When you are working on a protocol to help your dog overcome his/her separation anxiety, it is so normal for various external triggers and stimuli to have an impact on how easy or hard they find it, and they can impede your dog’s progress at learning being home alone is safe. One such stimulus is visual triggers outside the home that causes your dog to bark at.
Optimising chances of success
If your dog tends to bark at people or cars or other stimuli they can see by looking out of a window, this can cause their arousal and stress levels to increase, and as a knock-on effect, that increased arousal can make it much harder for them to relax and therefore learn absences are safe. Think of it almost like trying to go up an escalator which is travelling downwards….you’re making life harder for yourself!
This is where window film can be a game changer!
By applying window film to prevent your dog being able to see those external visual triggers, it means we are keeping them as calm and relaxed as they can be, meaning we are optimising their chances of success during their separation anxiety protocol. Window film also can look much nicer now than it did years ago – you can get the plain frosted kind which looks smart, or if you feel so inclined you can get a variety of patterned styles.
Avoiding these triggers means we can allow for that necessary reduction in stress, and the more a dog practices any behaviour, the better he or she becomes at it, plus barking at external visual stimulus can become hugely self rewarding, which in itself increases the likelyhood of it occurring.
However, if your dog likes to sit and look out the window regularly during the day, and does NOT bark at outside stimuli, then it is totally fine to keep letting them have access to the window, both during separation anxiety work and outside of those times, because it is not causing your dog additional stress.
Case study – Dot the Tibetan Terrier
I recently started working with a lovely client and her gorgeous Tibetan Terrier, called Dot. Dot can be quite reactive to external sounds, but more so, external visual stimulus. She liked to lie upstairs in the bedroom by the window, and bark at any cars, people or any movement that happened outside the home. Given that the window overlooks a car park, which is also where people park to go into the local pub, you can imagine there is a LOT of activity out there, and therefore there was a LOT of barking from Dot, on a regular basis. This meant her arousal level was always high and she was always vigilant and lay alert and watching out for things she could bark at to try and send them away!
Within the first week I talked to my client about the possibility of restricting her view from the bedroom window by using window film, and we discussed how that could help her. My client is amazing and super proactive, and within a couple of days of our discussion, window film had been ordered and arrived, and had been applied to the lower half of the bedroom window!
As a side note, my client also reported that she felt it provided her with more privacy as well, as given that she could see into the car park, that also meant people in the car park could see directly into her bedroom if they looked up. Win win!
It became evident pretty soon after the window film was applied that it was going to help Dot significantly, as Dot no longer started running up to the bedroom to look out of the window to look for things to bark at, has regularly for the past week remained on the sofa during their daily separation anxiety behaviour modification sessions, and when she has been lying up by the bedroom window, she has been genuinely able to relax. The reduction in stress as a direct result of her view of the car park being blocked has enabled her to be able to progress with learning that being home alone is safe, whereas that wasn’t possible before.
This meant that the separation anxiety sessions I have set Dot since the window film has been applied have been going really well, and in fact in her separation anxiety session that I set for her yesterday my client reported that Dot remained lying on the sofa for the entire second half of the session, completely calm!
A massive improvement to 2 weeks ago when they started, and I know the window film blocking the view and reducing the barking has contributed massively to this!
So if you are working through a separation anxiety protocol and your dog tends to bark at external visual stimuli, it could well be impeding your dog’s ability to progress, so I would recommend you consider blocking the view.
If you would like help with working through your dog’s separation anxiety please complete the form on the page below and I will be in touch to arrange a free initial phone call: