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Michele's Dog House: How to Soothe Your Dog's Separation Anxiety According to a Professional Dog Trainer

August 11, 2021 5 min read

Michele's Dog House: How to Soothe Your Dog's Separation Anxiety According to a Professional Dog Trainer

We're excited to introduce you to our newest blog seriesMichele's Doghouse—where you can find professional dog training tips and answers. Michele Monteiro is a CCTA Certified Dog Trainer and Hangry Woof Advisor based out of New York and she's here to help answer any dog training questions you may have. Just send us your questions to askmichele@thehangrywoof.com

As this is our first run of Michele’s Doghouse, we’re going to do this interview-style. Every week we’ll showcase some of those questions so that you can get real answers from a real pro!

Without further ado, let’s introduce Michele!

Hangry Woof:So, Michele, how did you get your start as a CCTA Certified Dog Trainer?

Michele: It’s a labor of love, actually, and not really what I’d expected. Life is funny that way. I started off with a degree in Public relations and Sociology, intending to climb the corporate ladder in NYC. After a couple of years, I realized something… I absolutely hated it! I didn’t know what to do with my life until I spent the day with a dog walker and everything changed. Just a single day with those amazing animals and I knew that I’d the place where I was happy. Walking them wasn’t going to be enough, I wanted to make some kind of difference. Without a second thought, I jumped off that corporate ladder and enrolled in a training certification program. I lucked into  one of the best mentors in the business and the rest is history!


Hangry Woof: So, just like that? You left the land of suits and no regrets?

Michele: No regrets at all. After one day with the dogwalker, the joy I found spending time with those dogs told me all I needed to know. After I got certified I went straight into private training, built up my business, and never looked back.

Hangry Woof:That’s amazing! Well, Michele, we are glad to have you here. Since we are just getting started, we’ll start off with some questions on a subject that we get a lot of email about here at Hangry Woof. What can you tell us about separation anxiety? Is this something that you see a lot?

Michele:Oh yes, that’s one of the biggest problems I see and I’ve devoted a lot of training focus in that area. Teaching dogs to separate from their owner so that their relationship is less codependent can be tricky. You have to use strategies like crate training or separation plans. Each dog is a little bit different and they’ll respond to the same strategies in their own way, so it takes a lot of patience for both the dogs and the owners.

Hangry Woof:Is this issue very common?

Michele: Of late, it is extremely common. Due to the pandemic we’ve all been stuck at home for over a year and while vaccines are available now, for the longest time there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. A lot of people adopted puppies and older dogs during this time and these dogs are used to monopolizing their time. Now if their owners want to go anywhere, these dogs are experiencing extreme anxiety in their absence. They’re just not used to being alone and they don’t understand why their owner isn’t taking them everywhere with them.

Hangry Woof:Wow, I never thought of that, but I could see where that would be a huge problem. Those poor dogs! Is it just the quarantine that’s causing the issue? Are they just so used to always having their owner at home?

Michele:It depends on the dog, really. Many of these dogs have been abandoned or surrendered to shelters before coming to their current owners. In other cases, the owner can contribute to the issue without knowing that they are doing anything wrong. Staying home because your dog is ‘just a baby’ or because you ‘don’t want them to feel sad’ is a sweet sentiment, and I appreciate the love behind it, but it’s not actually good for the dog.

Hangry Woof: So, the owners need to teach their dogs to be a little more independent?

Michele: Exactly. Dogs need to have a certain amount of independence. They need to socialize with other dogs. They need to be used to having other people around. A dog stuffers anxiety whenever owners leave them by themselves and can even develop destructive behaviors at home. Separation training is healthy and helps the dog to function on its own when the owner simply can’t be home. Socialization training can help the dog to get along well with others.

Hangry Woof:So, what can dog owners do if their dog is a little on the codependent side?

Michele: My first recommendation would be crate training. This helps to create a calm, safe space that your dog can’t break out of while you are working on Separation training. It’s a slow process and your dog starts off spending just minutes at a time in the crate area, separated from you, and you slowly extend the time as you go so that your dog can learn to function independently.

Hangry Woof:Are there any ‘Separation training pro tricks’ that you can share with our readers today?

Michele: Certainly! First off, whenever you have to leave the house, do it with as little fanfare as possible. Make it boring. Don’t give your dog any extended goodbyes, don’t let your voice hit an ‘excited’ tone when you say that you’ll be back. Just in and out, as calmly and quietly as possible.

Your dog also knows when you are about to leave by your routine and we call these telltale signs ‘triggers’. An example trigger would be when you grab up your keys and head to the door. Your dog knows these sounds and it gets them anxious. So, we need to change the response to triggers by ‘tricking’ them a little. Grab up your keys, get everything you normally grab before leaving, and then just put your things by the door without leaving.

Hangry Woof: I see, so they start to learn that those triggers aren’t reliable and they stop getting anxious?

Michele: You’ve got it! We want to eliminate the triggers that give your dog the impression that you are leaving, which cause their anxiety.

Hangry Woof: Do you have any more advice about the crate training before we go?

Michele: Make sure that their crate space is as comfy as possible. Include a favorite blanket or toy. You can even drape a sheet over the back of the crate for puppies, as their mothers like to have and keep them in a ‘den’ type environment whenever possible. This helps pups to feel more comfortable, but don’t do it with older dogs or they’re just likely to pull it down and maybe escape their crate!

Hangry Woof: What types of supplements do you recommend that could help?

Michele:Calming chews, CBD treats, Hemp Oil. anything like that is SO beneficial in many ways and not just for separation training but for general health as well. You can integrate something like a calming chew as a daily supplement for any dog who may be prone to having some general anxiety throughout the day. These supplements are so good for certain dogs because they don't zonk them out for hours at a time, it just provides the dog with some help calming down and realizing they are in a safe environment. 

Hangry Woof: Great! Well, Michele, we appreciate the advice and we are glad to have you here at Hangry Woof.

Readers, if you have questions of your own for Michele, be sure to send an email toaskmichele@thehangrywoof.com. Every week we’ll try to showcase one or more of your questions so that you can get them answered by Hangry Woof’s own resident CCTA certified trainer Michele Monteiro. Until next time, we wish you and yours the best!



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