We have been sticking to our home alone training during our vacation. Even when I went for a weekend trip Reidar took the training while I was away. We have done more training earlier where I leave and he does the training. Those sessions are very visible on the graph as he is very careful. At any time there is a change in routine we know we have to be careful and lower our expectations. Kaktus has done really well and Reidar has been very good at making sure he feels safe and not pushed to any limits or close to going over threshold.
This week he has been even more relaxed when left alone. He often lies down to sleep and I have had the possibility of pushing the time a great deal and at the same time reward him for being completely relaxed. Today he had an overall time of 438 sec or 7min. It’s really good! He was slow getting past an overall time of 2-4min and it seemed to take forever to get passed it, though now I think it has finally loosened. I shot a video of our last session in the morning today and it turns out that he stayed under the desk the whole time. When I came in he was sleeping so the video is very uneventful and boring. At least you can see cute little Bella in her sofa (it’s not really ours). Kaktus only sleeps under the desk when he is really relaxed, because there he doesn’t have any overview of the apartment. It’s a really good sign that he chose that spot and stayed there.
We did a training session in the evening and suddenly he had trouble. I think it was do to him being a bit stressed on our walk and still had some of that stress in his system. The next evening session went well so we will just keep being a bit careful.
I read an article by Malena De Martini about food puzzles and food in general while training home alone for seperation anxiety of seperation distress and for anyone who is in the habit of giving advice about home alone training it’s a good read. Of course also for anyone training their dog, but I see so often the standard advice is to just leave the dog with a distraction. What often happens is that everything seems nice and quiet when you leave but once the dog is done with the distraction (wich it is ), the dog then starts getting anxious and might even have a worse reaction then normal.
I did this mistake with Kaktus! I gave him too much to distract him with when I left and if he had trouble I just upped the dosage and gave him more stuff to do. I froze a Kong, gave a wobbler and a treat search etc and what happened was that immediately when he was done with it he started to whimper. I had to start over! I then gave a tiny amount of food on a plate just so he would associate me leaving with something nice. After a few seconds he was done with it and that’s when the real training began. We only focused on him being alone with nothing to do. I also removed anything else lying around that he could distract himself with and removed the chairs so he wouldn’t get stuck sitting there. It is his normal time to rest so I wanted to focus on him actually resting. Later when he reaches the 30-40min mark then I will sometimes give him stuff to do and later when we reach hours I will give him puzzles and food toys as I would a normal day, but until then it’s important that he learns to really be alone without anything to distract himself with. Some days I see him yawning or lip licking and often that is a sign that I should go back in but sometimes I know it’s him trying to calm himself and if I wait he puts his head down and relaxes and I can go back in as a reward for him finding his calm.
Everyday life continues:
We are back to our normal working day routine and yesterday on our walk we passed by a horse farm where usually the horses are too far away for the dogs to properly meet them but yesterday three of them came running up to the fence too greet us. Here the eletric fencing is so high above the ground that the dogs can sniff the horses muzzles. Bella has never done this before and she was so calm, confident, curious and gentle. It’s not that long ago that she was very vary of them. They also have a small guard dog, a little dachshund that is eager to tell us that we are trespassers and we should get lost. Both Bella and Kaktus handles him with calm and don’t pay much attention to him, even though he follows us like a little stealth dog popping up from different places to speak his mind and make sure we follow his instructions.
We also met a deer yesterday! Kaktus was far ahead of me in his longline and suddenly we see a deer pop it’s head up from the bushes a few meters ahead him. To my amazement he stood still and just watched it without a sound, even when it ran away! It’s the first time in his life that he doesn’t immediately go into hunting mode. I had carefully like a stealth human worked my way up to him and could reward him generously for a brilliant decision! We walked calmly away and when we reached the deer’s track he wanted to go after it but when I carefully stopped him he turned and came running back. I am very proud of the choices he made! Bella handled it well also and she usually gets very aroused by wild game. Though much of it I think is because of Kaktus. She very often mirrors him, so when he is calm she is and unfortunately he can also be a bad influence on her.
Bella after playing with a tug toy 🙂Kaktus asking me to play. He starts with bumping the duck in my leg and if I am slow to react he sits like this 🙂