You might be wondering how long the process to ‘fix’ your dog will take?
As the old saying goes ‘How long is a piece of string?’ I know it’s not what you want to hear but any kind of behaviour modification, which is basically what we are doing here is wholly dependent on your dog. We are changing the way they feel about you leaving them alone, we are changing a dog that is frightened of being alone into one that is OK with it. So unlike standard obedience training there is no real way to guarantee a time frame nor would it be good practice for me to give you one.
What we do know is that with help and guidance the faster you start training and suspending absences, and the more consistent you are that this is a very successful model of training. It’s been tried and tested over and over.
I have been told that I made my dog anxious by letting him sleep on my bed and sofa?
There have been many studies on separation anxiety and while there are a few different ideas on why it happens none of them put the blame sleeping on sofas or beds, In fact there are many dogs who have never slept on either that still hate being alone. While this used to be a very common idea there really is no real evidence to say why some dogs develop separation anxiety and others don’t.
A friend suggested I get another dog, will that help?
If you already wanted a second dog then you might be lucky but don’t get another dog to fix your first. It’s unlikely to help and you might end up with double the trouble and double the cost!
Family members tell me to leave my dog and that he will get used to me going out?
This is such a tough one and if it worked I wouldn’t be here, sadly the more we leave our fearful dogs alone the more fearful they become. It basically becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, scared of being alone and then being alone. While dogs can get used to you doing the washing or the birds in the garden, they don’t get used to being scared.
My dog barks all day, would one of the anti bark collars work?
When you have neighbours complaining and letters from the local authority about your dogs baring it can be tempting to follow advice to get your dog an anti-bark collar. The problem? The reason your dog is barking is down to panic, your dog is desperately barking for you to come home, the collars work by scaring the dog which may or may not stop the barking, what it might do however is make things much worse.
Fortunately the combination of our training and not leaving your dog alone will address both the panic and the barking.
I feel he is just trying to get me to come home by being naughty, is he?
It really can feel like your dog is being naughty when every time you leave they destroy the furniture or pee and poop all over your new chinese rugs. All the behaviours we see when dogs can’t cope with being alone are simply down to being scared, they aren’t naughty, they are truly afraid you will never come home. Do you ever remember a time as a child when you got lost? How terrifying that was? How the fear overtook everything? This is what your dog is feeling.
Won’t putting him in a crate stop him being anxious?
While many dogs love their crates (my Molly being one of them) dogs with separation anxiety often get more agitated and anxious in a crate rather than being given the freedom to roam. We know crates can be a great tool to help with house soiling and destruction. Fortunately our program world in such a way that confinement may no longer be an issue.
I give him food toys and things, I’ve even tried playing music all day but it doesn’t seem to help.
Back to thinking about how your dog feels about being left alone, we often lose our appetite under stress, I mean you wouldn’t be thinking about eating ice cream if your house was on fire, I’m pretty sure it would be the last thing on your mind. Well it’s the last thing on your dogs mind too. All they want is not to be alone, the last thing he wants is a treat.
My dog trainer said I should medicate my dog, won’t that turn him into a zombie dog?
The first thing we ask you to do if you think your dog has separation anxiety is to visit your vet to make sure there are no underlying issues, at this time you can raise the issue of medication. Just like humans dogs suffer with anxiety and can and do take similar medications with similar great results. There are several studies that show training alongside medication can have a much bigger effect on separation anxiety than training alone.
Shouldn’t you train my dog not me?
Normally you would have a trainer either train your dog or go to classes, however that model doesn’t work for home alone dogs. We need your dog to get used to you and your family leaving, not me. Don’t worry though, even though it will be you physically doing the training I will be providing all my expertise to guide you.
Can’t you come to my house to do the training?
As above, separation anxiety and isolation distress training really works best using remote methods.
You say I shouldn’t leave my dog home alone, how am I going to do that?
This is often the hardest part to get your head around, how on earth will you manage to never leave your dog alone? Somehow most who do the training find a way, they not only find a way but often become experts at it. Management becomes a part of their daily routine. Just try to remember that every time your dog is left alone they are having a complete panic episode and each episode makes it harder on the dog. The sooner you can manage that the faster recovery will go.
Will my dog’s separation anxiety be expensive to fix?
It really depends on how long we have to work together, working with anxious dogs is very different to standard training. With anxiety we are dealing with an emotional change and that very much depends on your dog. Separation anxiety can take more time because of that difference.
I can’t wait for you to help me, what can I do right now?
The very best thing you can do right now is suspend absences, this will give your dog immediate relief. It doesn’t mean YOU can never leave your dog you just might have to find help to stop him being alone.
I can also recommend the book ‘Be right back’ by Julie Naismith - The most up to date book on home alone issues and the method my training uses. This easy to read book will give you a real understanding of separation anxiety and how it’s treated.