Online Dog Training – Your First and Best Choice

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA CSAT

It wasn’t that long ago that folks thought of online dog training (live video coaching) as a second choice. We considered it a good-enough option when in-person training wasn’t available. There are some reasons for that. Dog trainers weren’t as good at remote training as we are today. Fair enough. The other reason, though, is that we just didn’t know what we didn’t know. The pandemic, quite frankly, forced us to immerse ourselves in online learning experiences. Little-by-little it became a welcome part of our comfort zones. We got good at it and we learned how good it could be for us.

Dog training and behavior coaching has some key elements in every case:

  • Setting goals
  • Charting a training plan
  • The trainer modeling specific skills and exercises
  • The client practicing those skills hands-on and getting feedback
  • Review and Follow up

The truth is, not only are all of those things able to be accomplished live on a video connection, some of them are actually better accomplished that way. I take notes for my clients and can often send clients a written training plan the very same day if we are working online. I also record demonstrations and practice sessions and can send a link for those to the client within minutes after our consultation.

And, believe it or not, there are real disadvantages to seeing a client and their dog in-person. For dogs with aggression issues, having a stranger in the home can be very stressful. Half of a training session or more can be wasted just getting the dog to calm down. We don’t have that problem with live video coaching. The client can work with their dog in a calm stress-free environment, skill-building and preparing the dog for real-life encounters later in the process. Dog separation anxiety training is done entirely online. The idea is to help the dog learn how to be calm when left alone. You don’t invite someone over and then leave the dog alone, right? It’s essential that the trainer not be there so that he can monitor your dog’s behavior when left on his own.

It’s normal to have some hesitation around online training. I get it. Many of our clients did at first too. Then the reviews started coming in:

Michael is Very professional and helpful. We were worried about the training being performed virtually at first but found that the training was just as helpful as in person training if not better. – Mary C

I was worried how training might translate over Zoom since we began at the height of COVID, but everything went so smoothly and I think the distance helped Finn to be a bit more natural at home during training sessions. – Corrine B

Even through remote training due to covid, Michael’s professional assessment and training skills shone through and worked wonders. He gave us a customized plan to help her build trust and positive engagement with my husband. – Mabry Family

We met with Michael through Zoom meetings and he helped us immensely with positive training techniques that helped our pup become a loving part of our family. – Pat V

We’ve learned there are other real advantages to live video dog training sessions online, as well.

  • Expert help when you need it. There are still too few dog behaviorists and dog behavior consultants who handle difficult behavior cases. With online coaching you can access experts more easily with less wait time for an appointment.
  • Convenience of scheduling. With no worries about service area or travel time, we can make more evening and weekend time slots available.
  • Expert care and instruction no matter where you are. Online dog behavior coaching is not bound by geography or service area boundaries.
  • Safety. Online coaching is stress-free for dogs with aggression issues.
  • Less stressful for the humans, too. There’s no fuss or worry about having a stranger in your home.
  • Online training costs less.

I’m a watcher of trends. It’s one of my passions. One of the things we are noticing from the pandemic is that we will probably continue to do more work with each other remotely from our own homes. Certainly we crave social interaction in-person. At the same time we are realizing we don’t need that (or want it) for all interactions. If we can get expert help that’s better, quicker, and less expensive, that really should be our first option. Experience has shown me so far it’s likely to be our best option, too.

Michael Baugh teaches dog training in Houston, TX. He’s also able to help people around the world with live video coaching online.

 

 

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.

 

 

Dog Training – It’s About the Relationship, Silly

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA CSAT

We’ve come full circle. The truth is good dog trainers have always known that teaching is about relationships. It’s not so much “leadership,” (Do it or else). It’s more about cooperation (Let’s work on this together). We’ve known this even though for a while it looked like we forgot.

To some extent or another too many of us became fix-it trainers. Dogs became a list of problems to solve. Our business coaches told us that’s what clients wanted – results, nothing more. We knew they were wrong, but we changed our business plans and turned our web sites over to them (at no small cost). And, fix-it we did. We stopped the crummy behavior from happening and taught the shiny new behavior instead. We packaged it up as solutions and modifications like we were tricking out cars. All the while, we still knew. This is about the relationship, silly. The human, the dog, the team.

It’s all come full circle. Relationships are the thing again, and rightly so. Maybe it was Covid. I learned a whole new way of living with my dogs, as you probably did too. It drew us closer. It taught us new lessons. Deeper ones, I think.

Take notice. The world slowed down, at least a little bit, at least for a little while. I could (and did) spend hours just watching my dogs. I watched them sleep. I watched what they paid attention to. I noticed what they did more often and in greater detail. And here’s the other thing. I noticed them noticing me. They watch us, follow us, and listen to us far more than we give them credit for.

Communicate. That’s the beginning of communication, this shared noticing. There have been a number of studies that suggest dogs understand our meaning far better than we understand theirs. They read our facial expressions, our voices, and even our casual gestures and accurately interpret our intent. We know this, if we are paying attention, because of how they respond. They have their own gestures and expressions. It’s been called a language of sorts, and we can learn it. This is the bedrock of training, mastering the give and take, the quid pro quo, the rap-and-riff of our interactions with dogs. It’s like good improv. A little something from me a little something from you. A conversation.

Turn towards, not away. All we have to do is to lean into this truth. Dog training is not a top-down endeavor. It’s a back-and-forth. Our dogs have intention. They are thinking and feeling.  Psychologist John Gottman taught this concept in the context of marriage. When our partner reaches out (Gottman calls this a “bid”), the more we turn toward them to engage and exchange, the richer our marriage will become. There is a parallel here for all relationships, including the learning relationship we have with our non-human friends. Your dog, I guarantee it, is always bidding. He’s exploring his agency in the world, gambling, engaging, experimenting. Turn towards that behavior, towards your dog, not away from it. Connect. Collaborate. Build shared understanding. Add fluidity to learning. Create trust.

This is not etherial pie-in-the-sky thinking. It’s foundational. There is certainly a time and a place for fixing problem behaviors. There’s a place for teaching cool skills and even tricks (tricking out your dog). If you’re focused on the results alone, though, you will struggle. In fact, often the struggle is all you will see. I wonder sometimes why it all feels so difficult. What if we chose to see our dog instead, this other life in the room? What if we were open to the conversation? I see you and I smile and I know you know what that means. I see your bid – for attention, for engagement, for a chance to choose this or that. How could I miss it? You’re here, breathing and thinking and real.

I see you. I see your bid. And I turn toward you. How could I not, you delightful, crazy, adorable, sometimes problematic, dog.

Michael Baugh teaches dog training and behavior in Houston, TX. He specializes in aggressive dog behavior and dog separation anxiety.