Pandemic Puppies | Separation Anxiety

Even though dogs do not feel every emotion we do, they do feel anxiety. Being the social animals they are anxiety for separation is something we see often in dog training world. There has been a jump on the number of Separation Anxiety cases during and after the C-19 lockdown. Many calling this phenomenon  “Pandemic Puppies” If you can look pass the clickbait branding, the issue is Separation Anxiety.

I dealt with 100s of cases of separation anxiety issues over the years.

You can Listen to the Podcast Episode I recorded by clicking here.

Just to clarify, Separation Anxiety is different than being destructive for being bored. It is a dog that becomes anxious when left alone any period of time showing signs of stress (panting, drooling, general anxiety) and may lead to unwanted and/or destructive behavior, or self harm.

One fo the most severe cases I dealt with was a Ridgeback that destroyed an entire couch. When the owner came from work the only thing left from her couch was the wooden frame. Everything.. seats, cushions, arm rests.  everything was completely torn off. But an average Separation Anxiety may look like dog escapes their crate, maybe whines when the owner is leaving, barks for some time or for a long time.

The least obvious manifestation of separation anxiety which is often overlooked by owners is when the dog follow their owners from room to room wherever the owner is. Even to the bathroom.

Causes of Separation Anxiety

Dogs are visual animals, they are also habitual animals, and they like predictability. These qualities that make them such amazing protective creatures, also are what  causes them to have separation anxiety.

Remember dogs don’t have abstract concepts like “Now” and “Later.” Just as a 3 year old toddler doesn’t understand Mommy has to go to work, but she will be back in a few hours, and they are sad to see their Mommy go, your dog can’t understand My Human is gone now, but will be back later.

So If your dog is not conditioned to your departures and arrivals, whenever you are not present where she can see you could potentially create anxiety for your dog. And if your dog doesn’t have self-soothing skills or stress coping-mechanism in 8 hours of stress can lead to “destructive behavior.”

Even before C-19 lockdown I dealt with many separation anxiety cases. One of the category we identified was with dogs where the humans are always home. Self Employed people, tele-commuters, older people who don’t leave their homes as much unintentionally created an environment where dog is never alone. Therefore never developed their stress-coping skills.

Another cause of Separation Anxiety we see is when dogs don’t know where they fits in the family.  They don’t understand their position in the family hierarchy (That was my polite way of saying when the humans don’t have good boundaries with their dogs.)

One last thing I noticed over the years is often the humans reinforce the anxiety. Like leaving “sad,” or making a big emotional deal for our departures. In turn our dogs pick-up our projected anxiety, Then the human reinforce it by petting the dog and talking in high pitch or smooth voice “That’s OK. Mommy Will be back Soon. Daddy Misses youuu.” So the dog learns from the human’s example Human leaving = Sad. When the human is sad, then I the dog should be sad. This is what is reinforced, that means this is what is expected from me.

How to Prevent Separation Anxiety At The First Place

The saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is applicable for Separation Anxiety cases.  By using some of the techniques I’ll show you here you can help your dog learn and develop self-soothing, and stress management skills.

First !  Don’t make a big deal when you’re leaving home.  Trust me. You don’t have to hug your dog every time you’re going out to dinner. You also don’t have to project “I’m leaving… I don’t want to leave you” towards your dog. You are a human being and that means there are times in your life where you can’t take your dog with you. Just like there are places where you can’t take your child with you. Also don’t ask if your dog is sad or look for clues for your dog’s sadness.

Second. Don’t reinforce anxiety. Either ignore it or at least be neutral in your response. Your dog loves you even if she isn’t sad to see you go, but it is normal for your dog to feel anxious at first. Don’t blow this out of proportion. The only way for her to feel “normalcy” of you leaving and coming back is for you to be and act “normal.” Just like when a toddler first learning to walk takes a tumble, if the parents make a big deal, then the child is likelier to cry, but if the parents are like “oopsie daisy” and rolls with the bump, then the child is likely to roll with it too.

Third. Don’t spend your every awake hour with your dog. Create separation, teach your dog through your example she doesn’t have to be up in your business all the time. Trust me your dog loves you even when she is not always next to you looking at you. That level of neediness is neither good for you nor for your dog. Practice having boundaries with your dog. It’s a good practice for the rest of your life also. If you’re someone who is always home make sure you leave home a few times/day longer than 10 minutes leaving your dog home alone will condition his seeing you leave and come back, leave and come back. So he will be conditioned to your departures.

OK But What About If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety. What Then?

Maybe you have a rescue dog that came with this issue or perhaps you got a puppy during the lock down and now you’re heading back to office. What then. The Good news is dogs don’t cary their emotional garbage like we humans do. So have the mindset of “Fresh Start” and have the attitude of easy training regiment. -Assuming you Figured out it’s anxiety, not  boredom.

Start by teaching your dog separation is not the end of the world. Crate your dog while you’re at home or blocking your dog from being in the same room with you. This will start creating some separation. Let him see you do your thing without being the part of it. Always start with short enough time for your dog to succeed and expand the duration.

Then desensitize her to your departures and arrivals. Since your dog doesn’t experience time linear like we humans you can use this to your advantage. Instead of leaving once or twice day, just leave for a 15 minutes, come back, leave for 15 few minutes, come back many times thought out a day when you can practice this. Obviously DO NOT make a big deal of your departures, and returns…

Pro-Tip: When you’re doing the departure desensitization it’s important that you look exactly like when you’re leaving for work (or whatever situation stresses your dog.) If you have a garage and when leaving for work your dog hears the garage door open make sure you open the garage door and drive away. The point is to desensitize and recondition your dog to help her NOT go through the motions.

And finally don’t gush over your dog every time you come back to the house. I know this usually is the hardest part, but if you want to be the owner your dog deserves, then sometimes you have to do the right thing for your dog regardless of how it makes you feel.

When you get home, maybe go to bathroom and wash your hands, go get a glass of water. Something/Anything to occupy you for about a minute so your attention is not on your dog. This will help your dog break the codependency on you. Don’t worry she will not love you any less. She will just be a healthier and more balanced dog.

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Bringing Home Your New Dog

There are right and wrong ways to bring a new dog into your house.

Any time a dog enters into a new environment it is a big deal for the dog.This is true for any new environment for a dog be it a new car, dog park, a house, and it’s especially true if this new house that is going to be her new home.

If you want to help your new dog adjust to your family with ease, there are 3 areas to focus on.

  • Your New Dog 
  • The Family. AKA humans who live in the house, and
  • Other animals maybe living in your house.

Your New Dog.

Dogs are social animals and hierarchy is very important to dogs. Whenever a dog enters into a new environment the first thing she needs to figure out is where she fits in. She needs to know who is in charge, who is following who? Who is responsible for the survival and the protection of the pack? She will need  to figure things out instinctively. She will not accept her position based on what you’re thinking/dreaming/planning, but based on her observation. This the “Observation Period” is what humans from corporate world call  “onboarding.”

The Observation Period is different for each dog. An 8 week old puppy maybe be like a sponge vs a rescue dog with some bad experiences with former humans likely will need much longer time to learn to trust again.  But a good rule of thumb is your first month is the most crucial period for the successful relationship with your dog.

What I noticed with dogs we worked with is the first 2 weeks  your new dog will be observing you, The next 2 weeks she will begin making “statements.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard clients start their calls with ” We got this new dog first 2 weeks she was amazing….. Then, he started doing ___________.”

You and Your family 

Just know as soon as your new dog arrives your life will be different. Therefore, it is important for you and your people to have some ground rules before your new dog arrives.

What are ground rules ? Things like is the dog allowed on the furniture? What’s the dog’s feeding schedule? Where’s the dog going to pee or poop? Is she going to sleep with us in the bed?  There are infinite number of things you need decide before the dog comes in so making some of those decisions as a family before your new dog arrives will make your life easier… Trust me on this. The fighting over if the dog sleeps in bed, or allowed on the couch is real.

Whenever you are considering the Ground Rules consider the adult dog not the tiny puppy that fits into your forearm at 8 weeks of age. Speaking of Puppies If you’re bringing home a new puppy make sure to puppy-proof your house BEFORE she arrives. Puppies like babies are very inquisitive.  She will start exploring/ discovering your house as soon as you put her on the ground.

Remember The first 2 weeks of your new dog’s arrival will be the time she is observing and studying you. This is the time to establish the hierarchy in the family and the rules of the new pack. Set the boundaries of how to play, 

Is he allowed to jump on you or not. I like  physical dogs and I allow my dogs to be physical with me, so I taught my dogs how I invite them to be play full contact with me. 

Is she allowed on the furniture or not. Many of my clients love to cuddle with their dogs on couch, but don’t want dog hair covering their entire couch, so we teach dogs to be on a designated blanket.

In dogs’ world one who controls the movement and the one who controls the food is the one who’s in charge. So, freedom of movement for your new dog can tell her where she fits in. Also where and when she receives and eats food will tell her where she fits in too. So these are two critical areas when you can naturally and instinctively establish the humans of your family as the leader(s).

First figure out a feeding schedule. Is your dog going to eat once, twice, three times a day? Puppy usually eat three times. Most Adult dogs eat once or twice. Then decide where will you feed you feed her, and who will feed her.

Pro-Tip: If you’re feeding your dog kibbles once you pour the food in the bowl play with the food for about 10 seconds to infuse your scent on the food. Your dog will begin associating your scent with love.

Next is control of the movement. New dog should not have full free-access to the entire house right away. Good house rule for new dogs (also applicable for teenagers) Freedom is earned! So make adjustments in your home to have some new-dog free areas. You can use crate, leash to make this happen. In fact having a crate as a safe space in the room where you spend time as a family where your new dog can observe your family for couple of weeks will be the best practice you can implement. ABSOLUTE BEST!

Last point. You must allow your new dog to adjust to your family (remember 2- 4 week span) During this time don’t worry about training with “commands.” Just enjoy your dog,  learn her personality, demonstrate Global Rules. You will have plenty of time to teach, Sit/ Roll over/ Play dead etc. Also if you have small children at home it is your responsibility to be the leader. Make sure your children are NOT torturing/annoying your dog to death because they are super excited and they love her so much.

Your Existing Animals

If you are introducing a new dog to your existing dog there are additional things to consider. Don’t bring a new dog in to the house declaring  “Hey. I got you a new brother. Here you go. Play!” This could be very dangerous -even deadly. 

Let new and old dog meet in a neutral environment. Have a quick walk with 2 dogs on a leash with 2 humans. Let them smell each other, walk together, pee on bushes, look and size each other up, even a gentle body-check is OK If they are both goofy then they’re okay you can breathe easier and then continue with the plan.

Inside the house your existing dog was already the leader or the only child….. until the new dog came. As soon as a new dog enters to your house the leadership role has to be established. Remember just because your existing dog was there first doesn’t mean he is going to be the the leader. For Leadership size doesn’t matter, age doesn’t matter, breed doesn’t matter, and most importantly YOUR DESIRE OF WHO SHOULD LEAD doesn’t matter.

Your existing dog at home will have the advantage of living there, having his routine, smell, toys etc. So it is going to be more stressful for your new dog. This is another reasons to crate your new dog… Quite a bit.

A Crate will help her get used to the new home safely, as long as you don’t allow your existing dog to torment the new dog.

ProTip: Do a light training to demonstrate  your relationship with the existing dog to your new dog while she is crated. So she can see your interaction and hierarchy with your existing dog. This will send the message: Dogs are not really competing for THE LEADERSHIP position.  “I’m the real boss.” And it will ease the stress between dogs.

And Finally let’s  talk about The Second phase of Observation Period starts around 2 weeks mark. First two weeks Your new dog observed you and your family. It’s been 2 weeks…. She now knows she lives here… So she is going to make some statements. 

Depending on the dog’s dominance levels and how well you did the first two weeks, your new dog is likely to behave differently. Stealing socks, challenging your authority, grabbing your pants -to see if you fall. Maybe pushing on you and letting you know “Hey. I have muscles too,” stepping on your foot,maybe marking. 

You will have to deal with all of these situations. This is the time for you to really exert yourself as a leader of the dog. So remember the first two weeks you were setting  the global rules, the second 2 weeks  you will set The Dog Rules.

You are the Leader!!

A Good Leader is not the person who is going around and yelling everybody that everything they do is wrong. I want to remind you that your dog never thinks  “Let me drive my human crazy.” All she is able to do is being a dog. When your new dog starts making statement is the time to start some of the behavior training. When she is acting an unwanted way you can actually start introducing some commands. Teaching him Sit command… Then teaching him where and when to sit. Like before getting the her food, before walking out the door, before getting out of the crate. It is also a good time to let them play more, allowing your kids to have more access to your dog, reduce the crate time…. even stop crating. Perhaps have full access to your house and your existing dog. So, based on the trust she earned from you her world is expanding more and more.… 

If you’re planning on hiring a dog trainer this phase will be a good time to find one. If you want to learn how to find the best trainer for your dog, then listen to the episode How to find the best trainer for my dog.

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You Have To Walk Your Dog.

Two of the most common excuses people have about not to walk their dog are

“I have a big yard.” and/or

“ I have multiple dogs and they play all the time.”

Listen the Podcast Episode I recorded: Human Walk Your Dog.

Let’s start with the obvious benefit #1 and that is walking is good for you.

We live in air conditioned boxes called homes…without natural air -Oxygen- flowing through them. Our home environments , our offices, places where we shop are not natural environments. Our bodies are always being exposed to electromagnetic frequencies, conditioned air, and radiowaves.  It is really important for us humans to spend some time outside.

Even if you walk in your neighborhood for  5-10 minutes a day it is going to have an incredible impact on your well-being. Getting real oxygen, feeling the cool.warm/hot air temperatures on your skin, feeling the wind blow, seeing some sun light, clouds is good for your well being.

Using your dog as an excuse to spend some time outside, by yourself is the best form mindfulness exercise.

BAM!  So, the biggest benefit of having a dog is you the human now have an excuse to go for a walk. Spend some time with your thoughts, get to be mindful. If the only benefit of walking your dog was for your dog to get a certain number of steps it’s one thing, But a “Walk” with you means so much more to your dog than “taking lots of steps”

Another reason for walking your dog is it’s actually a bonding experience between you and your dog.

Lastly, by integrating a little bit of training to your walk you can reinforce  yourself as the leader of our pack.


What about your dog? Why do dogs need to be walked even if you have another dog, and a big yard.


Yes!   Smelling.

Because we’re humans, and we mostlyexperience the world by using our eyes, and ears it’s hard to fully grasp the importance of smells for our dogs.

Your dogs’ nose is 1,400 times better than yours.

A dog never forgets a smell. You can leave for a decade and come back and your dog will remember your smell.

Dogs can smell roughly about a mile, mile and a half circle. When you are sitting at your house your dog can actually smell what your neighbor is cooking.

They also smell in layers. You may smell pepperoni pizza, but your dog smells Pepperoni, Olive Oil, Dough, Wheat, Cardboard of the box, The guy who carried the box, soap that guy used, whatever else was in his car.

If you pay attention  you’ll notice your dog is likely to regularly pee on the same spots (a fire hydrant, tree, bush, or new limbs your neighbor stacked.) They often smell before and after they pee, and they go about their business. This is called “Marking” this is not gender specific. All dogs “mark.” More dominant the dog is more marking they do, but all dogs mark.

What is happening when your dog Marks a spot and smells it today. Tomorrow, when your dog is walking on that path she is going to smell this spot again.  Because she knows what her mark smelled like. Because she smells in layers she is able to smell what has happened since the last mark…..A bird passed, A pregnant woman walked by, another dog came and peed, a raccoon walked by, a car passed by. All that information just by smelling.

Once she smelled and  got all the information,  she is going to pee again. Remarking it. Saying Check!  I already smelled all this. I don’t need to worry about it any more. And a new mark starts, and now we have a clean slate.

So, this… this critical part of the dog’s life …. Your Dog’s psychie. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT BENEFIT OF WALKING YOUR DOG.

This is also why when you walk your dog she becomes mentally tired. Because she is really thinking.  She is figuring out his territory.

This is why unless you live out in the country, your backyard is wide open and there are other animals walking thru it , having a big yard is not a good enough excuse to not walk your dog.

Pro Tip: If you want to enhance your walks occasionally change your path. So your dog has more spots to mark. He will have more to smell, and more new things to learn.

Bonding with your dog and re-establishing  yourself as the leader

Dogs, like us humans are designed to walk. They walk to hunt, to look for stuff, to explore, to chase things, protect their territory. So walking with your dog, you’re emulating their natural order. Therefore when you are walking with your dog is the best time for you to practice your leadership skills.

Here is an easy to remember practice. Start at the beginning of your walk. You’re out the door….

Give your dog a minutes to sniff and pee out side.  Then start walking, for the next 5 minutes…  don’t let your dog mark. Just Walk, Walk, Walk. After about 5 minutes or whenever you feel like it’s enough time give your dog some sort of a  release command for your dog to go pee and mark. (FYI  Corners, Large bushes near intersections are good spots for your dog to mark.)

So walk nicely until you get to a corner or near an intersection, release your dog preferably giving a release command.  So she can pee/ mark. Now don’t struggle, don’t insist on obedience. Let him do his thing.

Because You are the one who is allowing your dog to smell and mark you are the one who told your dog “Now it’s time for you to go pee/mark/check things out.” This will reinforces your position as the one who is leading the walk.

You are the one who gave your dog time to figure things out. You are the one who allowed your dog to walk around, pee, mark, smell. DO NOT RUSH THIS. This is WHY you are walking.

Once, a minute or two past, say “Come on, let’s go.” and now, he’s back in the walking command and you’re walking until you release him again. (next intersection/ next large bush, next fire hydrant)

This will reinforce yourself as the leader of the walk. The one who is in charge, and The Provider of rich natural experience for your dog.

If for some reason, you can’t walk with your dog because your dog is pulling on the leash and driving you nuts.

You can Schedule a Lesson via ZOOM

If not. Listen to Finding the best dog trainer Episode.

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How to find the best dog for you

The correct answer to whether should you get a dog or not is
YES you should.
You should also remember getting a dog is a 10-16 years long commitment.
Trust me when I say as much as having the right dog improves  your life in countless ways, having the wrong dog will make your life quite miserable.

Let’s not forget the shelters are full with dogs living miserable captive lives for years to come because people didn’t really think through what having a dog really means. In order to find the best dog for you and your family start by considering


In the dog-human relationship you the human are the only one with “an agenda.”
So, be clear about why you want to get the dogMake me happy, protect my family, be my exercise partner, help me find a mate. etc etc. etc.
If you’re looking for a dog to run trails with, play frisbee, you’d want to lean towards more athletic breeds vs if you’re a retired empty nester who is looking for a companion you want sitting on your lap, you may want  lean towards smaller, more chilled dogs.

Thinking about your expectations from your dog will help you at least leave out some breeds out of consideration.

Next consideration is size.

When it comes to dogs SIZE MATTERS.

As in “fully grown” size.
Once I was called for an aggressive English Mastiff.
The owners said the dog busted the entire frame of their sliding french door to attack their guest.
When I arrived I couldn’t believe my eyes. They were a young couple who lived in a tiny studio apartment on 8th floor. Because their dog didn’t fit in their apartment they were keeping the dog in their balcony… Which was also too small for the Mastiff.

So The dog wasn’t aggressive as much as she was frustrated. Being separated from her people, unable to even walk around, spending most of her days trapped and unable to move. I certainly could understand their dog’s frustration.
They said when they were looking for a puppy they thought she looked rather large puppy, but they didn’t assume that adorable puppy would be Sooo big…

Consider size of your house, and yard is important.

Also consider the size of your car for those trips to vet and remember as your dog gets older you will need to help him physically move around, even lift him in and out of your car. So the ratio of your size to your dog’s size needs to be considered.

Another thing overlooked by people who are eager to get a dog is their


Not just your lifestyle today, But for the next decade.

Lots of people decided to get a dog during the C-19 locked down while they were working from home for a year.  When the world goes back to usual-way of doing business I expect a large segment of those people will have to face the tough decision of can they keep the dog…

You maybe a single guy who thinks you can get with the ladies easier with a handsome GSD as your wingman, and that’s true.
But if you end up forming a family with one of the hotties. Fast forward 2-3 years. About to have your first child, and you have a 5-6 years old adult GSD
who has to deal with your toddler who loves to pull his tail.

I know.. Life happens. But remember.
Whenever dog-human relationship goes sour  the dog always end up losing.
So. Pretty please with sugar on top. Think and have a game plan before you get the dog.

and Finally. The PERSONALITY.

Hopefully now you have some idea about the dog you’re looking for.
I think the personality of a dog will have more impact on your relationship than the breed characteristics. 

Yes the genetics of the dog will have an impact on their behavior. Put 5 chickens in front of a Border Collie and she’s likely to want to organize them.
By personality I mean the  personality of the individual dog.

Just like us humans dogs have personalities too. Sure I can dig holes, plant and grow things, but given the choice, 99.9% of the time I will choose doing something related to dogs over working in my yard.

When we got my Vizsla Zilli my goal was to use her as my demo dog. Knowing how athletic Vizslas are I expected her to go to work with me, play fetch, perhaps do some dock diving, do some crazy tricks.
She on the other hand wanted to chill out on the couch, and relax when she was not playing with her brothers. Of course she was trained and could do all the things I asked her to do…… But her personality was in such way that working all day with me training dogs wouldn’t make her happy.

I think better to pay more attention to a dog’s personality than what you read about the breed. And you can do that simply by spending 10-15 minutes with the dog.

If you want a lap dog, pick the dog up and put him on your lap. See how long before he jumps off, If you’re planning to play fetch with the dog take 5-6 tennis balls and throw them 1 at a time and see how many times she will run after it; If she goes after a ball once then looks at you like you’re crazy after the 2nd ball. Well there is your answers.

yes you CAN train your dog to do pretty much anything… But that doesn’t mean he is enjoying what you’re asking him to do. Being the owner your dog deserves mean working and collaborating with your dogs to enhance both of your lives and your dogs lives.

Pro Tip

Many reputable professional dog trainers can assist you finding a good match for you.  Most trainers have contacts with many rescue organizations and reputable breeders. I know we did.
So if someone called and said “I’m looking for a under 35lbs, Female dog for my daughter who is 7, and have some learning disability.” We could suggest 2-3 places where they could go and look.