Mark Vette – Internationally renowned Animal Behaviourist, Educator, Author and TV personality

Pet cameras for separation anxiety

A CLEVER NEW TOOL TO HELP TREAT SEPARATION ANXIETY

Separation distress can be seriously distressing, for you and your dog! Typically you would see your dog getting anxious when you leave, barking, howling, destroying or even soiling the house as symptoms of this phobia of being separated from you.

Separation distress has become a bigger problem than ever in this COVID world – with lockdowns having kept us at home 24/7 for periods of time, and more people than ever working from home, many dogs have become dependent on their owners being around all the time (and distressed when they do leave!).

Recently I’ve discovered an awesome new tool to assist with separation anxiety – a pet camera with two way audio so you can hear your dog and they can hear you too, and most importantly the ability to deliver a treat to your dog. This type of tool allows you to talk to them and even click and treat your dog from wherever you are! A couple of good examples are the Petcube Bites or Furbo Dog Camera (I’m sure there are other makes that are good too!). These are a great tool for a number of issues including separation distress, barking, destructive behaviour and just generally enriching your dog’s days when you’re out. 

Today I’m going to take you through a few simple steps you could try to work with a dog that has separation anxiety.

If your dog suffers from separation distress, I’d recommend you review the videos relating to this problem in our Dog Zen Virtual Dog School, then you can also incorporate this tool into your training!

How to use it for separation distress

  • Use the video cam and food dispenser in this treatment
  • Start with your dog or pup on a clip station. Move away just a short distance, and when your dog is quiet and relaxed, click (using a clicker) then deliver a reward from the camera dispenser. This will help get your dog familiar with how you will reward them! Don’t go too far initially, you want your dog to remain calm and non-vocal so that you can click and reward this appropriate behaviour.
  • Gradually start to move further and further away, continuing to click when your dog is calm and non-vocal, then deliver a reward from the cam system. If your dog is doing well, begin to move just out of sight, start with just a second or two then work up to longer stretches of time.
  • As you move further away and out of sight, use the cam system to communicate with your dog as you click and reward them. Use the microphone on the cam system to give some nice calming “good boy” or “good girl” cues if they are staying non-anxious as you click and deliver the food rewards through the cam. 
  • The aim is to gradually be able to start moving about the house and outside, while watching your dog stay calm and using the treat dispenser to reward and reinforce that calm state.
  • Once this is going well, practise with your dog free in that same room with the cam system, and continue to treat your dog through the camera when they’re calm and quiet while you’re not there.
  • Then gradually start introducing the car and leaving your property for 5 – 15  minutes, then working up to longer periods. Always click and rewarding non-anxious states and behaviours.

    Struggling with separation distress?

    I hope this helps if you’re working on this difficult and challenging behaviour problem! Remember to check out my Dog Zen Virtual Dog School if you’re struggling with separation distress, for a full treatment plan for this issue including a much more detailed overview of this graduated departure method. 

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