people-care professionals.