Separation Anxiety and Covid 19

We are slowly starting to resume our daily activities. Which means for a lot of us, we will have to go back to work in places that are not our home office. Our pets, particularly our dogs, have gotten used to having us home and giving them a lot more attention.

Do take your dog for a walk or play in the yard 30 minutes before you go though, he will be a little tired and if you exercise him before you go, he won’t associate a game of fetch with you leaving.

We are creatures of habit but some dogs get seriously upset when they see you pick up your car keys because they know that keys mean you will be walking out the door for a day at work. Since dogs can’t tell time, they might think you are leaving forever. Some can get so upset, they start chewing and destroying their surroundings. Vary your pattern of what you do just before you leave.

You might want to turn on the radio to sooth your dog.  Now we have a huge choice of dog music CDs and videos, television channel for dogs, and dog music apps. Ask Alexa to play dog music. It is classical music specially designed to sooth dog’s jaggled nerves.

You might also offer your dog his meal closest to your leaving in a Kong or interactive food puzzle. He will have it to work on for a while after you leave. You do have to train your dog to know how to use interactive toys.  It’s something to think about ahead of time. 

If you have a dog that you are worried about leaving loose in your house, look into crate training.  I don’t recommend leaving a dog in a crate for longer than 4-5 hours in the daytime.  Another choice, if you want to have your dog outside while you are at work, plan ahead where that space will be.  I recommend limiting the dog’s access to the fence that separates him from public sidewalks or neighbors.  It can cause barrier aggression.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been walking down the sidewalk and I see the boards of a backyard fence pushed outward.  I know a barky, big dog will be on the other side.

Hiring a dog walker is a perfect choice, even for a while, to ease your dog into being left alone for long periods of time. I recommend finding someone who is certified, has liability insurance and is bonded.

Remember that your dog does pick up on your emotions.  When you leave or come home be as neutral as possible.  When you walk in to your home, take off your coat, put your things away and take a few breathes before you greet your dog.

While you are still working at home the best thing to do to ready your dog is keep an approximate work schedule with short breaks from your dog. Leave your house for short periods of time, leaving your dog at home.  Take a walk around the block, go pick up coffee from the coffee booth or go do your weekly grocery shopping.  Your dog doesn’t need to sit in your car while you shop. That hour away from each other will be good for you both.

These are a few ideas to ease both of you back into a routine of long absences from each other.  If you need more explanation or more ideas, you are welcome to contact Rock Nest Training & Pet Care LCC.

Rock Nest Training & Pet Care, LCC  541-895-3162 or

Welcoming A New Dog Into Your Home

Many of you have adopted or are fostering a dog from a shelter or rescue. The experience can be overwhelming for you and the dog.  Where do you start?

There is a saying about welcoming a new dog into the house, “The rule of 3’s.” In the first three days, your new dog may be overwhelmed with his new surroundings. After three weeks, he’s starting to settle in, feeling more comfortable, and he’s letting his guard down and may start showing his real personality for good or not so good. After three months your dog has become comfortable in his home. These are guidelines; it can take longer!

I treat any new dog who is coming into my home as if they were a puppy. For older dogs, I use a short period of house training protocol. For a few days I escort them out to the potty area after: they wake, eat or play. There will be lots of space management, limiting where they are allowed to roam in the house and yard. After all, they don’t know my house rules, and their past is a blank slate to me.  This is their “Do Over” time.

For training, I test them to see what they know. I ask for sit, down, shake, hand target, recall, spin, anything that comes to my mind. I only give a verbal cue once and usually will use a hand signal. If they do it, I give a heavy reward, anything I think they might like, usually human type food such as pieces of hot dog. I heavily reward any good behavior they offer. I also like to take the new dog on lots of leashed walks.

I was curious what my friends, both pet owners and professional trainers, thought were the most important training exercises to start with a new dog.

So I asked the question: What training exercises do you find most useful in building a connection with your new dog?

Celeb Andrews first thing to work on is house training.

Nina Peter Feltmann A new dog coming to your home may also have a new name! Or they may need to have their name re-taught if they ignore it. Teach the name by having treats in your pocket. When the dog is near, say the name, and feed a yummy treat. When the dog is responding well to the name and not showing any concern or fear being near you, add in a collar touch. It would look like: name, dog looks, bring out treat, as you feed, move your empty hand toward dog’s neck but not necessarily touching yet, and feed. Build this up slowly so the dog is comfortable having you reach for and hold their collar.

Barbara Holler Name recognition! With a head snap back to you for a treat. Builds to reward for checking in with you.

Jill Breitner Nothing for the first 3 days. Just observe. Who is this dog and how does she navigate her world? They need time to learn the lay of the land, people in the home, other dogs, routine, environment etc. then If all goes well I like teaching touch, sit for the rest of the week building on these so I can see what kind of learners they are.

Lisa Barrett IMO, each new dog teaches you what to do. My new dog loves physical connection with me, especially my hand under his chin (go figure!) more than even food.

Kiddy Christie Whatever training style or tips you choose to use, be consistent and positive every day. Work one lesson per day. No overload for the dog. Be happy! Repeat..repeat..repeat..end!

Liz Carter Initially I let them explore, make little direct eye contact until/unless they initiate it, and give them some space to settle for maybe a week. Establish a routine with them regarding walks, work time, rest time (establishing expectations). Also I talk to them a lot, and like I would a person (not always using the higher-pitched “dog voice”). Let them know what we’re doing, where we’re going, ask their opinion, etc.

Catherine Comden . . . feed the dog by hand for good choices they can build a great relationship  . . .

Ann W. Firestone Everything your dog does that you like, mark it and reward!

Lisa G White The way to a dog’s heart is through their stomach. LOL

Janis Piper keeping the dog with me 24/7 for at least 2 weeks, having them sleeping by my bed, or me by the crate…imprinting myself on them, and using their name constantly. When in the house I tie a lead line to me and dog when they are not resting,

Jamie Przybysz Eye contact (focus for direction and interaction/relationship)) “Up Up” -into the car, onto the veterinary scale, etc.”

Nancy Anderson Come when called fun treat fun

Danielle Beck It’s important they understand how to self-settle and learn to switch off to relax both with & without you. There’s a huge list but self-management is high on my list 🙂

Karen Rinald Mast  I especially like the advice for teaching off-switch whether in your company, or when separated from you (includes crate confinement or behind a gate) which I find teaching go to mat / place and lay down a very useful behavior to shape. . . .in a multi-dog home, I only allow my new adoptee (or foster pup) exposure to the existing resident dogs with my direct supervision for quite some time. The length of time depends upon the temperaments of the residents in my home (ie. if I have a dog that is not appropriate with other dogs, the period and procedure to introduce may be prolonged), if I have a dog who is good and appropriate with other dogs, then that length of time may be shorter.

Laurel Martin Horton I like the hand target. I think it makes physically interacting with the human more rewarding, is so easy to teach, and so useful.

Joanne O’Brien  I thought “sit” had to come with “stay”. On walks, I started practicing “stay” at street corners (without sit), and it a worked very well! My main concern isn’t whether or not they sit. The concern is that they don’t run out into the street or out the door, for example.

Marilyn Marks Honeymoon period isn’t an activity but it’s important for them to know . . .

Randi Barrett The dogs needs come first, trust building exercises, good nutrition, exercise, mental stimulation, healthy environment. Learn to read your dogs emotional needs. Read lots of great books about how to teach your dog to live in your life… cooperation, lots of love and don’t skimp on reinforcements.

Cathy Hughes First few days I am capturing behaviors…puppies come with good baggage too…, acclimating him to his diet and house training regime, doing walk abouts and other enrichment activities, and getting to know other family members. On about the third or fourth day I initiate targeting as my foundation and build from there with games that include the basics. Socialization is started with the pup’s personality in mind. A combo of impulse control and confidence and fun are what I am working toward

Laurey Weiner If it is a new dog to a home with another dog especially a puppy, I take a really long time allowing them to make friends either through a puppy pen or gate. I never just throw a puppy into a new situation, for the sake of either dog. To many times people assume a new puppy will be happily accepted by an older dog because the older dog is dog friendly..but bringing a new pup into the home can be a big stressor for the older dog.

Lenore Paquette Smith Normally I would say to limit visitors for the first week or two to let them get settled in, but that’s really not a problem right now, is it? 

Sherry Al-Mufti When the dog is an adolescent or adult I have found that it is really helpful to go on a long walk with the dog within the first week.

Mike and Joann McCabe Our dog was two or so, when she came from a shelter to live with us. What we quickly learned is that she loves to run.  Not away.  But once loose, she will run until she decides to come home.  So we keep her on a leash whenever we’re out with her; and we frequently call her name and give her a treat when she responds.  When we let her swim, we ply her with treats every time she comes back to shore; that way we can grasp her leash when she comes for the final treat of the swim day.

Rock Nest Training & Pet Care, LCC  541-895-3162 or

Training your Dog

You get a new puppy or dog. Do you think that training will be a fun time? I do, with every dog I train.  The truth is, good training is like watching paint dry.  Nothing exciting happens until one day you realize you have taught your dog something.  That is a huge reward. I look back on all those little moments, disappointments, mistakes, some accomplishment, ho hum, huge leaps in understanding, and reassessment of training plan with wonderment and laughter.

When I’m formally training and I have a deadline, I write out a training plan. All the parts to teaching the behavior I want the dog to learn. It doesn’t look like a chart with a straight line running diagonally up to the goal.  The line dips, jumps and sometimes lays flat.  Sometimes the dog gets it and goes from step 4 to step 10, other days the dog doesn’t seem to understand how to sit, let alone perform the complicated spin I’m trying to teach.

This is what I keep in mind during those training sessions:

Make training sessions short, 1 to 5 minutes. Leave while your dog and you want more. The value of reward is important. Your dog may be happy to show off the newly learned sit at home for a bit of kibble. When he is in a stressful situation such as class or at a crosswalk, you want to use something of higher value to your dog for that sit. Try cut up hot dog, roasted chicken breast, tiny bits of string cheese. Each piece should be no bigger that your pinky fingernail.

To train one behavior such as “sit”, start in a distraction free location, maybe your Living room. Once your dog is consistently sitting when you give the command ONE time, have a training session in the backyard. Once your dog sits every time you ask ONE time for a sit, move the training sessions to the front yard. Do you see a pattern?  You want to slowly challenge your dog with each step of training.

Dogs have off days like humans.  If your dog doesn’t seem interested during the training session, stop. It’s not worth the frustration you might have or the stress to your dog. Your dog might be sleepy, hungry, not feeling well. You can come back later for another 5 minutes of training.

IF your dog still seems to be struggling, maybe the environment is not set up correctly, too much distraction, or you are trying to teach too much at one time.

Environment should be distraction free for your dog, just as when you’re studying for an exam, you want a quiet and clutter free area.  You don’t want to ask for too much from your dog while he’s learning. When you call your dog to come to you, you only ask for your dog to come close enough to for you to give him a reward. Focus on the one thing, “Come, Rover” don’t add requirements of sits, downs, stay, roll over after your dog has come to you. The next time you ask, your dog is probably going to decide it’s not worth it because there will be a lot of confusing cues with little reward.

There is something called latency, when all animals experience something and then walk away, there can be a chance it will be transferred to long term memory. By keeping the training sessions short and working on tiny sections of the target behavior. There is a better chance your dog will come back to the next session performing better. There have been antidotal incidents and scientific studies stating that a dog may remember a single training session or event several months later.  I have certainly seen evidence of it in my dogs.

I hope these tips help you help your dog to learn.  They can also be applied to learning new activities in your life. If you want to learn more about how to teach dogs to learn, you might want to check out “Don’t Shoot The Dog!” by Karen Pryor.

Rock Nest Training & Pet Care, LCC  541-895-3162 or

Socializing Your Puppy during a Pandemic

You have a puppy and now you are in isolation to help cut down the spread of Covid-19. This is the perfect time to socialize your pup. You can give this little fur ball positive experiences while staying home and practicing social distancing. Let me explain a little about a puppy’s timeline when happy interactions are most important and then I will give ideas on how to accomplish it.

A puppy’s emotional development is multi-layered. Hopefully, you got your puppy from a breeder who has already started the socialization process when the puppy was 3- weeks old. They would gently introduce the little ones to new stimulus.

You have heard that puppies need to meet or see a variety of things while they are young (2 months to 4 months old) to be well adjusted or socialized? What that refers to is a critical period in a puppy’s emotional development, you might have also heard it be called a fear period. Dogs have at least two of these periods before they are 18 months old. Commonly the first one happens between 8-11 weeks old and the second one happens at 6-14 months old. These are general measurements. Your puppy may experience their first period at 7-9 weeks and their second at 7-10 months old and again at 13-15 months old. These are the times they are experiencing critical learning causing them to be more sensitive to negative experiences that could impact their view of the world for the rest of their life.

You can work on preliminary training, simulated vet visits, grooming visits, different surfaces, scary noises and taking your pup for a social distanced walk or a car ride.

First, a little bit about rewards. Use a reward that your PUPPY really likes. It can be as simple as their kibble. Before showing the pup the reward, watch for the pup to do something you want before bringing out the treat.

The best training you can start with is the name game. It is the beginning of a recall. Every time you call your dog, his head whips around to see what wonderful thing might come next. For example, you get ready for your session by setting out 10 pea sized treats on a table in a quiet area. You happily say the pup’s name once and wait up to 5 seconds for the puppy to turn his head to look at you. You verbally offer praise and one treat. I really like this handout for instructions and ideas.

You can simulate a Vet or grooming visit by putting your young puppy on a raised table or counter covered by either a towel or non-skid mat. Have lots of tiny treats ready. Touch feet, open mouth, lift their tail and massage your puppy while giving treats with each touch.

Find as many types of safe textures that you can think of to let your puppy explore. Ideas: grass in your backyard, cardboard, rubberized matting, outdoor sisal mats, slick surface (bathtub), and plywood. The trick is to let the puppy lead the game of exploring, sniffing and walking on these textures with you there to give treats and laughs.

If your puppy gets “stuck” staring at you waiting for the treat in either the Name Game or walking on different textures, you will “reset” the game. Toss a treat a foot or so away from you, let the puppy see you do it. They will run to get the treat and then you can start the game over. You can download apps for scary noises such as thunder, sirens, cars, and people talking. etc You would want to start out with the volume low and slowly increase with each session.

In general, you should strive to make every life experience your puppy encounters to be positive and happy. The best way to do this is with short sessions, 5-10 minutes. I hope these ideas help you and your pup socialize in our non-social times.

Cheri Spaulding owns Rock Nest Training & Pet Care LLC.

You can contact her at 541-895-3162.

Cheri Spaulding - Rock Nest Training and Pet Care in Creswell, Eugene, and Springfield

What do you give a dog with a temperature?

“What do you give a dog with a temperature?  Mustard, because he’s a hot dog!” The joke was told to me by a Veterinarian’s 7 year old daughter. Seriously, what do you do when extreme temperatures hit and you need to have your dog in the car? My dogs have experienced it all.  A road trip with dogs is my favorite thing to do so they have travelled across country multiple times. For a few years, I attended dog shows nearly every weekend and we encountered every kind of weather condition you can imagine.  One day, we started the day with 95 degree heat finishing one agility trial and ended the day setting up for the next agility trial in the snow.

At agility trials and any dog event, the talk is about keeping our dogs happy in the weather conditions—usually hot weather—and sharing ideas. We constantly reminded each other to drink lots of water and encourage our dogs to drink water.   Some wonderful person told me if I’m going to hose my dogs down to cool them off, to be sure to get them wet down to their skin—wetting only the top layer of fur will only intensify the heat.

After 30 years of travelling with dogs, it’s a habit to pay attention to outside temperatures before I load any dogs in the car.  If it’s going to be in the 60s and sunny, I make sure I have water packed in the car.  If I have to park the car and leave the dog, I try to park in shade of a building or trees and leave the windows slightly opened. As temperatures increase, I freeze water so as it thaws the dogs always have cool water.   I pack battery run fans and reflective shade tarps to wrap my car in.  If the temperature is above 75, I consider other options or leaving my dog home.

Dogs cool themselves down by panting and they have sweat glands on the pads of their paws.  Not a great cooling system when wearing a fur coat, especially if they are standing on a hot surface. Many dogs have hard time in extreme cold temperatures.  They only have their fur coat to keep them warm.  A husky may prefer to be outside curled up in a snow covered dog house, but I couldn’t imagine my dog, Geo, wanting to stay outside for very long.

Every dog is a little different in their heating and cooling needs.  The important thing to remember that dog’s thermostat is not very efficient and we need to pay attention to temperatures for them. In the Northwest, outside temperatures don’t drop too low, though lately December and January have been brutally cold. You will need to think about how long to leave dogs stay outside and if they have shelter to get out of the cold.  Our summers can be intensely hot though so consider outdoor walks or training in the morning and giving your dogs car rides in the morning or only on drive through errands, going to the bank or getting coffee.

Rock Nest Training & Pet Care offers dog training classes in an air conditioned facility, both private and group lessons.  Please call at 541-895-3162 or visit for more information.  Find us at