The Details in the 5 Key S.A. Treatment Components

As I have stated earlier, I am basing my protocol work off of Malena DiMartini-Price’s book Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs.  Part of deciding how to proceed and what protocols to use are dependent upon what symptoms the dog is exhibiting.  Thinking back on when Mary Lou had what I considered ’bouts’ in the past, I can now see that they were in the ‘mild’ categories of s.a..  Now looking over the list, I realize that if I had caught this in the earlier stages, I might have been able to stave this off.

Here is the list of typical symptoms a dog may exhibit with isolation distress (in the mild cases) or separation anxiety (in the moderate to severe cases).  Dogs may have just one or all of the listed symptoms.  I have highlighted Mary Lou’s issues by color as they occurred and built up to what is today.  First is the yellow highlights, second is the blue and third is the green.

Assessing Separation Anxiety Severity

Over the next posts, I will be integrating all 5 of the key treatment components which Malena discusses in her book.  Below I discuss what elements I have chosen to use for each component and why.

  1. Medications and or Supplements.  We finally have Mary’s meds to a point where they seem to be working.  Currently she is on fluoxetine.  Figuring out the right dosage took a bit, but she is showing signs of being able to relax and enjoy simple things again like exploring the outside world.  Though it is January in Wisconsin and it just started to act like it, so her interest in the outside world has subsided.  As has mine!  I wanted to add that while I still thought Mary was in the minor category for s.a., I did try Rescue Remedy, Calm Shen, a few others I can’t remember the name of and a special Chinese herbal blend from our friend Dr. Sara Greenslit of Paw in Hand Holistic Veterinary Service and Northside Animal Hospital.  It all seemed to take a bit of the edge off, but not enough to make Mary Lou normal.
  2. Management.  Because of Mary’s past and all of the work I have done with her and stranger danger issues, I will not be utilizing an outside management.  There are many options that others may be able to take advantage of such as dog walkers, dog sitters, daycare, friends or neighbors.  For us, management will depend upon myself and super star partner.  One of us will be home with her or she comes for us for a ride in the car.
  3. Technology.  I have given all the suggestions that Malena refers to in her book that are available to me a try.  I have found my favorite to be iCam Pro.  Technically, she refers to iCam (non-pro version) which only allows you to view your dog live and records stills (single shot images) to view later.  iCam Pro on the other hand allows you to view your dog live and view recorded video images later.  So worth the $4.99 value!  Going through multiple still images with the click of a mouse as fast as you can to make your own video is not real fun.  The Treat & Train (formerly known as the Manners Minder) is another tool I will be utilizing.  I have owned it for several years now and never really put it to us.  There is a new product on the market called the Pet Tutor that I would love to utilize, but I will start with what I currently have available.
  4. Toys/Games/Equipment.  Kongs are the wonder interactive food dispenser and a staple in our house.  A couple other of Mary Lou’s personal favorites that I will be using include the Bobs-A-Lot and the Kong Wobbler.  For the equipment side, Mary Lou has always liked her crate.  She goes in it readily and on her own for naps.  With her crate set up in my work room, I have reinforced her for going in her crate on her own and practiced shutting the door for short periods of time while I am in the room with her with no problems.  After reading through Malena’s book for a second time, I decided to try giving Mary Lou the use of the whole room as a confinement area with her crate in it as an option.  In the past I had tried leaving her out of her crate while I was out and would come home to accidents.  Upon reading the book, I realized that these accidents could have been due to isolation distress.  A bonus to allowing her to have a whole room  for confinement will give me more options for interactive toys to utilize throughout the day, which she really enjoys.
  5. Training and Behavior Modification  In the book, Malena stresses that the treatment protocols she gives are not cookie cutter how to’s.  Dogs and their owners will both learn at their own rates and may have to make splits in the criteria as they go.  I will be going through each phase and step as they are in the book.  As I find that Mary Lou can skip a head or needs finer splits, I will let you all know.

Notes about following this blog.  I will be going through the phases of the book step by step.  In order to keep this blog as succinct as possible, I will be repeating as little info as necessary.  So if you have questions, they are probably answered in a previous post.   If you can’t find the answer, send me a comment and I will help you out.

To reiterate, I have more under my belt than the average dog owner.  I am a certified trainer, worked 5 years at a progress shelter, am currently enrolled in a rigorous dog trainer program with Jean Donaldson as my mentor and I own my own dog training and consulting business.  Most owners will need to seek out with a professional that is experienced in treating separation anxiety.  That does not make you or your dog a failure!  This is hard work and it is ok to ask for help.

Lastly, the reason I am sharing Mary Lou’s journey.  Rarely have I had the financial means to pay for help.  I am where I am today because of the generosity of others.  Sharing our story is my way of giving back and paying it forward.

paw in hand