Our expert says:
Dog Behaviour Expert
Hi Sanet, really dont mind the questions, thats what I am here for!
Without having more background information, it sounds like the dogs stressed out from being left outside alone rather than the girl screaming, although this could factor in as well. Also, your own stress over the situation could be a factor.
What I would suggest is that you start doing some Alone Time training immediately with the dogs to get them used to being outside by themselves - then if the same situation ever occurs, the dogs (and you) will not stress. this is very easily achieved - start to put the dogs outside with a nice big chewy bone for a few minutes at a time. Leave them a few minutes, then go outside and take the bone away. Repeat this over and over throughout the day, very gradually, over about a week, extending the time period. this is the ONLY time the dogs get the special treat.this will help to change the dogs perception from being outside alone to one of stress to a experience that is rewarding. Have a look on my free website www.friendsofthedog.co.za for the article on Alone Time training - I think it is in the Puppy section.
With the house sitting, do try and get the person looking after the dogs to interact with them as much as possible before you go so that they are not left with a stranger. Ask that their normal routine is adhered too, and do try and include daily walks which will take their mind off you and provide stimulation both physically and mentally. I would also suggest you speak to your vet about the dogs each having the Good Behaviour Pheromone Collar on while you are gone. this looks like the old type of flea collar and contain
the pheromones that a female releases at birth. These tend to calm a dog and a dog recognizes there pheromones throughout its life - will definately help them relax more.
Go back to the beginning with toilet training and make sure you are cleaning the areas eliminated on with a mixture of 1/3 white vinegar to 2/3 water. Wash several times, then sponge up with paper towels. Also apply a few drops of pure citronella oil to the areas - dogs on average do not like this odour. Also have a look on the site for full toilet training article which will help.
Personally, I feel that a dog stresses less when owner away from home if a dog sitter is there rather than kennels. They are in their own environment and more secure. Do ask the sitter to keep up the cleaning as above is any 'accidents' happen, and also the toilet training procedure. Good luck and enjoy your break, S
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