When I became a dog trainer, I never imagined a day where I would be sitting at my desk assisting separation anxiety clients and their dogs all over the world. But that’s exactly what I do now and I love it!
Technology has opened up a whole new world in the dog training industry, just as it has in many other fields. There are telenurses, virtual tax preparers, and online teachers just to name a few. People are becoming more and more comfortable with this concept. Not only is this the wave of the future, but it happens to be the ideal method in treating a very serious canine condition called separation anxiety.
In order to properly and accurately assess a dog’s baseline anxiety threshold, we need to observe a “real-life” absence routine. Beyond the initial assessment, we have to monitor the minute changes in the dog’s body language and the gradual change in his threshold over time. A trainer’s presence in the dog’s home alters these results and therefore provides inaccurate information.
However when working remotely, a trainer can assess the dog and review future absences without the dog being aware of any changes in his/her environment. This provides the trainer and guardians with more precise data and allows for a training protocol tailored to this specific dog’s needs on that very day.
This brings me to another great advantage of working with separation anxiety dogs remotely. It is simply impossible and impractical to visit a client’s home on a daily basis to assess these minor changes. But with regular online meetings and recorded video, the trainer can catch any fluctuations in the dog’s behavior or stress signals and adjust accordingly. As a result, this sets the trainer’s clients and their dog up for success.
While children seem to be very comfortable with the many forms of technology available today, adults tend to have a “love/hate” relationship with most of it. I would include myself in that group, so it did surprise me when I began using various forms of technology in my dog training business. I now believe that if I can do it, anyone can.
The great news is you don’t have to be very tech-savvy to be successful. When working with my clients, I use a simple Google spreadsheet which we share for daily notes. We meet face-to-face using one of the many available video conferencing sites such as Skype or Zoom. I also set up a free Dropbox folder (a file sharing application) where the clients can easily leave recorded video for my review throughout the week. That’s it! It’s really that simple.
Working with clients remotely over the past two years has been extremely rewarding. Something I didn’t expect was the close friendships we formed during our time together. One would expect that using technology would lead to a rather impersonal relationship. On the contrary, I oftentimes consider these clients friends and family. Each time I work with someone in a different part of the country or world, we inevitably talk about how we now both know a friend to visit when in each other’s part of the globe.
If you’re a trainer struggling with whether or not to take the leap into using technology with your clients, I would say “Go for it! I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” If you’re a dog guardian wondering how a trainer could possibly help you without meeting your dog in person, I would encourage you to give it a try. I’ve had the pleasure of working with many amazing pet parents throughout the United States and abroad who have been thrilled with the results of our time together, as have I. This type training creates a winning solution for all involved-trainer, client and dog.
Tiffany Lovell, CSAT, CPDT-KA, AAI, operates Cold Nose College, Space Coast in Brevard County, Florida and offers force-free training and behavior consulting. She specializes in private in-home coaching & training, separation-anxiety training (local & remote to anywhere in the U.S. & internationally) and behavior consults. (321) 757-2059; coldnosecollege.com