E344 - Nicole Wiebusch: Dogs Get FOMO Too

Have a pup that struggles to wait their turn? Nicole and I talk about the forms that FOMO (fear of missing out) can take when it comes to our dogs, how to prevent it, and what we can do about it. 


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive training methods. Today I have Nicole Wiebusch here with me to talk about dogs dealing with FOMO or fear of missing out. Hi Nicole! Welcome back to the podcast.

Nicole Wiebusch: Hey Melissa. Thanks for having me.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. To start us out, you wanna share a little bit about you and your current canine crew?

Nicole Wiebusch: Sure, yep. So I'm Nicole Wiebusch. I live in northern Minnesota with my family. I have a husband and three kids, and then we currently have four dogs and three horses.

So my oldest dog is Strive, she's 10 years old and she's become my daughter's dog. I started out showing her, got a Rally championship and then gave her to my daughter and Strive is happier with that arrangement I think. So my 13-year-old daughter's out showing her in agility and in Rally and doing really well, getting a lot of high in trials, high combine or high triples and high combines.

So they're having a lot of fun. And then I have Excel. He is my six and a half year old. He's actually Strive's son, so I bred him and he is about three quarters of the way to Rally championship. We have just played around in beginner novice, he has that title, but we haven't really gotten out in obedience much. But lately I've been getting him out in agility a little bit more.

So he's having a lot of fun doing agility and rally. And then we have Kira who's a black lab. She's about, let's see, she just turned seven and she is my son's dog. He uses her for 4H. She was supposed to be my husband's dog, but that didn't quite work out. So I use Kira for a lot of videos and demo stuff.

So she's a lot of fun. And then finally I have Rise, he's my new guy. He's about five months old now, so he's a golden retriever and he earned his novice trick dog title at about 16 weeks. But he is a lot of fun. I'm really enjoying having a puppy again. And it's been great for my classes because I use the puppy to do all new videos.

And so I've been uploading a lot of videos to my current lecture. So that's been really helpful. So that's who I've got right now.

Melissa Breau: Very exciting. Well, I wanted to have you on today to talk about the idea of FOMO or as I mentioned kind of in the intro, fear of missing out as it pertains to our dog. So to get us started, just kind of what is FOMO and what symptoms do we tend to see?

Nicole Wiebusch: So usually with FOMO we see it's like mild anxiety or frustration is kind of what we're seeing. So in the crate, like if the dog's in a crate, we're seeing some restlessness, maybe some digging or pawing at the door. Vocalization is really common, either whining or barking.

And then sometimes mild destruction, like my FOMO dogs have destroyed their crate pads before, stuff like that. But generally not to the point of like, you know, destroying the crate or hurting the crate. It's generally a little more mild than that. So those are kind of the symptoms that we see with FOMO.

Melissa Breau: How is it different then from something like separation anxiety or you know, kind of just needing to work on good creating behaviors with our dogs?

Nicole Wiebusch: Separation anxiety is more severe. It comes from a different place. It's more severe anxiety and fear. So even though they're sometimes similar symptoms with separation anxiety, it's much more severe. So we see dogs that cut up their gums trying to chew their way outta crates or we see dogs go through windows.

I had a dog with separation anxiety actually go through a window one time. Often they'll have accidents while the owner's gone. Separation anxiety is more about being away from the owner and it does not necessarily get better when, when the owner's gone and outta sight. But with FOMO, once the owner and the dog or whatever the trigger is, is gone and outta sight and outta earshot, then typically the dog will settle down. It's not always the case, but most of the time they do. So when I look at both, it's kind of, I'm looking at the severity of the symptoms and I'm looking at how long they exhibit those symptoms. Once the quote, unquote trigger, whether it be the owner leaving or the dog going with the owner, once they're out of the picture, do the symptoms settle down. And so what I like to do is use like a video camera, I'll set up my iPad, hook it to my iPhone, all that fun technical stuff. And I'll just kind of see what the dog is doing after it's had a chance to calm down when we're, when we're out of the picture.

Melissa Breau: Did you wanna talk a little bit about the good creating behaviors piece of that? Like how does that compare to just like training for better creating?

Nicole Wiebusch: Right, Right. So yeah, creating, I'm working on this right now with the puppy, Trying Not to turn him into a FOMO doc. So yeah, crate is tough because yes, most, most puppies that want to be with their owners and you know, enjoy interacting with them, they do struggle in their crates. And eventually you kind of get to a point, you know, when they're really young, we kind of just help 'em through it because they're too young to really deal with those emotions on their own. But you know, Rise is about five months and I'm starting to to think that he needs some responsibility in the crate too.

So, you know, there's definitely some vocalization that can happen when you're crate training, but the dog shouldn't like get frantic about it. It's kind of hard to explain the differences. Like it obviously depends on the dog, but when you're dealing with separation anxiety, it's like they're really fearful. They're super anxious and so you can kind of hear that in their vocalization. And then also they're trying harder to get out of the kennel. If your dog is whining a little bit pawing at the kennel, occasionally when there's not other stuff going on, then he that's that they're just learning to be separated from you and that it's okay. So for instance, I have a pen in my living room right now and Rise goes into his pen several times during the day just to practice being away from me.

And so if I get a little bit of vocalization, I totally ignore it. He's actually gotten really, really good about that. But compare that to when I take him down to my building, I throw him in a kennel and I start training Excel and he can hear Excel barking or hear us interacting with each other. Now I have a dog that's like barking, barking, barking. I can hear him pawing around. That definitely is more FOMO versus just learning how to be in his crate.

Melissa Breau: Gotcha. I think that's really useful to kind of have that differentiation for our own minds, right?

Nicole Wiebusch: Yeah, definitely.

Melissa Breau: Are there things we can do to prevent our dog getting FOMO to like avoid it altogether?

Nicole Wiebusch: I think there's a lot we can do to help. A lot of it is going to depend on the personality of your dog. Some dogs are never gonna get FOMO no matter what you do or don't do. They're just not those types of dogs. I do think the types of dogs I have, my working line goldens, they tend to really enjoy being with me. They really want to work. The last thing they wanna do is sit in their kennel, especially when I'm training another dog.

So the types of dogs that I own I believe are more prone to FOMO. So if you have, you know, a working bred dog that likes to work, then you're gonna have more of a chance of ending up with FOMO. Meeting their needs is really important. And we talk about this the first week of the FOMO class that I'm doing that we'll talk about later. But meeting their needs is in as far as enrichment exercise training, that's all really important. So you need to make sure that your young dog most likely is getting those emotional and physical needs met so that they can be a good puppy. You know, if you're not doing enrichment and they're not getting enough mental and physical exercise, it's gonna be really hard for them to be a good puppy.

Training, individual training time's really important. And then the biggest thing that I do like this is what I'm doing right now with Rise. 'cause I know he's gonna be prone to having, FOMO is good management and I'm preventing him from exhibiting FOMO symptoms. So I'm not putting him in the situation where he is going to have FOMO symptoms.

So if I'm training Excel, he goes into the car or he's up at the house. When you have these young puppies and what I consider young is basically through adolescence these dogs aren't mature enough to handle these big feelings. And once FOMO starts, it's much more difficult to deal with. If you can keep it from happening until the dog is two, two and a half-ish, then it's gonna be much easier for the dog to be able to handle being while you are working with another dog or while you're walking a course or whatever it is that triggers that FOMO. So at this stage with Rise the Puppy, the prevention is a really big thing. So it doesn't mean I'm not working on it, but it means that I have control over the situation. So he's not experiencing that frustration of being left out.

Melissa Breau: So assuming somebody listening to this is at the point where their dog is probably dealing with FOMO, we're pretty sure that's what we're looking at. What's the next step? Where do we start in terms of like breaking it down and working on it. There are a lot of factors that go into FOMO.

Nicole Wiebusch: I think one of 'em that we don't always think about is the barrier frustration. So if we put these dogs behind the gate or we put 'em in a crate, there's a lot of frustration that comes along with that. And that's why some of these dogs, you know, they can stay, you know, you can have both the dogs out and you can be doing stuff with one and just tossing treats at the other and they're acting just fine, but you put this dog in a crate and they start barking their head off. So I think minimizing barrier frustration is really important. The other thing that I really want is I need to give the dog a choice so I can see where their brain is at. So I use stations to do this and that way the dog gets off the station during my training, I know that it's too hard, I know I'm pushing him too much. Whereas in a crate, until they get to the point where they're vocalizing or scratching at the door, you don't know when they're over threshold. So I really like stations, it's where we start the station, gives them the choice of getting off if it's too hard. And then it also gives them a job to focus on their job is to stay on the station.

And when I have a dog on the station, I would love for them to be laid down to be laying down and relaxed. But that's not always possible and I recognize that. So my criteria is four paws on the station basically. So once they're on the station, if they get up, that's okay, but it's also more information for me.

Like if they're laying down and I'm doing stuff with another dog and they get up, then the dog is telling me, Ooh, this is getting a little harder. But I find that when their dog can communicate to us how they're feeling by, you know, if they're overwhelmed just simply getting off the station, that makes it a lot easier for us to split up things so that they can be successful. And it also makes a big difference when we allow the dog the choice. They know they have the choice of getting off. It's not gonna be quite so frustrating staying on. So I generally start people with working on a station behavior with just the one dog. You pick one dog to work with, you do everything with just the one dog. And my overall goal is that I'm gonna pair the station with relaxation as much as possible. And again, you're working on it in quiet areas, only one dog. There are no FOMO triggers going on.

But as I work with the dogs on stations and laying down and relaxing and that sort of thing, I get a dog that at least associate stations with relaxation. It doesn't mean they're gonna be relaxed when you bring in the FOMO stuff, but at least they have that association with the station.

Melissa Breau: Okay. So talk to me a little bit about realistic expectations here. So if we have a dog that has FOMO or has had FOMO for a while, what can we expect? What's realistic to expect?

Nicole Wiebusch: What's realistic to expect? Even if we're starting like the very first signs right, I think that, I mean we all want quick fixes, right? And that of course that's Please Nicole. Yes, yes. Here you snap your fingers and your FOMO was fixed. That's what you'll learn. No, I'm just kidding. So it's important to remember that this is not an overnight fix.

It's likely your dog's been having these symptoms for a while and it takes time to change emotions. And that's basically what you're doing. You're changing how your dog feels about you working with other dogs or it, it also works like if, if your dog exhibits FOMO because you're walking the agility course, you know, maybe it doesn't have anything to do with another dog.

It takes time to change those emotions. And what I'm trying to do is get them as close to relaxation as I can. So that's kind of, instead of feeling anxious and left out, I want them to feel like they have a job, they can just hang out on their station and they can be somewhat relaxed because they know their time is coming.

So I also think that not all dogs are gonna get 200% on this. I have one. Excel is, he suffers from FOMO, like extreme FOMO and he has come so far like it's incredible what he can do. Now he can station at an agility trial watching dogs run, no problem. But when I do really exciting stuff with my other dogs, Excel still struggles. He's not a hundred percent, he's good. He can often stay in the station but he is not a hundred percent. So I think with some dogs you might not get to a hundred percent and that's where some of that management comes in. So if I know it's gonna be tough for Excel, I just put him in the car or I put him in another, you know, take him up to the house, it's like I said, not an overnight fix, it's gonna take some time. But you should be seeing as you're working through the process, you'll see progress but you just have to look at the little chunks of pieces as progress and not, oh my dog is, you know, still barking when I train other dogs. Well it's gonna take some time to get over that.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So this isn't really on the list, but you mentioned kind of in there being able to stay and wait quietly while you're like walking the agility course or something. Is this important for people to kind of manage that while they're working through the FOMO? Can you talk a little bit to that?

Nicole Wiebusch: Yeah, no that's a really good question because yeah, as we're going through this training process, we definitely wanna manage it. 'cause if we work on all of this stuff and then, you know, work on it during the week and then on the weekends we're at an agility trial and we let the dog, you know, just bark it's full of head off.

That's not gonna help our training, it's gonna slow it down. It's gonna make us go a couple steps back. So that management piece is really important. And one thing I wanted to mention too, a lot of people think that FOMO is about you working with another dog. That's not necessarily the case. There's a lot of different types of FOMO I have.

I have students that when they're walking the agility course their dog is, is experiencing FOMO or if another unrelated dog is running a course, some dogs struggle with that. So FOMO can be triggered by many, many different things. It's not just the owner working another dog. So yeah, I just wanted to mention that to you 'cause I think a lot of people don't realize that FOMO applies to all of that.

Melissa Breau: Okay. So you mentioned the stationing behavior. Can you talk a little more about kind of some of those other behaviors that we need to, to teach or the skills the dog needs to have to work on this?

Nicole Wiebusch: Sure. So yeah, the station behavior is a big one. It gives 'em a behavior to do, a job to focus on, which I think is really good. But as far as like coping feelings, I want to make sure that the dog is getting its needs met. That it has, you know, like we mentioned earlier, that physical and mental exercise is really important. The enrichment, the individual training time, all of that's really important because if you're not meeting those needs of your dog, it's gonna be really hard when you're dealing with a FOMO situation. And then the other piece of that too, part of the training is teaching the dog that it's gonna get a turn to everyone's gonna get their turn. And when dogs learn that, you know, yep, I have to sit here for five minutes, but then I'm gonna get a turn too.

I think that really helps them cope with their feelings. And if you can find that with giving them a job to focus on like the station or like an open crate, an open door crate, that can be another way to do it. That just helps the dog kind of just cope with those feelings and not focus so much on how they're feeling, the frustration that they're feeling.

Melissa Breau: I wanna talk about routines a little bit and the role that routines can maybe play in helping resolve or at least reduce FOMO behaviors. So what are we talking about when we talk about routines and what role do they play?

Nicole Wiebusch: Yeah, so one thing I think about and that I want people to work on is creating a routine. And this is worked on separately from FOMO of course, but the dog needs to know they have a safe, comfortable place. They need to know kind of what the routine is for crate. Do you, does the dog choose to go in? Do you cue it? How do you reward it? What do you do when you walk away? All of that kind of stuff.

So right now with my puppy, I'm working really hard on promoting the kennel, the crate with relaxation. And so we have a routine at night where he comes in from the last potty break and I grab a chew toy that he can chew pretty quickly, like a 32nd chew toy. But it's a little more than just giving him a treat. And he runs to his kennel as fast as he can and gets in there and he waits for me to give him his chew toy.

So he chews it up in about 30 seconds, he lays down and he goes to sleep. And so I have this really nice routine where I don't get any whining. He knows exactly what's gonna happen. He knows that that's bedtime and that's really helpful for him. When I'm at a show a, an agility trial or a rally trial, I have a routine for my dogs going in.

They're gonna go in, they're going to get a treat, I'm gonna shut the door, I'm gonna put the cardboard wall up that I use so they don't get bothered by other dogs walking by and they lay down right away and they just hang out because they know the routine. So I think for crating, it's important to have a routine but you also need other types of routines.

So like it's good if the dog knows what to expect. They really thrive on predictability. So when you train your dogs, train 'em in the same order, keep the session short, you know, if you follow these, these routines, it's gonna help your dog know what's coming. Okay, you get worked first and then you're gonna go in your kennel or on your station or whatever for a little bit and then this other dog's gonna get worked, but it's only gonna be five minutes 'cause I'm gonna swap you guys out again. So I think keeping session short is really important too. The longer that we expect our dogs to deal with these emotions of wanting to be involved with you, the harder it's gonna be for them to deal with those emotions. So keeping everything short is also a really good idea. So there's kind of like, there's a lot of routine stuff that we have to think about when it comes to FOMO.

Melissa Breau: Alright, so you kind of mentioned in there that you've got the class, so let's talk about that a little more. So you're offering a new class this term on FOMO. Do you wanna share a little more about what you'll cover, who might wanna join you, what all is in the class, some of that stuff?

Nicole Wiebusch: Sure. Yep. So I have a class freedom from fomo and I've been working really hard using both my experiences at having a pretty decently severe FOMO dog and lots of students having the same problem. I'm trying to kind of bring together this, this course that's going to give you the blueprint, the plan for how to really reduce these feelings of FOMO in your dog. So it's, we've started the class, we're a couple days in at the time of this recording and I've actually, as I'm reading the introductions from the gold students and as I'm seeing what kind of questions they're answering, I have a notepad here and I just make all these notes and then I go and I write more lectures.

So I'm constantly adding new lectures of things that I didn't think of, which I'll continue to do the whole term because you get these good questions, you're like, oh yeah, that's a great question. I'm not addressing it, but I should be. So then I just go write a new lecture. It's been a challenging course to write, but so much fun.

I really enjoyed the challenge of coming up with the curriculum. So as far as the FOMO course, we start at the beginning with the stations. We talk about trying to pair the stations with relaxation as much as possible. We talk about how to introduce distractions and duration. We talk about how to introduce another dog to that station behavior.

And then by the end of the class though, by week six, there's lectures on transitioning the dog into a crate. And then there's a bunch of steps in there that I skipped. But that's kind of where it starts. Starts with stations, it goes to transitioning the dog in the crate while you're working another dog. Not everybody's gonna get through that in six weeks.

Definitely. You know, just so don't think that. But as you have, as you gain these tools through the class, you'll be able to keep working with your dog and know exactly what to do to the ultimate goal of getting them in the crate. This class is great for dogs already experiencing FOMO. You're gonna get a ton of advice on what to do and how to kind of go back and you know, a lot of dogs have stations, but they're not necessarily about relaxation. So we kind of talk about how do we go back and do this? And in some cases I have people change stations, I have several students that are using climbs and the dogs aren't able to lay down 'cause maybe they're a bigger dog.

And so we talk about you might wanna consider switching to a cot so you can promote different feelings to, you know, promote more relaxation type stuff. So it's great for those dogs that are having trouble, but it's also really good for puppies and young dogs that maybe aren't having trouble yet, but that you think might run into a problem with FOMO. I find that puppies really young puppies, it's not so hard for them, but once you start doing more of the dog sports training with these puppies, like say agility for instance, once they figure out what agility is and how fun it is, all of a sudden you have this little screaming monster on your hands. So even though a puppy might not be exhibiting any signs of FOMO right now, it doesn't mean it's not coming. And so we talk a lot about, you know, prevention management.

Melissa Breau: One of the things we mentioned earlier was as you're going through this class, you have to manage the FOMO, right? Because you don't wanna, you don't wanna practicing that as you're training it. And so there's quite a bit of stuff on management. How can you manage things so it doesn't get outta hand? What are your different options? And you're gonna learn all that for those puppies and young dogs. So it kind of is for everybody, if that makes sense. It's something that's pretty common. I've had so many people reach out to me and you know, it's really caused me to realize how common FOMO is with different things. You know, whether it's multiple dogs in the same household or whether it's separation from the owner, whatever it might be that triggers that FOMO for the dog.

So it's definitely a big thing and it's been really, it's been cool to work on this class and already like the progress I'm seeing is really, really fun to see how the dogs are starting to, you know, relax a little bit more and that sort of stuff. And we're only a few days in.

Melissa Breau: Heck yeah. Speaking of only a few days in, since registration is open, anything else you have on the schedule? Anything else you wanna kind of mention? Sure. I'm teaching kind of my cornerstone class, my foundation Rally class, Get Ready to Rally Foundations. I love teaching the rally stuff. It's very enjoyable to me. This is an introductory class so it's great for young dogs, old dogs, dogs that need a retirement sport. It's a great way to give your FOMO dog something to do. There really aren't any prerequisites for this class other than, you know, I mean your dog kind of sort of know like sitting down and that kind of stuff. But we go through how to teach all that anyway. So that's a really good class.

If you're just looking for a fun low key sport to do with your dog rally is really enjoyable for, for both dogs and humans. I've got a couple of, let's see, I have a workshop and a webinar coming up on some heeling stuff. So if heeling is is your thing, I've got a couple things coming up and then if you like that and wanna work on it some more, my heeling class is running in April, so the next term. So yeah, I've got some fun stuff. The Rally Foundations is one of my favorite ones to teach because it, once people get a week or so in, they're like, Hey, I really like this rally stuff, this is really fun. Yeah. So I get a lot of people that get hooked on rally after taking the foundations class.

Melissa Breau: I love it. Alright, any final thoughts or key points you wanna leave listeners with as far as the FOMO stuff goes?

Nicole Wiebusch: So I think having realistic expectations is one, I don't want people coming into this class thinking that their dogs are gonna be fixed by the end of the class because that's just not realistic. It's gonna take more time than that. Again, they should see a lot of progress. They'll know that things are working, but it's not gonna like completely fix the problem. So just being realistic about that. And then I think the other big thing that I wish I knew years and years ago is that prevention's really important and you know, putting these dogs into situations where they can't handle themselves isn't gonna do you any favors.

It's much, as much as it is a pain to like say crate your dog in the car, it's much more of a pain when you have a dog that can't be calm while you're working another dog. I've gotten to the point in the past, it's much better now where I don't train Excel when I'm working with another dog. I don't even bring him to the training building because it's just too much, you know, it's like too stressful for me, it's too stressful for him. So I think, you know, preventing, knowing how to prevent FOMO and how to manage it to kind of keep it from happening is going to save a lot of stress down the line. So that's one thing that I wish I would've known. Mostly with Excel, I've had other dogs experience milder forms of FOMO, but if I would've known that when he was a puppy, I think our lives would be very different right now.

Melissa Breau: Aw. But he is still doing awesome. Imagine that a little bit of prevention is worth a pound of cure, huh?

Nicole Wiebusch: Exactly. Yep. I think that's one of the lines from my lecture in quote, imagine that.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Alright, well thank you so much for coming on the podcast to chat about this, Nicole.

Nicole Wiebusch: Thanks for having me, Melissa.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. And thanks to all of our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week. Don't miss it. If you haven't already, subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice to have our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available.

Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast, music provided royalty free by bensoun.com. The track featured here is called Buddy. Audio Editing provided by Chris Lang. Thanks again for tuning in and happy training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training!

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