This is a list of the key pieces that need to be incorporated or understood when working with separation anxiety. This list must be taken as a whole. We can’t pick and choose which of these items to include – it’s all chips in. Don’t let that scare you however, so many guardians have been successful in resolving separation anxiety by following protocols that uphold these Top 10 and it truly can be done.
- Separation Anxiety Is A Panic Disorder
The dogs that are in the clutches of this condition are not being disobedient or spiteful despite that guilty look that many guardians claim to see when they arrive home. It is necessary that we understand that dogs suffering from separation anxiety are truly experiencing what is akin to a panic attack every time that they are left alone. See http://malenademartini.com/logic-doesnt-apply-to-separation-anxiety/
- Management Is Key
Putting a dog through continued anxiety by being left alone regularly or even on occasion will not allow the dog to make progress. Yes, what I am asking is that you safeguard the dog from experiencing anxiety during your training, and yes, this is a tall order. It is not an impossible request, it is however, an imperative one. See http://malenademartini.com/management-is-key/
- Not Relying on Food Toys
This is a surprising topic for many, but read on and it might make some sense. It is often recommended to use interactive feeding toys when working with separation anxiety. The problem with this is that most all dogs will finish the food and then immediately begin to get anxious, that is of course if they will engage with the food at all. Use a process of very gradual and systematic training to teach the dog to be left alone in increments without relying on this initial crutch. See http://malenademartini.com/comfort-food/
- Confinement Might Not Be The Solution
Often times it is recommended to use a crate or a small room with a gate for confining a dog with separation anxiety. While this is not necessarily the wrong way to proceed, it is incredibly important to be aware that many dogs with separation anxiety can also suffer from confinement anxiety and in such cases a crate or baby gated area would actually exacerbate the problem. A thorough assessment of what is best for the dog is what is needed.
- Stay at Or Beneath Threshold
A dog’s threshold is defined as the place wherein the dog is still comfortable or not experiencing anxiety when left alone. There are many body language indicators that a dog will display that will show us when a dog is starting to experience anxiety, most of them are pre-cursors to more obvious things like barking or destruction. When doing separation anxiety training it is important to stay at, or preferably beneath, this threshold in order to make the most optimal progress.
- Use Technology to Watch
Because it is so important to work with that threshold we need a way to watch the dog when left alone. Technology has allowed us the luxury of tools that are effective and easily available to all including many free apps that are accessible on smartphones and easy programs via webcams.
- Why Working With A Qualified Trainer Can Help
The process of overcoming separation anxiety is simple, it’s just not entirely easy. A qualified trainer can guide through the process step by step and be the motivating factor as twists and turns come up. Creating almost daily incremental criteria steps is the cornerstone of separation anxiety training and a qualified trainer can do this based on carefully reading the dogs body language.
- Why Talking With Your Vet Can Help
Separation anxiety should be clinically diagnosed but there can also be other factors involved in why any dog might be reacting anxiously. First your vet can rule out other possibilities like pain or other health issues. Then depending on what might or might not be contributing, sometimes medication can be very useful as an adjunct to behavior modification.
- Don’t Panic At Set-Backs
Because we are dealing with an anxiety disorder in particular, we have to accept that the learning process is not going to go in a completely straight line. There will be times that regressions happen or plateaus occur and that is entirely normal. Expect them, know that they are part of the process, it’s just information gathering as you move forward. Don’t panic, take it slow and forward progress will again happen.
- How Long Will It Take To Resolve
This is understandably the most common question that trainers are asked by guardians. The answer is that every dog is a little different so patience is required, but the time and perseverance put forth is so very worth it when all parties are living a stress free life. Fortunately, the severity of the case is not necessarily indicative of how long or difficult the problem will be to resolve.
The most important thing to know is that there is hope and there is help. Separation anxiety is a disorder that affects a significant percentage of dogs. The more professionals that become educated about it and work closely with guardians to overcome it, the more success that is being realized. Be ready to work in small increments, be prepared for patience, have great empathy, and most certainly be excited for the small successes along the way as there will be many. Resolving separation anxiety is one of the most rewarding experiences and you will never look back with regret on the accomplishment.
Malena DeMartini is renowned in the dog training world for her expertise in canine separation anxiety. She is the author of the book, Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs, and has contributed articles on separation anxiety to publications around the world. She is a sought-after speaker internationally and is training worldwide dog professionals to work within this specialty through her Separation Anxiety Certification Program. Malena is passionate about furthering education in this field through science based research. Whether a dog professional or guardian, feel free to reach out to Malena at for a free phone 30-minute phone call. www.malenademartini.com.