Suspending Absences During Separation Anxiety Training


Dog shaking hands

An important part of separation anxiety training is not leaving your dog home alone longer than he/she is comfortable. During the height of the Covid pandemic, suspending absences was simple – we were all staying home. As we returned back to normal work/school routines it became more challenging – but it is not insurmountable. During our work together, we will help you brainstorm ideas for suspending absences.

What does it mean to suspend absences?

Suspending absences means not leaving your dog alone longer we have determined they are comfortable. This means someone is always with your dog when you will be gone longer than your dog’s current” threshold.” (See more about threshold in this article.) We determine your dog’s threshold with an initial consultation, where I watch your dog virtually. During training we make sure to keep all absences below this threshold (which will increase over time).

What does “staying below threshold” mean?

One of the terms we use in separation anxiety training is “threshold.” ¬†Threshold means the level at which a dog can cope with a specific stimulus¬†(in this case, being left alone). For example, one dog’s threshold for being alone might be two minutes, after which the dog experiences stress. So during training we make sure never to leave your dog alone for longer than that two minutes (until we build up to more time).

But I have to go to work, and grocery shop, and all the things!

Of course you do – and our goal is to gradually increase the time your dog can be left alone. To achieve that goal, you do daily exercises we design to help make your dog become more comfortable with absences. We never want your dog to panic. We want to keep your dog below threshold. So when you do need to be away, we brainstorm ideas to make sure your dog is not left alone.

What are some options for suspending absences?

Here are a few ideas for coverage when you need to be away from home:

  • Use doggie daycare for all or part of a day.
  • Hire a pet sitter who will come and stay with your dog in your home.
  • Coordinate schedules with your partner or roommate(s).
  • Trade favors with a friend or neighbor to stay with your dog.
  • Responsible college or high school students who love dogs and want a quiet place to study are a great option.
  • Hire a dog walker who can take your dog out when you are gone.
  • If possible, bring your dog to work with you.

We look at each case individually, take into account your circumstances and what’s available, and help you come up with a plan to suspend absences.

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

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