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If you live with a dog with separation anxiety, you already know it is hard.  Feeling the guilt of having to leave your dog knowing they will suffer.  Not knowing what you will come home to – damage to your home, a stressed-out dog, or an angry neighbour.  All these things take their toll on you. The biggest advantage of working with a separation anxiety specialist is that I am with you every step.  I tell you what to do and when to do it, and I am your shoulder to cry on and your biggest cheerleader.

You may not have the support of friends and family.  They may tell you that your dog will get over it.  That you need to let your dog cry it out.  Maybe they even suggest using a bark collar to suppress your dog’s barking.

Maybe your family blames you, saying that you caused your dog’s separation anxiety because you spoil them, you let them sleep on your bed or the furniture.  Your dog is acting out; it is your fault because you aren’t tough enough.

You are feeling frustrated, angry, and resentful.  You are missing out on events and family gatherings. Friends and family think you are overreacting. You google everything you can to find the solution.  You are beginning to question yourself. You are wondering how long you can let this go on.

It is becoming expensive.  You have to pay for daycare and pet sitters.

It is inconvenient. You must constantly plan to make sure your dog isn’t going to be alone. You are arranging your life around your dog, juggling commitments and appointments, and it is making you angry. Why you?  Why is your dog doing this?  Don’t they know you always come back? Don’t they know they are safe?

When you brought your new puppy home, you had dreams. Long walks on a sunny day.  Play dates with other doggie friends. Snuggles on the couch while watching a movie. You were ready for the chewed shoes, the housetraining accidents, and even the sharp puppy teeth.  But you were not ready for this.  The dreams have turned into a nightmare.  A nightmare that you never seem to wake up from. You love your dog, but it is all becoming too much.

And you are right.  It is a nightmare.  Your dog is suffering, but you are suffering too.

Separation anxiety is hard.  It is hard to live with.  It is expensive, and it feels like you will never have a normal life again. But separation can be resolved, but it will take time. Read my blog on the Reality of Separation Anxiety Training

I want you to know that you will have found a supportive place when you reach out to me.  I hear you, and I am here to help you. As a separation anxiety specialist, I have heard it all. I will tell you:

  • The process is slow. It is going to take longer than you think.

We work at the dog’s pace to teach them that every time you leave, they are safe. If your dog has had unsafe absences in the past, then they have a learning history that needs to be undone.  This takes time.  We must build trust back with your dog so that they learn that they will never be left for longer than they can handle. You will know when your dog is starting to get it because there will be times when they just don’t care that you have stepped through the door.

  • I will ask you to suspend absences so that your dog is not left alone. This may mean using a pet sitter or friends and family.

When we are training, we need to ensure your dog doesn’t have a scary experience of being left alone.  I often use the analogy of a game of snakes and ladders (I know…I am old). In this game, you climb the ladders, eventually winning the game when you reach the end.  But, if you hit a snake, you slide all the way back down, losing all the ground you have gained.  If we transfer this to separation anxiety training, the ladders are your training.  You train carefully and consistently. You are making slow headway, but your dog is responding. And then a snake!  You must leave unexpectedly, and your dog doesn’t do well.  They go over threshold. Next time you train, the dog is watching you more closely, and maybe you have lost some of the duration you had previously built.

  • I will ask you to trust the process, even when you think your dog can do more.

You have sought out the help of a separation anxiety specialist for a reason.  Maybe you have tried working on your own and weren’t successful.  Maybe you needed more accountability.  As a specialist in this field, I do know what I am talking about. While the training does appear to be simple, it really isn’t. There is a method to my madness.  I do what I do because it works, and I need you to trust the process and me. It is so easy and human nature to push just a little bit too much when the going is good.  Maybe your dog is doing well.  Completely relaxed while you are away.  Instead of stopping when advised, you try pushing for a little bit longer. No harm done, right?  Maybe, maybe not.  In training, we build in lots of easy wins for the dog.  We want them to know that not every time you leave is longer than the time before. We want to finish each training exercise knowing that the dog could have gone just a little bit longer.

  • I may ask you to consult with your vet to rule out health issues or discuss behaviour medications.

Underlying medical issues such as pain, GI issues, allergies, and vision or hearing concerns are all factors that can impact our dog’s ability to settle and remain relaxed. We know that if we are not feeling well, it can impact other areas of our lives, resulting in us feeling grumpy.  If we are not making progress in the training, then it is time to bring your vet on board.  Ruling out health concerns and/or discussing behaviour medications is something we want to do earlier in training. We can’t train away a medical issue.  Addressing veterinary concerns should not be considered a last resort.

  • I will ask you to train regularly. Another thing that you need to deal with in an already busy schedule.

If possible, consistent training five days a week will help your dog learn.  Short training exercises more frequently do yield the best results.  Since we work at your dog’s pace, training will already feel slow, but this is the fastest way.  Just like with humans, the weekend warrior approach to training will likely derail versus a little training every day.

  • I will tell you that everyone’s path will be different.

Everyone and every dog will progress differently.  The science of dog training is rooted in the premise that it is a study of one.  While I can provide sweeping generalizations on how things may progress, in the end, you will follow your own path and your own timeline.  Read my blog, Don’t Compare Your Beginning to Someone Else’s Ending.

  • I will tell you that there will be ups and downs and that the process will be bumpy and frustrating, fascinating and rewarding.

One of the biggest disconnects that most people have when they commence training is that the journey will be a straight upward-sloping trajectory. Nothing could be further from the truth.  The training journey will look more like a roller coaster (and sometimes feels that way).  There will be many ups and downs, many intentional, as we build in easy wins for your dog.  But there will be times when we hit plateaus and regressions.  These can be really hard when they happen.  They are a very normal part of the training process.  And while most people nod and acknowledge this, it is incredibly hard when they happen to you.

  • I will tell you that there will be days when you cry and days when you celebrate.

Following on from the previous point, there will be days when you feel discouraged and frustrated, ready to throw in the towel.  And there will be days when you are thrilled at your and your dog’s progress. If you come in knowing this and are ready to follow and trust the process without question, you will get there in the end. But the one question I just can’t answer is….when.

I will also tell you that I will be with you every step of the way. And I will.

  • I will help you find a way to navigate through it.
  • I will give you the facts and not bamboozle you with pseudo-science.
  • I will share my experiences, having worked with more than 100 clients.
  • I will be the non-judgemental shoulder to lean on.
  • I will answer your questions as honestly as I can.
  • I will tell you if I don’t know, and I will find an answer for you.
  • I will coach you and provide the support and accountability you need to be successful.

And, lastly, I will tell you to be kind to yourself. That this stuff is hard.…but that we will get through it…together.

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