Did you know more than ten million dogs living in the UK are struggling to cope when left home alone?
Dog trainer Jo Sellers, who runs Pippin Pets, is on a mission to change this with the first Dog Separation Anxiety Awareness Day taking place September 30th.
Her aim is to educate pet parents so they can see the signs their dog might be struggling so they can get help, meaning life is less stressful for them and their owners.
Animal welfare charity RSPCA says eight out of ten dogs experience stress when home alone, meaning 10.8 million of the nation’s 13.5 million dogs are affected.
Many have panic attacks when their owners go out and often pet parents don’t even know that their beloved dog is suffering.
Jo was inspired to study to be a Separation Anxiety specialist after her own dog Reba suffered with the condition and shares her story and her hopes for the day.
Hi Jo, can you tell me a little about you?
I’m Jo and I run Pippin Pets Dog Training in Surrey. Before I became a dog trainer I had a few other jobs, including being a firefighter and working in Human Resources.
I always liked animals but never even considered training but gradually over the years, the seed was planted and Pippin Pets has been running for seven years.
How did you find yourself specialising in Separation Anxiety?
Reba was my first puppy – I couldn’t have a dog before in my old jobs – and she arrived right at the start of my business.
I was doing more dog walking whilst I was studying to be a trainer because in an unregulated world, I wanted to do it right.
Reba was really distressed in her crate, never slept at night wherever she was, and if I left her side it was so upsetting for both of us.
I was at my wit’s end and I’d never heard of Separation Anxiety.
The old advice was to, ‘Let her cry it out, leave her anyway, shut the crate,’ which was heartbreaking for me and made her so much worse.
Eventually I found the most humane, and effective, method of slow exposure, and my mentor, Julie Naismith, asked me to join her in being one of her specialists.
I’m now a Certified SA Pro Trainer and love helping other owners and I think it helps having had the experience myself.
What was it like as a trainer having Reba experience Separation Anxiety?
Awful. I didn’t have a clue. I could teach a sit and recall, but that didn’t make me an expert in all the facets of dog behaviour and emotions!
I can totally relate to my clients as I have been there, and got the videos.
I’ve walked that long journey to recovery and can empathise with the challenges of having a dog you cannot leave home alone.
Tell me about Dog Separation Anxiety Day and what people can expect?
I launched it to spread the word that most dogs don’t like being home alone, and often, as owners are out, they just don’t know what is going on.
They may think the dog has been naughty by damaging something but the dog was either totally bored or really distressed.
On the day, I’ll be sharing lots of graphics for others to circulate on social media with the hashtag #dogseparationanxietyday,
I’ll be doing some Q&A on Facebook, and Pet Remedy, who make products for anxious dogs, are partnering with a great giveaway.
What would you love to happen as a result of the day?
I’d love all dog owners to set up a camera or use Zoom on their laptop and watch their dogs so they can see if help is needed.
Do they see a sleeping dog, or is the dog agitated, barking, scratching at doors and really unsettled?
Learning the subtle signs of stress is the key so we can return to our dogs before the full panic sets in.
The more owners are aware that dogs commonly have this phobia, the more dogs can be helped and not be handed to a rescue because of noise and destruction in the home.
How can people get involved?
There’s a special page on my website with information on the day and graphics people can grab and share with the hashtag #dogseparationanxietyday.
They can post a photo of their dog, share how they are when home alone, any tips or products they use to help them, and support other people who might be struggling.
If your dog doesn’t struggle, simply showing solidarity and sharing the day is happening would mean so much.
I’ve got a guide on my website with everything you need to know about the condition if you’re concerned, or if you know anyone it might help you can share with them.
You can download it on this link https://www.pippinpetsdogtraining.co.uk/dog-separation-anxiety-awareness-day/
What’s your advice for owners who might be concerned about their dog?
You’re not alone, and help is there, but as with anything on the internet, there are a lot of mixed messages.
The method that works and sticks for the dogs that really cannot cope, is the one offered by Certified SA Pro Trainers.
We go at your dog’s pace, and your dog feels safe and support you online or face to face.
I offer 1-2-1 packages, and also run group courses too so there are lots of options and millions of dogs who struggled home alone are now happy and content in their own company.
Find out more about Jo on her website https://www.pippinpetsdogtraining.co.uk/separation-anxiety/ or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
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If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read Expert advice on anxious dogs with Helen Motteram