Alexandra Dilley, M.A. Animal Behavior, CPDT-KA
After heading behavior and training at the DC-area’s largest open-admission shelter and rescue organization, it is such a joy to focus my time now helping dogs live their best lives in their homes!
At Humane Rescue Alliance, where I led the department from 2013-2021, I was committed to helping bring pets and people together through a variety of training and behavior support programs, including working with the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Asheville, North Carolina, to develop HRA's first intensive program for severely fearful dog rehabilitation; I also taught classes on everything from obedience to dog reactivity, and provided ongoing private session and behavioral support for adopters, fosters, and the Washington, D.C. community.
Over those years, I worked closely alongside and completed a formal mentorship program with an incredible trainer, named, Tracy Krulik, from Separation Anxiety & Beyond, in how to address separation-related problems in foster and shelter-adopted animals. Tracy developed a training program better than any other I had ever known. She taught me the importance of building relaxation into dogs at every step of the process and using their very subtle behaviors to tell me the next steps to take in the training process. This allowed dogs that had failed in other programs to succeed! While at HRA, we worked with Dr. Daniel Mills of the University of Lincoln, UK, to develop a questionnaire to evaluate changes in separation-related problems in dogs during the pandemic, both in the United States and the United Kingdom. After leaving HRA I became a trainer for Separation Anxiety & Beyond. I am now focused solely on providing treatment and support for this issue in the community. I have continued to support shelter dogs by taking on separation anxiety cases for dogs in foster homes.
Prior to leading the department at HRA, I was a behavior and training specialist at the Washington Animal Rescue League, where I taught classes and private sessions and worked regularly with shelter animals, since 2011. I have owned also my own private dog training business and worked as a contract trainer for Good Dog DC, LLC.
I am a graduate of Wellesley College and received a master's degree in Animal Behavior at Hunter College, CUNY. I completed my thesis on captive elephant stress behavior and vocalizations after transport to the National Zoo. I have studied with and been mentored by Jean Donaldson through the Academy for Dog Trainers, Trish Loehr via the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants' shelter mentorship program, and Pia Silvani during my work with the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center. I am a graduate of the dog training apprentice program at Humane Domain, in Marriottsville, MD. I am also a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed.
I live in Sykesville, Maryland, with my daughter, husband, parents who relocated from California, and my two dogs, Daisy and Banjo. I love to sing, and before COVID and baby, I performed as a professional soprano soloist with classical music groups in the DC area, including the Third Millennium Ensemble, Washington Saengerbund, and College Park Chorale.
Media & Press
NBC CHANNEL 4, WASHINGTON, DC
Barking, Biting & Chewing
Alexandra is, literally, a life saver. She worked with me to help my foster dog, “Jane,” whose separation anxiety caused her to hurt herself (chewing on the fencing in her run, desperate to escape) and hurting others (nipping and biting to avoid being confined in her kennel at the rescue). When left alone at my house, Jane scratched the door and damaged the door frame trying to escape. Someone questioned Jane’s quality of life if she experienced full blown panic attacks every time she was left alone. I got a camera to observe Jane when she was left alone. I was horrified and heartbroken by her palpable distress as she whined, wailed, howled, screeched and panted. I felt guilty, confused, overwhelmed and powerless.
I had a handout that explained how to leave Jane alone, in increments, to get her used to being alone. The handout made it seem simple. Working with Alexandra was probably 100 times more effective, and efficient, than me trying to “train” Jane on my own, using a handout and Google. As I understand it, and as I experienced it with Jane, the key to successful separation anxiety training is consistently leaving the dog alone for increments of time within the dog’s comfort zone. Alexandra is an expert in dog behavior, and she was therefore able to read Jane’s comfort level and provide daily training plans based on her expert interpretation of Jane’s behavior in the last training session.
Alexandra talked to me about my house, my schedule, and my limitations. She suggested medications to help Jane when I had to go to work. Alexandra never rushed me off the phone, she listened to me, she encouraged me, she was supportive, she was kind, she never made my questions feel silly, she gently and consistently advocated for Jane by explaining how I could train and help her, and, most importantly Alexandra and was extremely effective. The training worked!! In about 7 weeks Jane was able to be alone, sleeping and relaxed, for 2.5 hours during training. With additional medication recommended by Alexandra, Jane was able to be at home, alone for 8 hours without experiencing distress, when I went to work. It was clear to me that if I continued the training, Jane would continue to make progress. (Jane was adopted!!!!! This means I did not continue with her training.)
When Alexandra told me the training was in zoom, I was skeptical. It was actually awesome. Alexandra was able to use zoom to closely observe Jane during training without Jane knowing it. If I had tried to train Jane on my own, with the best of my intentions, I could have misread her needs and either failed to make progress, or even made it worse. For example, there were times during the training when I thought Alexandra was being too conservative; I wanted to go faster and push harder. Thankfully, I recognized my desire for instant progress was both irrational and desperate, so I trusted Alexandra’s suggestions, which were based on her rational, professional expertise. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to work with Alexandra and to see Jane blossom into an increasingly secure dog, peacefully snoozing on the couch while I was away, instead of howling in distress.
My husband and I are so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Alexandra and would give her our highest recommendation. When we first started working with Alexandra, our pup, Rolo, was alert and whining at our door after about two minutes of being alone. We worked with Alexandra for 8 weeks and then a few additional weeks on our own, and now Rolo snoozes comfortably for 2 hours. Alexandra is knowledgeable in her field, has a calm and professional demeanor, and most of all we appreciated the collaborative nature of our relationship with her. She was always willing to offer suggestions and listen to our feedback, and she would adjust her plan accordingly, for example, scaling back the training when Rolo wasn't feeling well. Alexandra was communicative, easy to work with, and we feel it was money well spent as Rolo has made incredible progress with his separation anxiety. She has even been so kind as to follow up with us after we completed our sessions with her, and she gave us the tools for us to continue behavior training on our own. We credit Alexandra with helping us and Rolo to enjoy a better quality of life, and that is all we wanted for Rolo, the ability to feel comfortable and safe while home alone. Thank you, Alexandra!
Elizabeth, Keith & Rolo
Jennifer & Foster Jane
Coal is our Covid puppy. After two years of rarely going out without the dog, we were ready to resume normalcy. We are grateful to our trainer Alexandra for working with us. We now have the tools to increase our time away from Coal so he can stay safe, happy and stress-free. We look forward to building up his independence. Thanks!
Dawnita, Sylvan, & Coal
Alexandra has provided us and our pup Charlotte all the tools & personalized attention that we needed to help Charlotte get on a path to overcome her separation anxiety! We adopted Charlotte at age 6 without knowing the extent of her separation-related anxiety, and within days, we realized that Charlotte was extremely upset whenever we left the house. She would pace, pant, whine extensively, knock over items, and would urinate out of fear/anxiety. It has taken some time, but Charlotte is now able to be alone for 5 hours without showing any signs of stress and we continue to make measurable progress each week! The change in Charlotte's behavior is nothing short of extraordinary and has made all the difference for Charlotte and for us. She seems much less stressed and much more at ease with her surroundings. We are so thankful that Alexandra has been with us every step of the way. Her extensive knowledge of dog behavior and years of experience has been critical to Charlotte's success. Her ability to tailor the training plans to fit Charlotte's needs and our schedule has been crucial and shows the deep concern and caring that Alexandra has for her clients. We would recommend Alexandra to anyone facing a separation-related anxiety challenge with their pup! Thank you!!