How Long Will It Take To Overcome My Dog’s Separation Anxiety?
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 an eventual “cure.” Each dog is different (as are owners and their abilities to carry out the training exercises), so progress can happen within a few weeks or not for months.
While separation anxiety is a highly treatable disorder, the rate of progress can be 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 devoting time to the process.
How Much Will It Cost Me To Work With A Trainer?
That depends on the length of treatment. Working with separation anxiety is different from regular obedience dog training and 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 additional cost in treating separation anxiety is the purchase of an inexpensive webcam (if you don’t already have one), a checkup with your veterinarian (if necessary), and a few treats, toys, and interactive games your dog needs for future alone-time.
Won’t My Dog Eventually Realize I’m Coming Back And Get Over It?
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.
Can’t I Use A Citronella Collar Or Shock Collar To Stop The Barking?
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 a 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 sound, 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.
Is My Dog Doing This Because He’s Mad At Me For Leaving?
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.
Should I Use A Crate During Absences?
Possibly. Many dogs feel calmer and more secure when left in a crate, and if they’re introduced to it slowly with positive methods, the crate can become a safe haven for them. On the other hand, 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 a smaller comfortable room such as the kitchen or laundry room, 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 to make the best decision for you and your dog.
I Hear Treating Separation Anxiety Involves Using Food, But My Dog Won’t Eat When I’m Gone?
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, and for most dogs that includes consuming goodies. It’ll take time to get your dog used to eating food in your absence and initially that may mean only when you’re barely out of view, but you can build it up from there.
I’ve Been Told I’ll Have To Medicate My Dog For Treatment, Is That True?
Not necessarily. There are several medications available to support a training program for separation anxiety in dogs. The choice to use medication is personal and should be discussed with your veterinarian. The severity level of the disorder may dictate whether you need 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.
Are There Any Holistic Remedies That Can Help Alleviate My Dog’s Stress?
Many. The best person to advise you on which remedies to try for your dog is a holistic veterinarian. But for a few general suggestions, please refer to the Resources page.
Will Getting Another Dog Help My Dog?
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 work 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.