Holistic Healing & Integrative Training
Do you take a pain killer if you have a headache? And if so, what is its effect? We know its desired effect is to take the pain away but surely that is just a temporary relief. What happens when the pain killer wears off? Does the pain come back? How can we make the pain go away permanently if we only treat the symptom and not the cause?
There’s a saying about looking at the bigger picture and holism is very much about doing so. Holism does not merely address the pain, the illness, the behaviour, it addresses the root cause of the “ailment” and approaches this from a very different perspective to traditional methods.
As a simplistic example, in medicine, a traditional doctor is more likely to hand his patient a pain killer for that headache than seek the root cause, thus failing to address the underlying reason for the illness in the first place. A holistic doctor treats the cause and, by doing so, not only treats the illness but works towards preventing it from reoccurring. A holistic doctor will also talk in detail with the patient about their lifestyle, the food they eat, the stress they are under, even their personality type, so they can look at the minute details of that person’s life and build that big picture.
Why should this be any different to the child diagnosed with ADHD or the dog suffering from separation anxiety? Should we just address the symptoms? How does this in anyway avoid or prevent recurrence?
With dog behaviour issues, how much of the “behaviour modification” only addresses the symptoms? How much takes a deeper dive into the emotions behind the behaviour, what is causing the dog to react the way it does, what does its home environment look like, where does it sleep, what does it eat, what exercise does it receive, what can be done to support it emotionally to help put an end to the unwanted behaviour?
Should we take the easy road, whack on a prong collar and flood/confront the dog with its “fear” until it submits? Or should we find out why the fear exists and work towards addressing that (and supporting its emotional state)?
How long is a piece of string?
Yeah, I get it. You don't want to hear that but training a dog with separation anxiety to cope while home alone is not a straight line.
We are trying to fix an emotion, not a behaviour, and this means it does take time.
Would you expect to stop a dog with aggression towards other dogs or humans from acting out in a couple of training sessions? It can take many months before the dog is able to be around other dogs. In many cases, aggression is fear-based and fear is an emotion and emotions take time to modify. It's about creating a mindset shift.
When your dog exhibits panic when you walk out the door, this also is based in fear and we can't just wave a magic wand and wish it away.
In addition, remember that just like us, dogs have good days and bad days. You might achieve an absence of an hour one day and the next day only make it to 5 minutes. So many things can affect our mental state, and indeed our dogs. If they have had a fulfilling fun and enriched day they might rock your 2-hour goal, but if they had an incident at the dog park or a nasty experience at daycare or exposure to something scary, they may fall in a heap during training that day. So it's important to keep this is mind and this is why we always strive for consistency rather than extended duration. It's better to rush slowly then go too fast and fall flat on our faces!
So how long does it take to train a dog with SA? Well, it also depends on the dog!
Some dogs fly through training and others struggle and need additional help and support. Just like us, they are individuals and just like us, they deal with things differently.
The most important thing is to give them the time they need. Let them go at the pace they can cope with and not rush them too soon.
This is essentially the key to successful training.
When training a dog with separation anxiety to be comfortable being home alone, it's essential we use some sort of camera so we can watch the dog while we are on the other side of the door.
This is so we can see if our dog is going into a panic or not - the goal being to return before that happens during the desensitisation process.
But, we get it ... times are tough. And guess what? You don't actually have to spend a fortune on one to get the same effect.
There are a tonne of camera brands you can buy - some are high tech and some are low tech and they come in a range of prices too.
But if you budget doesn't stretch that far consider setting up a private Facebook live event on one device (inside your house) and join it on your mobile phone (while on the other side of the door) so you can see what's going on.
Alternatively, you could create a Zoom or Skype call and tap into it on both devices.
Don't let cost (or fear of price) let you stop finding solutions to training your dog. Where there's a will there's a way!