Separation related problems in family dogs are very common, and often go undiagnosed in our modern dog population.
Dogs are social animals after all. So feeling confident, safe and secure when left alone, does not come natural to them.
If you have noticed that your puppy or dog struggles when you go out of sight, or if you have received notes from your neighbours about your dog's continuous barking when left home alone, it's time to seek professional help.
From early puppy isolation distress to the more severe forms of hereditary separation anxiety (a true phobia or fear of being alone), separation related problems can present themselves at various times, and at various intensities throughout your dog's life.
Our dog Nero, for example, experienced puppy isolation distress early on. And now, at the age of 6, his sensitivity to separation has reemerged, due to recent changes to his home environment and his daily routine (we moved house - a common trigger).
In all honesty, separation related problems are very challenging to work through and resolve. Therefore, many dog trainers and behaviourists shy away from these cases.
Having experienced how frustrating, isolating and emotionally draining it can be to share your life with a dog you love very much, but who suffers from these distressing separation related behaviours, I understand how difficult it can get, and what it might take to help your dog.
We can work in partnership with your veterinarian
As a pet parent of a dog with separation anxiety, you can get support from your veterinarian; who as a medical professional can certainly offer some relief in the form of pharmaceutical management options, by prescribing anti-anxiety medications for your dog.
However, medications on their own can not resolve this challenging behaviour issue. It actually takes a support network. A team of pet professionals, family members and friends, who can help you in your efforts to resolve your dog's separation related struggles.
And it is definitely worth trying. Because with this gradual exposure therapy, almost 70% of dog separation related cases do result in a dog who can be left home alone, in comfort.
The first step is to perform an initial assessment of what your dog can do now.
Based on the background information you provide, and the behavioural observations during our initial consultation, I can determine your starting point. During this consultation we will also discuss support and management options.
A consultation with your veterinarian is always advised, in order to rule out, or identify and resolve, any medical issues which could be contributing to your dog's increased sensitivity to separation. This is also an opportunity to discuss the potential introduction of anti-anxiety medications, in order to support your dog's behaviour change program.
Together, we are going to journal, observe and review recordings of your dog's behaviour and body language, at different times of the day, and during different activities, in order to identify when your dog feels relaxed and comfortable, and when your dog starts to feel stressed.
This initial "detective work" is crucial to your success. Because, in order to develop and adjust your dog's daily plans, you will need to learn to identify your dog's subtle stress signals. This knowledge will help you to keep your dog under their threshold, during your separation practice exercises, so you can achieve progress.
Based on what we have learnt in phase 1 and 2, you can now start practising separation exercises with your dog, based on the advice and daily plans we created specifically for your dog's separation related behaviour.
You can share recordings for review, and we do a weekly catch-up consultation, in order to practice together and discuss struggles and progress, and to adjust the daily plans, as needed.
Due to the nature of these dog behaviour issues, and the fact that every dog is an individual, and every dog / human partnership is unique - it is simply not possible to provide a set time-frame, nor a guarantee, that your dog's separation behaviour will be resolved.
However, considering these behaviours impact your dog's welfare and health, as well as your wellbeing, I believe it is well worth it working through this struggle, in order to try and achieve lasting success.
Therefore, I do provide options to continue your program, on a selective, as needed, support basis.
(90 min. Zoom)
Basic separation exercise
(90 min. Zoom)
Daily separation exercise plans
Weekly consultations (30 min. Zoom) to evaluate progress
Review of practice recordings
Education on dog body language and effective dog behaviour modification
Optional 30 min. video consultations (Zoom) to check on progress and adjust plans as needed
Photos on this page via Unsplash: Matthew Hamilton, Tim Foster, Bruno Emmanuelle Azsk, Brina Blum, Mark Zamora, Brooke Cagle, Roberto Nickson.