Updated: Sep 13
Many years ago, I struggled with the car chasing behavior of my first dog, a sheltie. It wasn’t as easy as just keeping him on leash, because Chester would still chase cars even when we took a walk in the neighborhood. The 6-foot leash restricted his ability to go far, but he’d see a car coming down the street, run towards it, and as it passed would turn around and chase after it until he hit the end of the leash. Chester would then repeat this pattern when he saw the next car coming. His compulsive behavior made taking walks extremely unpleasant for both of us.
At the time I wasn’t a dog trainer and tried many different things to stop Chester’s behavior, but failed with every attempt. In my mind I tried EVERYTHING. Sometimes what I tried worked for a little bit, and just as I was getting hopeful that the problem was fixed it would start up again.
Finally, I realized I needed the help of someone who had more knowledge and experience than I did. I booked a session with a professional canine behaviorist, and on the day of the appointment Chester and I went to her office, which was about a 90-minute drive from my home, and received some much needed guidance. It was well worth the long drive and consultation fee because following her advice made all the difference in the world, and through some diligent work on my part Chester eventually became a joy to walk on busy streets.
Private online dog training for separation anxiety
While there are still some behavior issues that require a dog trainer to actually be present in order to most effectively help the owners, advances in technology has changed things quite a bit in the canine behavior consultation world. It’s now possible to have a virtual dog training consultation with a canine professional for a variety of training problems, and get good quality treatment options and professional support.
Professional behaviorists and trainers who help with dog separation anxiety were early adopters of the use of technology. Originally technology was used by setting up video cameras before the owner left the house, and reviewing footage upon return to determine the dog’s level of separation anxiety during that time. This was back at a time before smart phones when home-use cameras recorded and didn’t transmit anywhere.
When practicing dog training for separation anxiety we only leave the dog for as long as they aren’t exhibiting anxiety. By keeping them under that threshold we’re able to teach the dog that being alone isn’t scary, and as we progressively increase the duration of the owner’s absence the dog is able to cope with longer and longer periods of time alone.
The early video camera technology wasn’t very efficient as the owner only found out their dog went over threshold after the fact as they watched the footage. But at the time it was the best tool out there, and better than having no idea how the dog was coping during the owner’s absence.
We’ve progressed to the age of Wi-Fi, cameras in laptops and other devices, and inexpensive cameras that can be viewed from an app on your phone. Instead of reviewing video after the fact, we can now see in real time how the dog is doing after the owner walks out the door. It’s made working with dogs suffering from separation anxiety a game changer because we can now see the subtle signs of anxiety, hear not only the loud barks and howls, but the low volume whines, and the owner can return before the dog escalates too far over threshold.
Does virtual dog training work for separation anxiety?
I’m sometimes asked about how my consultations work. Do I go to the client’s house, or do they come to me? The answer is neither. One of the canine behavior issues that benefits greatly from remote consultations is separation anxiety.
This is not just my opinion. A 2008 study, Comparison of Remote versus In-Person Behavioral Consultation for Treatment of Canine Separation Anxiety, found no difference in the outcome between dog separation anxiety cases seen in person, and those conducted remotely.
In my experience, conversing with the owner about the dog’s history and explaining how the treatment will work doesn’t require me to be in the same room. Answering questions about their dog’s behavior, or checking in with them about the progress they’ve made over the past week can be done during a virtual dog training consultation via Zoom.
Not only do I not need to be there to see the dog, I shouldn’t be there. I need to see what the dog does when the dog is alone. Doing dog training via Zoom is perfect because I can see on camera what’s going with the dog after the owner leaves, and my virtual presence isn’t a factor since the dog doesn’t know I’m even there.
Online private dog training has some benefits for my clients as well. They can meet me at their home without inviting a stranger into their house, and possibly causing stress for the dog. I record all of our online dog training consultation sessions, and make them available for viewing for the client, so if they forget something I said, or want to verify it, they can review the meeting. We also go through the training exercises while I watch remotely, so the client gets real-time feedback and coaching, and can ask questions immediately if they have them.
Virtual dog training with other behaviors
Separation anxiety isn’t the only behavior that can be treated through an online dog training consultation. Covid really was a game changer for the dog training and behavior industry. As lock down required non-essential businesses to stop working with clients in person, trainers quickly changed their business model to virtual offerings. And trainers and behaviorists discovered that for many dog behavior and training problems it was possible to offer quality online pet training.
Trainers have had great success providing online dog training consultation services, working with clients on such problems as resource guarding, crate training and counter surfing. Trainers can discuss the problem being experienced by the dog owner, come up with a training plan, and coach the owner virtually in real time. Additionally, owners can record their training sessions and get feedback on the video from the trainer without needing to meet more than a few times.
Online dog training consultation can be just as effective, and because the trainer doesn’t have to travel to their client, it can be quite a bit less expensive. This type of training may not be for everyone, some people do better with in-person coaching. And it may not be the best way to address problems such as certain types of aggression. But in the last 2 years we’ve seen that virtual training classes and consultations are a great tool, and as businesses continue to offer it they’re increasingly refining it to make it better.
Online pet training courses aren’t actually new with Covid, although they’re quite a bit more prevalent now. There are a variety of different types of offerings from self-study after watching pre-recorded homework, to being able to submit homework videos for the trainer to review and provide feedback. There are even live classes that are run much the way traditional group classes are run, except everyone is working from their own home.
Advantages to virtual dog training
Learning new things is hard, and generally we would find it most effective to introduce learning a new skill in a comfortable, distraction free environment. There are actually quite a few benefits to working with a dog trainer remotely.
Some dogs may be stressed in an in-person group class setting and struggle to function.
Some dogs are dog-reactive, which is also not conducive to learning new skills. For these dogs they’ll be able to master the early stages of learning new things better in the comfort of their own home.
A common complaint is that the dog will perform for the trainer, but won’t once the trainer leaves. Because the trainer isn’t physically in your home, they won’t distract your dog. Your dog is more likely to pay attention to the most important person - you!
If your dog is nervous with strangers, the trainer’s physical absence removes that stress as well. This allows the dog to be in a good emotional state for learning.
For dogs that get overly excited when people come over, the virtual training session will provide a calmer environment for your dog.
The trainer gets to see how your dog behaves in your home in normal circumstances, and can create a training plan that takes into account the everyday, ordinary routine and layout of your home.
Without a doubt, technology is a huge benefit as a tool to helping owner with dogs that exhibit behavior issues. And it’s definitely a game changer in separation anxiety training.
If you have a dog that panics when left alone, I offer separation anxiety dog training via zoom If you would like to book an initial consultation, I take clients from anywhere in the USA and would love to work with you!