Like us, dogs have Coping Strategies. And like us, they either cope by doing something about it or by avoiding it.
What about your dog?
When your dog is upset, does he jump, lunge, bark, run, pace, spin, or even walk away? Maybe he tears at the grass or sniffs his privates. If you answered yes, your dog is an Active Coper. While the behavior he chooses may annoy you, it works for him, and the good news is change is often easy for him even if it doesn’t seem like it now. But that’s not the focus of this blogpost.
Does your dog tend to shut down around things that bother her? Maybe she hides at the first rumble of a storm, or slinks off when guests arrive. Maybe she lies down and stares off into space, or trembles with her head down, looking at nothing much of the time. She’s a Passive Coper. She’s quiet, nearly invisible, but it’s not a healthy coping strategy.
Passive Copers aren’t processing the stress hormones in their blood. She’s swimming in stress. Shutting down doesn’t make her feel better. She’s stuck, but don’t’ lose hope. She just needs your help to change.
Here’s the important part. We won’t ask her to do anything when she’s off hiding in her corner. We can’t reach her in that state, but we can help prepare her for the next time, and there will be a next time. That’s just life. This is a key difference between RosyDogs and other trainers.
We train for the situation, not in the situation.
At first, all we do is ask her to do is Something. Anything. Even tiny Movement Counts at this point. Just as importantly, she earns zero reward for doing nothing. We have the bigger brain and we know that she needs to Move!
Movement for dogs who shut down at the slightest indication of stress or change may not look like much to us, but for these dogs any movement is monumental. It might be as simple as chomping down on a Kong away from her corner or following you across the room. The trick is to actively help these dogs when they are feeling ok. RosyDogs has lots of Games designed to get her Moving. With the right GamePlan, real life solutions take root in 3 weeks.
For most dogs, it looks something like this.
I have a confession to make. I love helping these dogs, the ones who hide in the corner trembling. There’s something about their energy that blends perfectly with mine. If you have a shut-down dog trembling under the bed, please reach out. I can help you both find peace.
One of the most common struggles our dogs face is over-reacting to other dogs. Especially on walks. Sometimes every walk. Sometimes days go by without reaction, then BOOM. He's going crazy the instant he sees a poodle a block away. It’s confusing, embarrassing and frightening all at the same time.
Solution seems impossible. Nothing you try works, and it only gets worse. If you’re like many dog owners you start with more exercise. You take extra long walks, or even multiple walks per day yet it’s not getting any better. So you head to the dog park for a run. After all, you reason, he’s good with other dogs when he’s not on the leash. He runs around, and you think, this is it. He’s over it. But he’s not. He nearly jerks you off your feet when the next dog appears.
So you sign up for doggie daycare. Most of those dogs are pretty good with other dogs so you think he’ll learn to get along. But he doesn’t. He’s now snapping and lunging at everything that moves.
You realize you’re in over your head so you hire a trainer specializing in counter-conditioning, BAT or desensitization. If he would only understand that those other dogs are nice, he’ll stop. But he doesn’t, and maybe he’s worse. Maybe he’s so frantic you’re afraid to leave the house.
With all due respect, STOP.
Your dog doesn’t need more exercise, and he doesn’t need more time around other dogs, playful or not. Your dog is stressed. Super Stressed. So stressed he can’t think straight.
Look, those other methods worked for some dogs, but they also left a lot of dogs struggling with even worse problems than when they started. It’s a lonely place to be left behind, wondering if your dog is dangerous. Please don’t give up.
The answer you've been searching for is exactly opposite of what you’ve tried.
Your dog is both super stressed and maybe in a state of fear the instant he senses another dog within a half mile. He can’t possibly learn anything while in a full blown panic. Put yourself in his paws.
Let’s say you’re deathly afraid of spiders, and I hand you a box. I look you in the eye and say, “Stick your hand in there. There may or may not be a spider inside. But don’t worry. I’m pretty sure the deadly black widow isn’t in there.” Could you do it? Over and over? That's pretty much what other trainers will ask your dog to do.
RosyDogs teaches you to reshape the brain away from other dogs -in a safe place- where learning can sink in. We train for that dog when fear is not in the picture. This is brain shaping at it's finest.
Look, every dog is different, but in most cases, dogs with dog dog reactivity need to first lower their stress level. While he de-stresses, we play games that help him stay calm around other dogs, then engage with the other dog nicely, and finally, disengage smoothly. He becomes an Optimist who sees other dogs appearing as non-events. It’s a relaxed and effective way to help your dog find real peace.
Isn’t that what you want for him?
Know there is help for every dog struggling with dog to dog problems whether on leash or off.
I had just turned 6 and it was Christmas morning. My letter to Santa had been specific. Please bring me a small puppy with long black hair and make it girl. As I waited for the approved hour of 5am before rushing down the stairs, I could hear a whimper. Sticky seconds thudded by like lead balloons on a cloudy day.
Finally, the big wooden door slid open to reveal a small green laundry basket with a red pillow. Perched on top was My Puppy! The memories are crystal clear 5 decades later. Chrissy was a wonderful dog, but to be honest, she was more my mom’s dog than mine as often happens. Still, I proudly took my pup to obedience class and did my best. I felt I had dreamed Chrissy into existence. She was just so … happy.
When I grew up, Chrissy stayed with Mom (she lived to be 23!) and I adopted Roxy, a fearful little spaniel. She was all mine, and we bonded. She needed me and I did the best I could to help her, but she struggled with her fears for the rest of her life. She was just so … frightened.
How I wish I had a time machine.
Then came Winston, the Love Sponge. He was that dog. The one we all dream of sharing our lives with. As a pup he peed in the house once and never did it again. He never pulled on the lead and he always came right back when I called. I knew he was special yet wondered if he could do more than we had learned in obedience class so I started to read. We went far. He was just so … easy.
When Winston was 7, we decided to bring another pup into our home. Enter Tasha. I was thrilled. I had so much knowledge to share and Winston could help teach her. We would have great adventures.
Except we didn’t. Tasha was just so … hard.
The story I had told myself before bringing my beautiful puppy home didn’t look like the one playing out. Tasha brought chaos and struggle. She couldn’t get the hang of potty training. She kept us up all night and she never seemed to relax. I still remember the day Winston gave up on her. He simply refused to play with her. It was shortly after she had learned to bark, and wow! She had a big bark! I was worried, but I vowed to never give up. I would change Tasha’s Story.
We went to puppy class where the trainer told me that “if I decide to keep her, she’ll never be normal”. I still get angry when I write that. If? IF I DECIDED TO KEEP HER?! Dogs are not a shirt easily returned if they don’t quite fit.
I stopped going to class and returned to the books. Yet everything had helped Winston failed for Tasha. They ate the same food. Learned the same behaviors. Lived in the same house with the same routine, but Tasha continued to crash through life.
For 8 years, I battled her many struggles. There were good days, but her chaos was ever present. I turned to the internet, that murky puddle of good, bad and so-so information. I took online courses, some of which helped a bit, but nothing could calm Tasha. I swear she never once relaxed in all those years. She was swimming in stress and I was losing hope. How could she be so different? My sweet Roxy had struggles, but Tasha's were off the scale.
Then suddenly it was just me and Tasha. Winston had passed. (the saddest day of my life). We plodded on until when in 2015 I stumbled upon an Absolute Dogs video. Here were these 2 wacky Brits talking about games for dogs. I thought, what the heck, can’t hurt to try. So I sat on the floor and played Vortex with my then middle-aged crazed dog.
It’s hard to describe what happened, but while playing that first time a spark passed between us. We locked eyes and she tipped her head as if she were listening, but I wasn’t speaking. She let go a huge sigh and smiled the big goofy grin I had rarely seen.
I had found something that reached her troubled mind. Immediately, I began a new quest to rescue Tasha from her inner demons. I jumped with both feet into this new world of Concept Dog Training. I asked tons of questions, devoured every lesson as Tasha began to change. Her mind calmed. I could see how the games were helping. It seemed too simple, too easy, but the proof was right in front of me.
Tasha began to relax. Then bloom. And our world expanded.
All these years later, I continue to study with Tom Mitchell and Lauren Langman of Absolute Dogs UK. They're world famous as the creators of this method. They are my trainers and I, their eager student. I devour every opportunity to learn more. In early 2018, I earned Certification as a Concept Dog Trainer using the Absolute Dogs Method, but I wasn't done. I maintain my credentials through constant learning by attending at least 3 seminars per month, and study with the most advanced practitioners of of this amazing approach to dog training.
Concept Dog Training rescued me as much as it rescued Tasha.
My Tasha has a new story now. She’s just so … fun!
What story will your dog tell?
Separation Anxiety can be painful for owner and dog. We want our dogs to love being near us, but we all need to leave them alone at least part of the time. Many times, we don’t know our dog is struggling until we get complaints from neighbors or come home to a house full of the evidence.
Dogs will choose many different behaviors to express this struggle. Barking, Toileting in the House, Ripping Through Furniture, Over-the-Top Crazy Behavior when You Return. It can all be signs of a struggling dog. It’s all in how your dog chooses to deal with being left alone. Some dogs choose very odd behaviors to cope, but it’s all coming from the same place.
Uncover the Actual Problem
Start by recording your dog for 15-20 minutes. Leave your home as if you would be gone for the day but set up a camera to capture video. Don’t worry if the dog is off screen for part of the time. Just try to get a feel for what your dog is doing and how long she is doing it after you leave. Then send or share this video with RosyDogs for our Professional Evaluation. You’ll be amazed by how much is revealed in those few short minutes.
Ask the Right Questions
Time for a gut check.
Is this behavior different from the behavior you see when you are home, or is it some of the same behaviors your dog chooses when you are near?
The answer to this question will lead us to right solution. Be honest. There are no wrong answers.
Now comes the big question.
What percentage of the day does your dog choose to spend relaxing?
Think about a day when nothing special is happening. Again, honesty counts. Is it 20%? 50%? 80%? The answer to this question pinpoints the solution for your dog. From here out, it’s all about change, but we need a solid foundation on which to build this new way of life.
At RosyDogs, we think of Separation Anxiety as a symptom, not a diagnosis. With that one simple mind twist we find our way to real life solutions that don’t require exacting protocols that eat through your vacation days. Instead, we identify the underlying struggles and design a RosyDogs GamePlan. The good news is you can still leave the dog for normal periods while she learns to cope with being left alone. We give you the strategies that have worked for countless dogs around the world. It’s a revolution in dog training. Leave the endless drills and record keeping behind.
Why My Dog?
In the past, Scientists thought they had discovered few risk factors, but newer research has reversed the science. Some common beliefs have even been proven false. Our dogs are not more prone to Separation Anxiety simply because they are a Rescue Dog or Taken from the Mother too Soon. It’s also been disproven that a Spoiled Dog is more likely to experience separation anxiety! Go ahead. Spoil your dog. Just play the right games while doing so.
One risk does seem to remain, and this one starts young. Really young. Like week 5. This is when puppies naturally begin to move apart from their littermates and mother. They begin to nap while the others play, and even wander out of visual connection. They are building the skills they will need in the future so if you have a young puppy, allow them some alone time!
Does that Mean My Adult Dog is Doomed to a Life of Struggle? Absolutely Not!
RosyDogs has a GamePlan for you. After we have a look at the video, we’ll get started. You’ll learn a super easy game that helps your dog appreciate separation from you and others in the home. You’ll also learn some fun games that teach your dog to see life through Rose-Colored Glasses. Your dog will shift from Pessimist to Optimist like a pro. Then we’ll tackle the changes you’ll need to make. Stay with me. These are easy changes, but they are radically different from what you may have heard from others.
Dogs who struggle with Separation Anxiety also struggle with Calmness. The two go hand in hand. By helping our dogs find calmness, we take a huge bite out of Separation Anxiety. Even better, by learning Calmness, other struggles begin to lessen. It’s a Win-Win!
It is impossible to tire your dog into calmness. You don’t have enough time in the day to physically exhaust a dog. They recover too quickly. In an hour or so, an over excited or highly aroused dog will be right back to the struggle, but this time with even worse results. This myth has been perpetrated long enough. We’ll cover everything you need to know about your dog’s Stress Bucket and how to empty it. In many cases, this single change can alleviate Separation Anxiety, but we don’t stop there.
Setting Up the Bunker So Real Change Can Take Root
We’ll talk about what to do tomorrow when you leave the house. We’ll pick a place in your home where your dog can be safe during the few days she’ll need to shift her brain into alone time. She’ll quickly learn what she may have missed as a 5-week-old puppy. And we’ll overcome her incredible ability to recognize that you’ll be leaving soon even before you realize it yourself by playing a game to help her understand that all those little signals she’s picking up on, don’t always lead to being left alone.
Forgive Yourself and Forgive Your Dog
You did your best, and your dog is not doing it on purpose. She doesn’t understand why she’s making poor choices so let’s help her make better ones. RosyDogs has the solution. It won’t be instant, but it will be quicker (and easier) than older methods that sentenced you to days of repetition with a stopwatch in your hand. If you stick with your RosyDogs GamePlan, you can expect to start seeing real changes in as little as 3 days! To make lasting change will require a couple weeks, but your dog will start to feel better in less than a week. *
A Few Simple Games + One Change = Happy Dog, Happy Owners, and Happy Neighbors.
Book A Consult
*If your dog has been struggling with Separation Anxiety for a long time, change may come slower, but change is possible through your commitment to the GamePlan.
In general, dog training adheres to one of three schools of thought. To be honest, as a dog owner, I’ve been exposed to all three. My experiences varied with different dogs, but I’ve come to a clear conclusion. Below are my personal thoughts on each.
The Dominant Pack Leader theory of Alpha Dog based training believes that you must show your dog you are pack leader. You are the alpha leaving your dog as the perpetual submissive in the home. In effect, it traps dogs at the puppy stage, never allowing them to reach their full potential as mature members of your family. Trainer 1s use methods that include harsh words, leash jerking, rolling and pinning the dog on his back, or even shock collars! At its core, these methods are inhumane and painful for our dogs.
Additionally, it is based on debunked science. It came from a well-meaning but tragically misguided study done by a single researcher in the 1940s. The study observed an unnatural pack of wolves forced to live together in captivity. They were not related and did not choose to live together. This led to some behaviors that simply aren’t seen in a natural wolf pack living in the wild. Fighting broke out in this pack leading the researcher to observe the “winners” which he then assigned as the alpha male and alpha female. His theory held that the alpha pair would dominate the pack for the rest of their lives or until age and weakness allowed another to take their place.
Natural wolf packs are family units composed of parent and child. The offspring are naturally subordinate to the parents and younger siblings to the older. They work together to survive as a pack as a tightly bonded unit. Many early subscribers to this theory have reversed their opinions on Alpha Dog theory after further research revealed the truth.
Additionally, wolves are a separate species. Our dogs may have descended from them, but they are not wolves. Tens of thousands of years have domestication and tamed the wild. Still, this theory persists. I find it abhorrent and refuse to even consider it in my work.
Thankfully, new science and theories emerged in the 1980s. Researchers working with dogs at this time began to observe that they learned more easily with positive rewards. By leaving the painful or frightening warnings of Alpha Dog training in the past, dogs began to enjoy learning and great advances were made. Positive reinforcement is helpful and works in general terms yet it doesn’t cover life outside the training class or home training session. It leaves our dogs uncertain what to do in the off time. In the end, this approach often leads to failure in real world situations because it relies on frequent input from the owner.
Dogs learn to sit, down, stay, and come. Some went on to learn rudimentary calmness with this method, but this theory fails to provide a dog friendly handbook on our human expectations. Left to make decisions without guidance, and they make thousands of decisions every day, some dogs strayed into troubling behaviors only to preform admirably in each and every training session. It simply didn’t go far enough.
The Concept Trainer
It’s a new era and new research has come to light. Concept Dog Training builds on the leaps forward of the encouragers and discards the advice of the punishers. Concept Dog Training is cutting edge and thousands of dogs around the globe are living their best life through this revolutionary method.
Concept Dog Trainers blend thoroughly vetted observations of human psychology with new research that focuses on the emotional state of dogs in various situations. It found that dogs are truly individuals. While older methods may have worked for some, many dogs were left behind to uncertain fates. We leave no dog behind.
Concept Dog Training also took from research that showed dogs have many commonalities with small children, and like children, dogs love to play. And play can be used to shape the brains of dogs, giving them powerful life lessons. The race was on to bring this exciting approach to the public and Games Based Training was born. Yet it it took a clever and skilled team to pull it all together into a carefully honed theory with cleverly designed games which were then vetted by thousands of eager dog owners around the world. With a foot firmly planted in current science and another in endless creativity, Certified Concept Dog Trainers use their super powers of observation to choose the games that most benefit your dog.
Obviously, I’m biased, but that’s because I’ve tried them all. The methods of the punisher repel me. The methods of the encourager helped me establish basic behaviors in dogs that were already quite adept at fitting in yet it left at least 2 of my dogs behind. Concept Dog Training skyrocketed forward to make training simple, fun, and solutions oriented. My Tasha has not been left behind. If it worked for her troubled mind, it will work for your dog, too.
Time to Choose
What do you want for your dog? Can you look yourself in the mirror after sending a jolt of electricity directly into the neck of your 7 pound Pomeranian because she barked? Do you wish to constantly be giving cues which request behaviors yet offer no lasting guidance to your dog, or would you rather your dog simply know what to do?
If you feel as I do, the choice is clear. You brought your dog into your home for a reason. Most people would say they longed for a companion who would fit seamlessly into the home. Concept Dog Training can bring that dream into reality through games. Imagine a dog that suddenly understands your world, and you understand him! You can easily access our games online, and I encourage you to play a few to see how they might help your dog, but only a Certified Concept Dog Trainer who has undergone the rigorous training under the hands on guidance of Absolute Dogs can put it all together to give your dog the coping skills they most need to live their best life.
Want to learn more? Hop on over to the Contact page and drop me a line. Tell me about your dog, whether he currently has behavioral issues or not because trust me; There’s A Game for That!
Rebecca Porter has been fascinated by dogs for decades, but it took a frantic mixed breed to send her on a journey into innovative and real life solutions in dog training.