Any dog parent knows that sinking feeling you get when you have to leave your precious fur baby, but did you know that your pup is feeling it too? Dogs spend 85% of their lifetime waiting for us to come home and an estimated 20% of dogs suffer from separation anxiety when their parents have to leave for extended periods of time – which in many cases can lead to destructive and other obsessive behaviors.
At Furbo, we’re on a mission to improve the life of all the dogs and dog parents through innovation. That’s why we’re launching Amazon Alexa skills developed to help you train your dog and decrease separation anxiety.
Designed with behavior modification in mind, the skill will add new capabilities to the treat-tossing feature you already know and love. The set of commands will help reduce the anxiety your fur baby feels when you’re away by allowing users to ask Alexa to schedule treat tossing – for either just a few minutes to distract your doggo as you’re walking out the door or every hour or two as a reward for staying calm throughout the day.
We enlisted the help of veterinarian Dr. Brooke Deaton Medders who tested the Alexa skills with her dogs, Eugene and Milo, at their home in Mississippi.
Morning routines set the tone
According to Dr. Madders, many of her clients come in with pups who suffer from separation anxiety. These dogs are usually destructive to their environment and often themselves. She always talks to her clients about their morning routines.
“As most people are leaving, they don't realize how stressful they are making this process. The pup sees mom or dad putting on their shoes, hears the jingle of keys, the coffee is brewing and everyone is scrambling around to get out the door. The dog then gets kisses as mom says ‘Be a good boy! Bye!’ By the time the door closes, the pet’s anxiety is through the roof. They race around the house trying to see you out the window and it's difficult to calm back down.”
Incorporate Furbo in your morning routinesDr. Medders recommends making the exits as low-key as possible. For example, put your shoes on in your room, don't let your keys jingle and don't tell your pet over and over you're leaving.
“This is where my Furbo comes in. By using Alexa, I can ask her to start a treat tossing schedule as I'm gathering my things to head out the door. This way, my pup sees me getting ready to go, but is quickly distracted by the sound of treats on the way!”
Dr. Medders says that she usually asks Alexa to tell Furbo to toss treats every 5 minutes for the next 2 hours.
“This gives me time to get my things, get out the door and keeps my pets distracted during the exiting process so they don't realize what's happening! Then the treats keep coming so they stay happy for the next few hours until that anxiety level can continue to decrease. The best tool in behavior modification is distraction and positive reinforcement. My Furbo does both!”
Use Furbo's Alexa skills as part of your regular training
Usually, my pets would be standing by the door whining for me to come back home, Dr. Medders explains.
“With Alexa asking Furbo to toss treats on a schedule, they lose focus on me being gone and turn their focus to treats! [The treats are] a fun reward for being calm and turning their attention away from what's stressing them out. During the day, I can't always go check the Furbo or toss treats, so if I set up a schedule, I know my pups are getting rewarded for staying calm and staying distracted.”
Eugene is one of Dr. Medders' dogs. He's a sweet 10-year-old schnauzer mix who is the definition of separation anxiety.
“Even just taking out the garbage sends him into a frenzy. He pants, starts drooling everywhere and continues to run from door to window just in case he can see me. Getting a treat tossed every 15 minutes or so helps distract and calm him down.”
Milo is Dr. Medders' second baby and is just over 1 year. He's a corgi golden retriever mix and the goofiest kiddo ever.
”When Eugene gets stressed out, Milo reflects it and will howl with him... so then I'm stuck with two stressed out pups. The Furbo is Milo's best friend! He hears our voices through it and always comes running for a treat! He's very easily distracted so it works perfectly for him! With Eugene being older and Milo still being a crazy pup, I love being able to check in on them during the day just to make sure they are happy and healthy.”
Ultimately, Dr. Medders says the Alexa skills can help create happier, healthier pups (and dog parents, too!)
“Furbo has really decreased their separation anxiety and depression while home alone. Not only can I check up on them, but I can reward them for being good! Our Furbo was a gift and we have loved every day of it. I've recommended it to so many friends, family and clients! It's such a lifesaver and gives me such peace of mind!”