FAQ

There is considerable false and conflicting separation anxiety information online, and sometimes inaccurate suggestions provided by dog professionals who are not experienced or certified in dog separation anxiety. We work to educate our clients and trainers alike about SA, and the impact it has on a dog’s and owner’s life. If you are an owner and are unsure if your dog is suffering from dog separation anxiety, fill out our questionnaire to see how we can help. If you’re a trainer looking to learn more about SA or need us to consult on a case with you, contact us, we’d be happy to help!

FAQ

Separation anxiety training is unlike many other types of dog training because it requires treatment of an emotional response, rather than simply teaching a new behavior or trick. Much like a human seeing a counselor for help with a fear or phobia, there’s no way to predict a timeline for a “cure.” Each dog is different (as are owners and their abilities to carry out the training exercises), so progress can start to happen within a few weeks or not for months.

While separation anxiety is a highly treatable disorder, the rate of progress is slow, particularly in the early stages. Thankfully, learning begins to accelerate once we’ve made careful initial gains. You can affect the rate of your progress by being consistent and devoting time to the process.

That depends on the length of treatment. Working with separation anxiety is different from regular obedience dog training or other behavior modification programs. The trainer invests considerable time creating specific, individualized plans, reviewing video regularly, giving feedback, and adjusting the written criteria based on reading the dog’s body language and assessing his progress.

The only potential additional cost in treating separation anxiety is the purchase of an inexpensive webcam (if you don’t already have one) and a checkup with your veterinarian (if necessary).

If only. Unfortunately, most dogs with separation anxiety tend to get worse if left alone repeatedly while experiencing anxiety. Your dog’s body is flooded with stress-inducing chemicals each day he’s left alone. Also, most dogs start to learn the clues or precursors that indicate alone-time is approaching, and that makes them hyper-vigilant and anxious even when you’re home. We know it seems illogical and irrational, but many phobias are, even for humans.

We highly discourage the use of any anti-barking collar. The use of a citronella or shock collar may suppress anxiety-induced barking for a while, permanently, or not at all. Either way, the barking is merely an outward symptom of severe panic and getting rid of the barking doesn’t get rid of the panic.

A dog with separation anxiety is suffering—hence the desperate barking, whining, or howling. With or without vocalization, your dog needs and deserves help. And typically, anti-barking collars worsen separation anxiety dramatically, even if they sometimes silence the dog in the process.

Unequivocally no. Although it is tempting to think so, dogs don’t have the same cognitive machinery we humans have and so do not experience or have the ability to express resentment, guilt, or angry protest. Your dog isn’t angry with you for leaving, he’s terrified of being left alone, and this is not a voluntary state of being for him.

Possibly. We have found that crate use can often exacerbate separation anxiety. While some dogs appear calmer when left in a crate, if they’re introduced to it slowly with positive methods, many dogs try to escape from their crate during alone-time and that can become dangerous if they catch paws or teeth on metal parts.

Using a room with a baby gate, or closing off some areas of the house, is an ideal alternative for many dogs. Finding out what type of environment is best suited for your dog will take time and observation on your part. If you’re uncertain, work with a trainer who can help you observe your dog’s body language to help you make the best decision for you and your dog. And yes, even those dogs that have been destructive in the past or have had potty accidents due to anxiety can be successful outside of the crate – we’ll show you how.

Alone-time anorexia is a common symptom in dogs with separation anxiety. The goal of treatment is to get your dog to a place where he’s comfortable when left alone. It may surprise you to learn that food use is not the cornerstone of working with separation anxiety, if it is used at all. Using food in most types of training is paramount, but it works a little differently with separation anxiety.

Not necessarily. There are several medications available to support a training program for separation anxiety in dogs, and we have seen significant benefit from their use with many cases. The choice to use medication is personal and should be discussed with your veterinarian. Various factors may dictate whether you want to consider medication, but in any case, following a solid behavior modification program is the most important component of treating separation anxiety. Medication alone won’t take care of the problem.

Many, so many to the point that it can be overwhelming. The best person to advise you on which remedies you might try for your dog is a holistic veterinarian. Do understand that most natural remedies are not regulated nor are they tested for effectiveness. Do not administer anything to your dog (natural or otherwise) without checking with your vet – contraindications between various substances can definitely occur and can be serious.

A small percentage of dogs don’t display anxiety when another dog is present, but it isn’t a large enough percentage to suggest you run out and get a second dog. If you truly feel getting a second dog might be helpful in your case, we suggest working with a trainer to find out if your hunch is right. And if it is, enlist the trainer to help you choose an appropriate second dog. We recommend that you work on your dog’s separation anxiety before adding a second dog.