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I knew it would be hard work when I got a puppy over Labor Day weekend. But I work from home, so I figured it couldn’t be that hard. That said, I didn’t expect my dog to get so attached that he would howl, bark, cry, pace and pant anytime I left — even for 15 minutes. Dog separation anxiety is real.
I’m sure many pet parents (especially those with a Furbo or other smart pet camera) can relate to the worry and sadness I get leaving my dog alone. My anxiety worsens with each notification from my smart camera, letting me know he’s howling. People have told me to “let him cry it out,” but I live in an apartment building, so several neighbors have to “let him cry it out” as well. Not to mention, I took him to a dog daycare once, and he barked for a full four hours — we both needed some serious help.
I ran a few calming treats and supplements by my vet, but she recommended training to avoid putting him on medication. That’s when I came across Petco’s online Separation Anxiety Course.
Petco Separation Anxiety Course, 4 Weeks Online, $103.20 (Orig. $129)
The virtual group class takes place over Zoom one day a week for four weeks and focuses on teaching your dog to relax, calm themselves when stressed and develop healthy routines. I especially liked that I could do it at home because that’s where the problem most arises. So I signed up.
There were two other dogs in our virtual class, which made me feel a little better. We’re clearly not the only ones going through this issue. A study by Certapet found that 76% of dogs experience separation anxiety compared to the pre-pandemic estimated 14%.
In the first class, we learned about using a designated bed, blanket or mat for our dogs to go to when they need to feel calm — like a safe space. (If your dog is crate trained, it’s basically like that.) In the second class, the instructor introduced a program to try on our own time, where we practiced leaving our dogs for seconds to minutes at a time, even if it was just to walk across the room. In the third and fourth classes, we learned a few tricks to help our dogs practice control, like “leave it” and “stay.” But the magic really happened outside of class.
The Petco Separation Anxiety Course provides you with a calming routine and a training tracker to practice with your dog. Essentially, it gives you a guided program for leaving, so your dog can overcome separation anxiety triggers like putting on your shoes or walking to the door. This is the part that I think especially helped my dog, but I had to be consistent. Our instructor, Stefani, was great at guiding me through it, answering any questions and explaining my dog’s behavior a bit.
How did it go overall? I won’t lie to you and say that we cured his separation anxiety. Like any mental health issue, it takes time. However, after four weeks, he definitely improved. I could see through the Furbo that he stopped pacing as much when I left and instead laid down and relaxed by the door. He still cries and barks here and there, especially if he hears a noise in the hallway, but that’s better as well.
Another unexpected win was getting him to sleep in his bed throughout the night. Previously, I had a hard time getting him to sleep comfortably in a crate or even in a dog bed — he ended up in my bed instead every night. But not anymore!
If your dog has separation anxiety, it’s worth giving this course a try. It costs $129 for the four weeks, but Petco marked 20% off its dog training courses with code HOLIDAY20 through Dec. 25. Seriously, it’s worth it to help your pet feel more at ease — and help you feel better, too.
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