Dogs are masters of discrimination and are quick to recognise predictive cues in their environment, especially when those predictive cues lead to a known stressful event.When we leave our anxious dogs at home, and over time, they file away every action that is repeated in the pattern prior to our departure. In the beginning, they are anxious when the door closes and we are out of sight. Over time, the anxiety “bleeds backwards”, so to speak, and soon, they start feeling anxious when we pick up our keys, put on our shoes, pack a bag, turn off/on certain lights, give them a stuffed food toy, or even all the way back to blowdrying our hair, brushing our teeth, or putting on perfume/cologne! Oftentimes, those of us with dogs who have home-alone issues are told to disconnect all of these cues by running through exercises where we pick up our keys and sit down to watch TV, put on our shoes and cook a meal, put on our coat and read a book, etc. This exercise is completely useless, and a time-waster, I’m sorry to say! These are cues that will always be connected to an absence, so why bother trying to “trick” our dogs – instead, we will desensitise those cues along with absences to save you time and energy. Otherwise, you will need to keep up that exercise with your keys and shoes and bag for the rest of your dog’s life! That isn’t practical.
Click “NEXT LESSON” to gain access to our Pre-Departure Cue Workbook and you can go ahead and fill it out based on your own dog. This will be an exercise in observational skills – you will have an opportunity to video-record your dog during a very short absence (less than 5min) and review the video to track all the stress signals you observe in your dog.