Is it really mid-2023? I know I am not the only one who has felt like the last few years have been a whirlwind. Like many, I found my routine shifted in unexpected ways at the start of the pandemic. In fact, you may have noticed my last published blog was in 2020? I have been remiss in keeping up with regular blogging these last three years and, instead, found myself staying busy publishing my newest book, training a lot of new CSATs, maneuvering through many pandemic-dog concerns, and recording numerous podcasts and webinars. I also adopted a new pup (Maybell) in 2021 since, ya know, it was the thing to do. The past several years have also been busy from a research perspective. Lots of new separation anxiety published articles and data have come forth, which is exciting and brings us further insight into helping dogs with this condition. All of this is to say that I’m back and looking forward to sharing new content!
Much of the upcoming content I will be sharing will be about various aspects of implementing an effective training protocol. Today, however, I want to talk about you.
Have you ever experienced guilt surrounding your dog’s separation anxiety? Have you been told that you have caused your dog’s problem by spoiling them too much? Have you wondered what it is you’ve done to trigger your dog to be so distressed about alone time? If you have ever experienced these thoughts and feelings, I am here to tell you something that I need every dog guardian to hear.
This is not your fault.
On a daily basis, we speak to prospective clients who are seeking help. In those calls, one of the most overriding themes is the guardian feeling overwhelmed with guilt that they have caused their dog’s problem. The countless calls that we have had where tears of self-reproach were shed are immeasurable. It is one of the reasons that we love spending time speaking to guardians because we can absolve them of this guilt and allow them to move forward with a positive plan of action.
In the past four decades, the volume of research on separation-related behavior problems has been astounding and continues to grow. Separation anxiety has been the number one researched canine behavior condition in the fields of applied animal behavior and veterinary behavior. As a result of these studies, we know a lot about what does not cause separation anxiety, although, to date, we have little knowledge about what does.
Of the things that we know are not causing separation anxiety, I think the most important category is dog spoiling. One of my favorite early studies that addresses this says, “There was no significant difference between the two groups (separation anxiety versus no separation anxiety) in how owners interacted with their dogs, such as allowing the dog to sleep on the bed, feeding it from the table, taking it on errands or trips, and allowing it on the furniture.” 1.
It makes my heart so happy to share with you that you can (and, in my opinion, should) shower your dog with love. That right there is something to celebrate!
Now that you know you can let go of all of those yucky feelings of blame and fault, it is time to take a deep breath and move toward taking positive steps to help you and your dog return to a normal, stress-free life.
There are several blogs that I have written that can support you on your training journey, and there will be many more moving forward.
If you are just beginning to research how to work with your dog’s separation anxiety, here are a few places that I suggest you start.
- The Separation Anxiety Top 10 List: Not sure where to begin? This blog offers some key considerations for working a successful separation anxiety protocol and includes additional links for each if you’d like to dive even deeper into any of them.
- Gimme Some Lovin’: Remember how I said earlier you can shower your dog with love? You cannot love your dog too much! This blog offers additional insight into why that is when it comes to separation anxiety training and why you should let go of any remaining “I cause this” guilt.
- Suspending absences: Not just doable. It’s being done!: Never leaving your dog alone longer than they can handle is a crucial piece of separation anxiety training, which I know can feel daunting to read and hear. Read this blog to learn more about why this is so important and for ideas on how to manage absences for your dog.
If you are in the midst of working with your dog, here are a few blogs you can read for inspiration.
- Regressions for the Win: Think of one thing you achieved in a straight line. Drive a car the first time in the driver’s seat? Play a musical instrument? While regressions are a normal part of the learning process, they can feel quite defeating when they occur. This blog helps to explain why that is and how to work through them.
- Reasons to Celebrate: Oso’s Separation Anxiety Journey: Celebrating wins of all sizes along your separation anxiety journey is SO important, and please know we will be celebrating with you at each step of the way! Oso’s story is one of many ups and downs you can likely empathize with, and is a reminder that there is hope and you are not alone.
- Turning Off The Camera: Maybe you’ve felt it hard to trust the process, even as your dog is making progress with alone time? Found it hard to glance away from the camera for even a split second? Slowly giving yourself permission to overcome your separation anxiety as your dog overcomes theirs is so important, and this blog may help you do just that.
If, after reading the content above, you find yourself wanting some support from a qualified professional, we’re here to help. There are many more blogs that you can review for further information, but feel free to reach out to us if you need us!
Today’s blog is just a little promissory note to you that more material is coming, so keep your eyes on this site.
1. McCrave, E. A. (1991). Diagnostic criteria for separation anxiety in the dog. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 21(2), 247-255.