You Are Not Alone
Over the years, I have talked with countless people who feel they are simply out of options. Sometimes the desperation and frustration can be heard in their voice as talk, other times it’s apparent in the long pauses and silence that sometimes follows questions I ask. Many of us have been there ourselves, feeling trapped in your own home because of your dog’s disruptive behavior.
I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone, and are certainly not the only person to have experienced the wide variety and oftentimes confusing emotions experienced during this journey. The guilt followed by resentment toward your pup for acting out, but at the same time the pure love you have for them, knowing they rely solely on your for survival. I get it, I’ve been there myself.
It’s these feelings that sometimes make committing to separation anxiety training difficult. Many owners also face aa challenge with the time commitment and suspending absence part of the training which is critical to your dog overcoming separation anxiety. As one of our CSATs Shelly Keel stated in another blog she authored, “it takes a village” at times to overcome these challenges. There are alternatives to simply leaving your dog alone, though it may take a little creative thinking to get there.
Scenario 1 - Your Dog is Social with Other Dogs and People
The alternatives to leaving you dog alone when they are social with others are a bit more straightforward. Doggie daycares or neighbors are a great option, as long as they are aware that when it comes time for a nap or feeding time, someone needs to be present. Having your dog locked away in a crate while isolated is no better than being left home alone.
Other options can include leaving your dog with a parent or other family member who resides in an assisted living facility that is dog friendly. These organizations love having a social pup around to help cheer up the residents. Taking your dog to work is a great option too, and it’s possible a local shelter may help watch your pup away in exchange for donations of time, money or supplies. There are a lot more options, so get creative!
Scenario 2 - Your Dog is Not Social with Other Dogs and People
If your pup does not socialize well with others, admittedly it gets a bit tougher to crowdsource help, but it certainly is not impossible. Recruiting a high school or college student to study in your home and make use of your free wifi is a great option, as is finding local seniors or retirees who would like to day watch your pup.
Of course, hiring a professional fear free trainer is always a great option, and they can learn socializing skills at the same time as they work on improving behavior. With remote work now much more mainstream, it also may be possible for you to simply stay home with your pup.
Eliminating Short Absences
Technology helps us here too. Think about all of the errands you run that aren’t exactly quick, but wouldn’t be considered a long absence either. For example, grocery shopping may take a little over an hour, so it’s not exactly quick. Consider using an online ordering and delivery service to replace your weekly grocery runs so you can avoid the short absence from your pup.
Local dog walkers and pet sitters are also a great alternative to leaving your dog alone, and generally are available and reasonably priced for short time periods. Of course, depending on your destination and the weather, taking your dog with you on your errands may be a great choice as well. Getting familiar with local dog friendly restaurants may also make the perfect date night for you and your dog.
Educate Your Helpers
Remember, anyone who is available to help watch your dog in your absence needs to be made aware of what your dog needs. The whole point is to ensure they are not alone for any period of time, so this must be your helper’s number one priority. So how do you start building your village of helpers? Here are some quick tips:
- Create a social media post or emails for family and friends asking for volunteers to help.
- If your dog struggles with reactivity, network on reactive dog Facebook pages such as DINOS: Dogs in Need of Space, CARE for Reactive Dogs, Reactive Champion, and Reactive Dogs.
- Contact local retirement homes and speak with event coordinators who may know seniors who would love to have a pup as company a few times a week.
- Start or join your local neighborhood group on Nextdoor.com to connect with neighbors who might be able to help.
- Talk with high school guidance counselors or the local college student services department. Your goal is to find responsible students based on their recommendation to help you out. It’s possible it may help fulfill community service hours they need to complete as part of a course or organization.
- Use a community bulletin board at a local coffee shop or church to ask for help.
- Look online for well recommended and reviewed pet sitters though Pet Sitters International or other directories. Interviewing potential candidates is critical to this process!
- Research qualified, positive reinforcement trainers through the Association of Professional Dog Trainers’ (APDT.com) or the Pet Professional Guild’s (petproffessionalguild.com) trainer search.
It Is Possible
Millions of dogs are impacted by separation anxiety every year in the United States. Chances are, you’ll find some empathetic helpers who have been there themselves, and want to lend a hand. If you take a moment to look for them, you’ll find your world is full of compassionate people who just want to help. Once you start building your village, your stress levels will begin to come down and you can focus on what’s really important – helping your dog overcome separation anxiety!