A little while ago, after watching a channel 4 documentary on dogs and their secret lives, we recorded Poppy while we went out and found that she very unsettled when left on her own. She got extremely stressed and worked up and showed behaviour such as toileting indoors (once even on our bed!), pacing, panting and howling. While we are very lucky to have extremely understanding and dog loving neighbours, we knew we couldn’t go on letting Poppy be so unhappy while she was on her own. And it’s not like she’s on her own a lot or for long periods of time, but we want a happy, stress free dog. We got in touch with local dog trainers, K9 Playtime Academy Dog Training School and we haven’t looked back.
Our aim is to have a dog who isn’t really bothered if we’re there or not, so that if she needs to be left on her own for a couple of hours, she can. While we’re not quite there, we’re really close. Poppy is an excellent dog for training. She is hugely motivated by food, she’s a very quick learner and she enjoys training – she wags her tail throughout every training session! We’ve trained her to lie down on her mat, with her face on her paws and are working on getting her to lie on her side. We started by just getting her to sit on her mat and have progressed from there. We’re also working on getting her to stay on her mat while we move away. So far, we can get to the front door and have the front door open and she’ll stay on her mat. The next step is for us to go out the front door, close it and get her to stay on her mat. To make sure she doesn’t move, we’ve bought a camera that we can watch her on through our iPhone to see how she’s behaving.
The first time Poppy lay on her mat with her head on her paws, both the trainer and I very nearly cried! During training, you can see Poppy thinking really hard to work out what we want so when she does work it, it’s pretty awesome! We use a clicker throughout training and it works really well. Training sessions always leave us exhausted, but we’ve learnt so, so much and I can’t wait for the day we have a real breakthrough with Poppy and can leave her on her own without her getting stressed. We now know that if we want Poppy to behave in a certain way, we have to shape it, start small and be patient. Quite often, I’ll rush things or think we’ve pushed her too far, when we haven’t at all and I’m just being impatient. One thing is certain, and that’s Poppy will get there. It just takes a little time.
One thing our trainer recommended to us was a relaxation protocol, Champion of My Heart and it works by changing your dogs reactions to things that make them stressed, be it noise, separation anxiety or fear. It works really well and I can’t recommend it enough. Have you tried anything that’s worked particularly well for shaping your dogs behaviour? I think reward based training is always a winner – and why not? It works for me, so why wouldn’t it work for Poppy?!