Urgency is the Enemy of Progress

There is no question in my mind about the genuine need to regain your life and leave your home without the tremendous concern for your dog’s wellbeing. I get it. I’ve been through a separation anxiety protocol with my own dog, Tini DeMartini, and I have not forgotten the painstaking weeks and months I devoted to helping her learn that alone time is safe. Outings as simple as grocery shopping or picking up a prescription became a pet sitter coordinating event back then, and it was hard – very hard.

I have learned so much through Tini’s journey and the journeys of the many hundreds of dogs and guardians I have worked with, and I hope to share some of those lessons with you. One that strikes me as incredibly important today is that urgency is the enemy of progress.

Imposing a timeline on a behavior modification protocol will often lead to diminished or halted progress. Moving at the gradual pace of the dog is not something I have arbitrarily imposed on my clients; it’s simply how fear unlearning works. The urgency that we feel to get to the finish line in our separation anxiety training is the adversary of progress, undermining the very essence of the laws of learning.

One of the most insidious ways in which urgency impedes progress is by fostering short-term thinking. When constantly operating under tight deadlines and pressure to produce immediate results, we are more likely to prioritize quick fixes over long-term solutions. We may push the dog too far too fast, which can lead to a cycle of perpetual firefighting, where we find ourselves constantly scrambling to put out fires in our training.

While I understand that it is easier said than done, in order to break free from urgency and foster true progress, we must learn to cultivate patience and a willingness to embrace uncertainty. Oof – that’s a tough one for many of us! One thing that can help with this, though, is striving to cultivate intentionality in our day-to-day training, wherein we recognize that the small increments we are using are focusing on the long-term impact. A plan of action that honors the individual dog we are working with can help us slow down and prioritize our dog’s wellbeing.  

This entire conversation begs the question, “How long will it take?” and “When will I be able to leave my dog and go do real-life things?” You are not alone in asking those questions. They are some of the most common questions we hear from clients, and I understand why! 

Remember that your behavior modification protocol, which includes managing your dog’s alone time, is TEMPORARY! This training is not for the remainder of your dog’s life. I want you to think in terms of months, not weeks, but also in terms of months, not years, for your training. It may take longer to complete your training than you’d like it to, but it will likely not take as long as you may fear it will.

And guess what? This gradual training is an excellent opportunity for teaching us to slow down in other ways. When I worked with Tini and came out the other side, I realized that I had a heightened new level of patience for reward, and I also embraced the valuable life lesson of celebrating even the smallest of wins. There were days that I was leaping with joy over the fact that Tini flipped her hip to one side while lying down and other days when I popped the bubbly when she scarcely bothered to pay attention to me putting on my shoes. Observing and commemorating those little (and big) milestones along the way allows us to appreciate the changes and progress that are happening before our eyes. Progress, however slow, is still progress and worthy of celebration.

Your dog is the only individual who can adequately answer the question of how long it will take for your training. Don’t we all wish we could sit down with our dogs and have that conversation to derive a timeline? I suppose I speak for all dogs when I ask you to lean into gentle, kind, patient, and humane training so that they can learn to be home alone without distress on their own timeline.

Thank you for giving your dog the gift of anxiety-free alone time. Please know you are not alone. There is a vast community of people who have or are currently walking the path you are on, and they get it just as I do. 

Cheers to you for the celebrations you will be having for every small or big win on your alone time journey!

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About Malena DeMartini

Malena DeMartini is renowned in the dog training industry for her work with separation anxiety over the past two decades. She is the author of two groundbreaking books on the topic, and the founder of the Separation Anxiety Certification program. More information about Malena and resources about separation anxiety can be found on her website at:

About Malena

Malena DeMartini is renowned in the dog training industry for her work with separation anxiety over the past two 

decades, for more information about Malena Read More…

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