You’ve probably seen the diagram of what people expect training to look like. Always onwards and upwards. But this is not how things actually go. The path will have ups and downs. This is perfectly normal, as learning is not linear. Reaching a goal does not require one gain after another. It is more likely that you will experience some training setbacks along the way.
The same is true with separation training. Even when you proceed with care and base your plan around what your dog is showing they can do, there may still be setbacks in separation training.
Although a normal part of learning, there are specific situations that can cause an actual regression in separation training. Changes in routine, environment, having company or just taking a break can all put training into a downturn. It may feel like you have gone back to where you started and you’ll never get to a point where your dog is OK to be left on their own.
Learning Isn’t Linear
Along with the regular ups and downs of training, it is normal for at least one relapse in any separation training program. If your dog has experienced one of the situations mentioned above, then it is expected. Don’t let a setback make you give up hope.
Progress Will Be Easier the Next Time
Take a deep breath and go back to an easy exercise that your dog can comfortably manage. Don’t think of this as a setback. The good news is that you will most likely progress to where you were more quickly than the first time.
Track Your Progress
Keeping track of your sessions will show you that you have more good days than bad ones. I encourage clients to do this with any training. That way, when you are having a not-so-great day or even week, you can look back and see how far you’ve actually come.
Tracking your progress will also allow you to recognize occurrences or any potential patterns that may be influencing the training.
Set Up For Success
Even if you are not moving forward, every success puts more value into your training. And all the successes along the way will help your dog gain the confidence they need. It’s OK to work at a particular step so your dog (and you) feel really great. It’s not just about pushing forward. Focus on setting up each repetition so your dog will have success rather than trying to always move on to something harder.
How Much Are You Training?
And finally, consider how much you are training. Doing more frequent, but shorter sessions on any given day is usually helpful. And how many days a week are you training? Four to five times a week is great. Too much or too little can slow progress.
Separation Training Setbacks Are To Be Expected
I hope this has helped if you are feeling all is lost. Helping a dog with separation anxiety is no small feat. And a training setback makes the process even more challenging, for sure. But remember, it is a normal part of any training and learning. You will get through this. Honest.
Do you have a dog that doesn’t like being alone? Having an experienced, knowledgeable trainer guide the way will make the process easier and less stressful for you and your dog. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.