When searching for tips and tools to address separation anxiety, pet parents are bombarded with false and even harmful suggestions. While it’s important to discuss what helps separation anxiety, it’s just as important to dispel myths too. Here are the top separation anxiety myths and why they don’t work.
Confinement Must Happen
Most dogs, that suffer from separation anxiety, dislike being confined in crates. Some dogs have broken out, destroyed or hurt themselves in the process. Determined to keep their dog safe, some pet owners have resorted to “Alcatraz” crates that are escape proof. While this tool may keep your home intact for now, it will dramatically increase your dog’s panic disorder and ultimately injure seriously injure herself. Instead of adding bungee cords, wrapping a crate with chains, or placing cinder blocks around your dog’s crate – reach out for help from a Certified Separation Anxiety Instructor (CSAT). Do know, your dog can be taught to safely remain loose in your home.
Add A Friend
For decades, many pet professionals and veterinarians have suggested adding a friend to keep your dog from panicking when left alone. Adding another dog will not fix this issue. Instead, your newly adopted dog will learn that something bad happens when you leave your home. He’s watching your dog panic, so quickly learns that horrible things happen when you leave them alone. Now, you have two dogs with separation anxiety.
When In Doubt, Punish
Punishment never works. Separation anxiety is a panic disorder, that means your dog is unable to control her behavior. Adding punishment will only make the problem much worse. Never physically or verbally correct your dog when she’s panicking. Additionally, using any type of shock collar, as a last resort, is inhumane.
Give Your Dog A Treat Before Leaving
Right before walking out the door, many dog trainers suggest giving your dog a food stuffed Kong or high value treat. This will likely surprise you, but this will not change your dog’s separation anxiety behavior. Some dogs may enjoy the treat and then panic once the Kong is emptied. Some dogs will ignore the treat and panic, and then learn that high value treats mean you’re leaving. That’s right, all those yummy goodies become just as scary as reaching for your car keys, putting on shoes or setting your home alarm. Don’t get me wrong, yummy treats certainly can change fearful behavior but not separation anxiety.
You Caused This
Kicking your dog off your bed will make her anxiety much worse. Research has shown that spoiling, letting your dog sleep in your bed, hugs, kisses and access to laying on furniture will not cause separation anxiety in dogs. Separation anxiety is a panic disorder, pet owners did not cause it. Yes, pet owners, you may want to read that last sentence again- you did not cause your dog’s separation anxiety.
What Does Work
Following a systematic desensitization program, created by a Certified Separation Anxiety Instructor, will change your dog’s separation anxiety behavior. We focus on teaching your dog how to self settle when left alone, which is accomplished by exposing your dog to her fear in teeny tiny increments that she can handle. At times, we may partner with your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorists for medications. It’s important to explain that medications are extremely beneficial to prevent your dog from panicking so she’s able to learn how to calm herself.
If you’re ready for relief, we can help you. Please schedule a 30 minute phone consultation to discuss your dog’s needs, behaviors, our protocol and answer your questions.