Bob Ryder, CSAT, PMCT-4, CPDT-KA

Living with dogs

I can’t imagine life without a dog (or maybe I just don’t want to).  My wife Susan and I refer to Daisy as our “Labra-daughter” – she’s as dear to us as any daughter could be. Although she’s closing in on 12 years old (how can that be possible??) she still makes every day immeasurably better with her unfailing cheerfulness, intelligence, curiosity, and enthusiasm for life.

And… as with any dog, taking good care of her is a BIG commitment of time, energy and money. We take walks and go on adventures and play dozens of games for physical and mental exercise. She’s brilliant at scent games, swimming sports, and more tricks than I can count. She’s very cooperative for having her fur brushed, ears cleaned, and teeth brushed. (Nail trims – not so much.) We’ve spent – well… a LOT of money on two knee repair surgeries, high quality food, and a lifetime of allergy medication just for starters. All of these investments were expected at least in a general sense, and all of it seems like money well spent. Our return on investment is priceless, but we live on a budget like anyone else, and our week only has 7 days – we made choices.

A lifetime commitment

I point this out because helping a dog suffering with separation anxiety (SA) is likewise a substantial investment of time, energy and money. Separation anxiety is a deeply ingrained fear-based behavior disorder, and helping a dog recover from it requires effort and patience, as well as skill.

Clients I work with spend at least 30 minutes most days doing training exercises teaching them to feel safe and comfortable when by themselves. They spend significantly more time making sure their dog is NEVER alone longer than s/he can comfortably handle. They pay for the time and expertise of a training specialist, and often for daycare and pet sitters. And equally significant, they invest their patience in what can be a slow and decidedly non-linear learning process.

My purpose in pointing all this out is certainly not to be discouraging. Training dogs in general, and helping them overcomes separation anxiety in particular, is the best job I can imagine. I’ve seen numerous dogs and their families improve their lives immensely as the dog learns to feel safe and relaxed when alone. It is quite literally life-changing work, and I feel very fortunate that this is the work I get to do for my career.

Realistic expectations

I share the challenges involved because it’s important to have realistic expectations. Separation anxiety is a deeply ingrained fear-based behavior disorder, and helping a dog recover from it requires effort and patience as well as skill. As a folk proverb puts it, “No great thing is ever made suddenly.“

This article offers a great overview of training for separation anxiety.

If your dog might be suffering from this condition, I would love to be part of the solution. Let me help you get off to a good start by emphasizing that “It takes some doing.” Know that if you’re up for making the investment, I’ll do all I can to help you and your best friend along the way.