Frequently Asked Questions

3%

ARE WE STILL NOT USING FOOD TOYS? SERIOUSLY?

Yes, seriously! 🙂 

Until we build up to a more appreciable absence where our dogs are relaxed, food toys serve only as a distraction. Distractions in training do not work. 

The food toy runs out and the dog has to be comfortable beyond that point. 

When can you use food toys? 

Any other time but during Missions and absences. Integrate food toys into regular mealtimes and brain-buster activities during bad weather when walks are shortened. 

What if I have an emergency absence where I have to leave for a little longer than they are comfortable? 

If you've built your dog up to say 30 minutes and you have to leave for 40 minutes, do the math.

  • Will the food toy last 25% longer than you expect to be gone?
  • Is your dog sure to be focused on the food toy for the entire absence?
  • Is your dog consistently eager to eat food toys in your presence?

If the answers to all the questions are "yes", then go ahead and use a food toy as emergency management for this one situation. I implore you, however, not to get into the habit of doing this. You will undo your hard work and "poison" the food toy for future.

WHEN DO WE GET RID OF WARM-UP STEPS?

One of the most popular questions that we get is "when can I get rid of warm-ups?" My answer is "when you hit 30 minutes in your missions."

Now, there is a caveat:
 

As you work through this protocol, you may reach the point of 10min and then you're going to really pare down the warm-ups so that your missions aren't an hour long or two hours long. You'll hit 15min and 20min and do the same thing. As you build up the final duration, your warm-up steps will decrease in number. I've added a couple mission examples in the next lesson so that you can see what that might look like and make the appropriate adjustments.

When you have reached 30min comfortably, that's when we start to really wean off the warm-ups, but they're not going to disappear completely, because cold-trials can be very jarring for dogs with anxiety about being left alone. We will keep a few short warm-up steps even up to the 3-4 hour mark and then we'll get rid of them altogether.

Why do we even need these warm-up steps? 

They matter to your dog. When you leave for a split second and your dog doesn't care, that was a practice run and it was easy and successful. That puts money in your dog's bank, so to speak. They didn't practice the stress/anxiety. When we leave for longer than they can handle, it's a withdrawal from their bank account and a hefty one at that! We have to make sure there's enough in that account to prevent them from going into overdraft!

They get into the game - "Oh s/he's leaving again. Whatever. I'll go rest and I don't care what they're doing, coming and going." That's what we want going through your dog's head until they eventually don't care at all when you leave with fewer or no warm-ups.

Everything is gradual and working on home-alone issues proves that very well.

HOW TO HANDLE MOVING HOUSE

As we know, major life changes can cause regressions in dogs, so it's no wonder that moving is one of the biggest triggers in a new presentation of home-alone issues and the cause of many a regression. Years ago, I moved fairly frequently - every couple of years or so. Every time I brought in the moving boxes, Parker would immediately tense up, wide-eyed, panting and pacing. Within an hour, he would be at the door, begging to go out. For the next couple of days he would have diarrhoea. Needless to say, moving was a big trigger for him.

If you're moving, here are a few tips to make that process go much smoother and hopefully prevent a regression in your dog.

Plan Ahead
Make sure that you've looked at your new neighbourhood and have set up your management for that new place as well, in the event that you need someone. Even if you're up to 4 hours right now, moving might bring them back down to a lower threshold temporarily. You need backup!

Moving Boxes
Make moving boxes predict fun things before you need them. Play games involving cardboard boxes, like:

101 Things to do with a box
Scenting games - using 5-6 boxes, turn each box upside down over a few treats under one and let your dog find which box contains the treats! You can also use a newspaper, crumple up a dozen or so pages, toss the crumpled paper loosely in the box and sprinkle kibbles throughout, letting your dog find them.
Shaping games - teach your dog to jump over small boxes, make a tunnel from another box, teach your dog to jump onto a packed box, create a box-maze and have a prize at the end.

Getting comfortable in their new neighbourhood
If you have an opportunity to bring your dog to their new 'hood prior to the move, do it! Do it a few times. When you are there, let your dog really investigate the neighbourhood. Do a nice, relaxed leash-walk and let your dog sniff to their heart's content. Lots of sniffing and yummy treats to associate great things with this place, is key! I wouldn't suggest a formal walk or "heel" - that's not enjoyable for a dog, and you really need this place to be familiar and fun.

Drop into the local pet shops and banks to have the employees feed your dog treats (if your dog is human-social), visit the local dog park (if your dog is a dog-social dog and it's a safe environment), using a 50ft lead, let your dog run around a wide-open space if there is a safe one nearby, etc...

Where should my dog be during the actual move?
Moving day is an extremely stressful day for everyone in the family. Your dog is no different, in fact, they might find it even more stressful because you can't explain to them what is happening. Moving time is also a time where many dogs get loose and run away, because we have doors propped open, movers coming in and out, and general chaos. If at all possible, set your dog up with their favourite auntie or uncle, a trusted friend or family member, doggy daycare, or your trusted pet sitter. If none of these are viable options for you, you will want to make sure your dog is safely contained in a crate or other confinement area with something like a frozen, stuffed Kong to keep them busy. Be sure your dog is wearing a collar and/or harness with current identification and an up to date phone number.

Getting comfortable in their new home
Ideally you have some of the main furniture and items in before you bring the dog in - the old scents will be comforting. Set up the dog area asap so that they have access to their bed, crate, toys, water, and food right away. Build a treasure hunt! Before you bring your dog into your new home, hide some extra special , stinky treats in several different places. You can also use food dispensing toys like stuffed Kongs. Then bring your dog in and let them explore. Keep things low-key without too much social pressure and excitement.

Start your Missions!
You'll need a few days at least to get settled, so you're going to plan ahead and do some of those early missions. In fact, go all the way back to the foundation building missions where you were just starting with a couple PDQs and walking to the door. No need to run an assessment as that might start things off on the wrong foot... Just run a few of these missions, then skip the next mission and do a longer one, and really gauge how your dog is feeling throughout.

If things are progressing well, increase your time by skipping every other mission, or skip two missions until you get up to your original time.

Don't stop monitoring for the first month. The first three weeks might be a "settle in" period and then things might change. It's worth it to get those cameras set up and just keep a close eye for now.

If you're seeing similar signs of stress as you did when you first started, you might need to play defence here and stay at the lowest level for a few days as things get settled.

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