When your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, it is completely normal to want to do everything you can, as quickly as possible, to help give them relief and try to help them. A quick internet search will turn up a wealth of recommendations for seemingly quick fixes like leaving the TV on, dressing up a mannequin in your clothes, using a compression shirt, calming chews, frozen food toys, not letting your dog sleep with you, not greeting your dog when you leave or come home and any other number of things that don’t work for dogs with true separation anxiety. It isn’t uncommon for these things to at best, not be effective and at worst, be downright harmful.
Quick fixes may be quick, but they are rarely a long-term solution.
As I’ve mentioned before, separation anxiety training is a slow and long process. Most of my clients are with me anywhere from 3 months to over a year, depending on the client, the dog, medication and many other factors. And practically all of my clients have come to me after having tried some of these “quick fixes” to no avail.
People become so desperate to help their dogs and to get some relief themselves that they seem to stop thinking rationally about some of these suggestions. Do we really think dressing up a mannequin in your clothes is going to fool your dog into thinking it is you? Dogs are smarter than that. And, if your dog is in your home, your home already smells like you. We don’t need to provide items of clothing for the dog to smell you.
Leaving the TV on to “keep your dog company” won’t trick him into believing he’s not alone. But, I will often recommend we leave the TV on as part of noise masking to help drown out or muddle outside noises that watchdog barkers might react to. This is especially important for those in apartment buildings since there’s often close, hallway noises that we cannot control. So the TV in this case isn’t directly helping the anxiety but it is an environmental change we can make to help set the dog up for success. Your neighbors will thank you too.
And let’s chat about food. I’m all in for using food in training, but separation anxiety is one case where food has no place in training. Probably the most common online suggestion is to just leave your dog with a frozen food toy and he won’t even know you’re gone! Food toys can offer a distraction but they don’t do anything to help anxiety. And many anxious dogs have “alone time anorexia” so providing a food toy does nothing and can actually turn the dog off to food and chews. I had a client a few years back that had been instructed by another trainer to provide a bully stick before departures. Well, eventually the bully stick became just another cue to the dog that the owner was leaving and the dog got turned off to bully sticks. (This dog graduated my training program and can now comfortably stay at home alone up to 5 hours.)
In my free guide, 5 Suggestions That Won’t Help Separation Anxiety (And Might Make It Worse)! I have compiled five of the most common suggestions found online that will not help your dog’s separation anxiety, and discuss how they could even make it worse. I also discuss how we can actually help give you and your dog some relief. Grab your copy now!
I also have my Separation Anxiety Training Foundations (SATF) course, so if you think your dog might have separation anxiety or are looking for some guidance on separation anxiety training, check out my self-paced, affordable course!
If your dog is struggling when left alone, reach out today and schedule your assessment. Recovery from separation anxiety is possible and I can help Separation anxiety training isn’t a quick fix but it is a simple, scientifically proven process and with proper training, this disorder can be resolved or greatly improved. I can help you and your dog’s quality of life, strengthening your relationship and bringing relief to both of you. Don’t you both deserve that?