Working as a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) has taught me a lot about the condition. It has also helped me hone whole new set of skills to train affected dogs.
Separation anxiety trainers (CSATs) help dogs using different techniques from the ones we use to modify other behaviors. Before my separation anxiety (SA) work, I prided myself on working directly with dogs and their families. This included teaching them to make the right moves and notice important signals in their own homes.
SA training is different because we are working to help your dog feel safe when left home alone. Thus, adding another person to the household is not helpful, and can actually hinder the process. We want the dog to be calm and comfortable without the added distraction of a new person in their home. Strangers add stress for already fearful dogs, and excitement for friendly ones. So keeping things as normal as possible is important for SA work. That’s part of why SA is ideally suited for virtual training.
Dog trainers are considered “salient stimuli” – meaning that dogs not exhibit any of the behaviors we’re hired to address when we are present. Plus, our presence means all kinds of awesome, fun things are about to happen. Many of my clients refer to me as “the treat guy” because their dogs are so excited to see me, the human slot machine.
All of this is referred to as the “trainer effect. This is when dogs become so focused on our every move they are not able to fully process the other things going on in their home (such as the owner leaving). Therefore, SA training works best when you remove the trainer from the physical equation.
Benefits of Virtual Training
The good news is there are many benefits to being able to help dogs virtually – for clients and dogs. I can help people all over the world, which is important because there are only a few hundred qualified SA trainers. You just need a wifi connection and a laptop or other device. You don’t need to pick up your home to get ready for company, and you can even show up in your pajamas.
We want your dog to feel like everything is normal, and nothing unusual is happening. We actually want your dog to lose interest in your comings and goings. Letting a CSAT help virtually makes the process and training MUCH easier!
Bob Ryder, CSAT, PMCT-4, CPDT-KA