There are many products on the market that are advertised as being beneficial for separation anxiety. These range from sprays and drops to tight-fitting t-shirts or specialized pillows with one’s scent on them. While it is commonly said that some of these products might help and can’t hurt, keep in mind that every time you spend money (and time) on one of these products in hopes of resolution, you might be wasting precious resources that you could be using towards proper treatment.
As you continue training, we wanted to remind you about and further dispel some of the myths about treating separation anxiety that you have learned about throughout the course.
Listen: Crates and Food Toys
Listen to the following audio clip to learn more about why some of these training approaches may not have worked for you and your dog, and continuing with your protocol – systematic desensitization – WILL!
If you are like most of the dog owners that we speak to, you have already researched separation anxiety on the internet and likely tried some, if not many, of the recommended fixes without much success, if any at all. I am so sorry if you have already devoted time and financial resources to this issue only to feel further frustrated and maybe even more disheartened.
There are definitely numerous things that can help you and your dog that will be discussed in this course, but let’s just touch on a few that DON’T work. The reason for discussing all of this is so that you can begin to let go of these quick fixes and start to focus on what will actually help you and your dog be successful!
A swift search through the interwebs may have landed you on the two most common separation anxiety suggestions: using a crate and providing a long-lasting food toy. I’d like to take just a moment to discuss each of these to help you understand that they actually aren’t the solution to this issue.
While crating a dog is not legal in all countries, many regions do promote crate use for a variety of good purposes. Having a dog acclimated to a crate for emergencies like vet visits or for travel and other safety measures can be very important. Unfortunately, when it comes to working with a dog suffering with separation anxiety, crates are rarely the answer. Most dogs with this issue are truly panicking, and confining them to a crate will simply restrict the panic to a smaller space, making it even harder on the dog. Additionally, in their panic, many dogs do their best to escape the crate, which can lead to a host of injuries, including broken nails, cracked teeth, and more.
On an interesting note, I am often told by guardians that their dog already loves their crate outside of alone time and even sleeps in it comfortably at night. Yes, this may be true, but the combination of confinement and extreme alone time distress make for an escalation in anxiety for most all SA dogs.
I also recognize that you may have a dog that is destructive during alone time, and therefore it seems logical that it would be a necessity to use confinement. I have good news for you, though: when your dog is not experiencing panic, the destructive behavior will no longer occur, so using the crate is not required. We’ll talk more about measures to immediately stop the panic in this course very soon but do know helping your dog overcome his fear of alone time is best facilitated outside of a crate. Moving forward we will show the steps with which you can be successful.
Regarding using a long-lasting food toy, I can absolutely understand why this makes sense to both pet parents and professionals alike. I mean, why wouldn’t I want my dog to enjoy something yummy during alone time to make it more pleasant, right? As logical as this may sound, we’ll be diving into why food toys are actually not advantageous for your separation anxiety training at the beginning of your protocol.
I do want to say that I am a HUGE advocate for using food as a reward in training, and I can tell you that its use is the most efficient and effective means of training things like coming when called, sits, downs, and walking nicely on a leash. So, do know that just because we don’t incorporate food use in the beginning of separation anxiety training does not mean that you should leave it out of other types of training that you may be doing. Food is a powerful motivator and can effectively reinforce many of the other behaviors you may be trying to teach. Suffice it to say here that the process we will be using to help resolve your dog’s separation anxiety is one that relies on creating strong associations between alone time and safety rather than using distractions such as food toys.
There are several other suggestions that you may have heard about and even tried in your attempt to fix your dog’s separation anxiety, and I commend you for your consistent efforts and constant dedication to finding a solution. I don’t want to take tons of time in this clip reviewing all the NON helpful suggestions out there, but I know that most of you have a personal checklist of them. My goal is to help you to know that this is a process that will be slow and steady as opposed to quick and easy. Truly, if I were in charge of how dog brains worked, I would switch the flip that made this process much quicker, but to date, there is not a single instant remedy that will resolve this issue.
Take a breath, and know that we are guiding you toward the most effective means of resolution that is available today, so let’s hunker down together to help your dog and resume your freedom.
It is crucially important that you remember the fact that your dog will not just grow out of this problem, even if he is a puppy currently. Continued training using systematic desensitization is crucial to making progress and realizing full alone-time success.
To help you prepare for and better understand the training process, take a few minutes to read my blog post written for you and other guardians as they begin their separation anxiety journey: Promissory Note and Practical Practices for Pet Parents.
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