Updated: Dec 7, 2022
You know your dog has separation anxiety and that the solution is to train them to feel better. But what can you expect once you start the process?
Learning who your dog is as an individual
The most effective way to treat separation anxiety in dogs is to gradually expose them to a version of alone time they can comfortably manage - and slowly increase that "target duration" over time. Although some aspects of this process are the same across the board, such as not allowing your dog to panic during training, taking a slow and steady approach and keeping a close eye on body language, there are other aspects that will depend on your dog.
During separation anxiety training, we observe and track your dog's behaviour carefully to ensure that we are doing all we can to set them up for success. At a minimum, we'll be tracking details such as date/time of training sessions, exercise and mental enrichment prior to training, medications or supplements, stressful events, changes to routine and who in the family is doing the training. Depending on your dog, we might also track noise levels outside, the occurrence of other behavioural challenges or medical symptoms, trends in their behaviour and more. Throughout the process we are adjusting the training plan as our understanding of who your dog is evolves. Believe me when I say, you will get to know your dog in more detail than you ever have before.
Your life will revolve around your dog for a while
With the exception of dog trainers and enthusiasts, most people see their dogs as just one part of their life, not someone they need to plan their life around. In order for separation anxiety training to be successful, we can't leave our dog alone at all outside of training sessions - which means even running to the grocery store becomes a task that requires coordination.
The use of dog sitters, family, friends and daycare (depending if your dog is a suitable candidate) will all be part of your life while you work through separation anxiety. You won't be able to go out for a spur of the moment dinner or go shopping without planning ahead. This is difficult for even the most dog-crazy people and it's important to know this going in.
Your trainer will be holding your hand the whole time
As a separation anxiety trainer, some of the traits I need to excel at are coaching and problem solving. Separation anxiety clients are among the most amazing and we know the sacrifices you're making for your dog. This means we will be there for you 100% through the inevitable highs and lows of separation anxiety training. You'll get to know your trainer well.
There will be ups and downs
Separation anxiety training is not usually linear. That means there will be good days and bad days as you work toward your goal. You'll have times when you're cheering and celebrating a win and other days where you're troubleshooting the root cause of a few whines. Regressions, plateaus and variability are all normal parts of the process.
Getting the right tech setup
We use Google Spreadsheets during separation anxiety training to track data, enter notes and share training plans - so you should be familiar with the basics of this software, though your trainer will help you with any questions.
You will also need a way to watch your dog when you're not home. This is critical to their success. Unless you live in a bachelor apartment, this usually means at least two views, with additional views needed the more space your dog has access to. Home security cameras like a Wyze cam, baby monitor apps on your phone and a few reliable devices to connect to Zoom are all ingredients in this recipe.
Prepare for the long haul
As much as we would love for dogs to overcome separation anxiety in a matter of weeks, a true phobia of home alone time runs deep and tends to take months or longer to resolve. It's important that clients are prepared to be managing absences and doing training for some time. The reward? True home alone comfort and the knowledge that you are doing the right thing for your dog.
Ready to get started?