Is tackling separation anxiety training one of your New Year’s resolutions? If so, kudos to you. Fixing separation anxiety takes patience and commitment. But it’s entirely doable.
This article explains how to make your training stick.
Meanwhile, sticking to any resolution can be tough, can't it? I previously shared an article that listed the experts’ top tips for making it through the year with having achieved your goals.
I've taken those ideas and turned them into separation anxiety training tips.
1. Think of it as a plan of action, not a resolution
Resolving your dog’s separation anxiety is a marathon rather than a sprint. Instead of setting your goal as “curing” your dog’s separation anxiety, start with something like “I want to be able to leave him long enough to do the groceries”.
By starting with meaningful, manageable goals, you’ll feel much more motivated when you achieve the steps on the way to the bigger goal.
A favourite of mine is to target how many training sessions you're going to do. You can't guarantee your dog will reach a duration goal by a target date. But you can say “I will train 5 times a week in January”.
2. Make training a habit
Experts agree: habits make new behaviours stick. If you turn separation anxiety training into a habit you'll make it happen.
But habits don’t form immediately.
You may have heard it takes around three weeks for a new behaviour to become a habit. Actually, there’s no evidence for the magic number of 21 days. In fact, research shows it takes longer – around 70 days or more.
This matters because we get impatient and expect new ways of doing things to become habits far quicker than we should.
If we expect something to start feeling easier after three weeks we can be disappointed. We need to give behaviour change at least two months before it gets truly sticky.
3. Use “cue and reward”
Cues and rewards help us develop habits. Having a cue will prompt your brain: “it’s time to do that thing”.
So your cue might be “do the training before we cook dinner”. You do the training every night at the same time, just before dinner and prepping dinner becomes the cue.
And your reward? Maybe a glass of wine or dessert with dinner. Okay, so those last two might conflict with other resolutions you have for the New Year, but hey, priorities!
4. Remove obstacles
If you remove obstacles then you’re more likely to do what you said. As The Guardian article outlined gym goers who lived closer to a gym were more likely to go than those who loved 2km farther away.
With separation anxiety training removing obstacles might mean buying a dedicated webcam you leave set up. Or always having your training plan printed out and handy.
5. Do it as early as you can
As the day wears on, more things get in the way of training. It might not make sense to do separation anxiety training first thing in the morning. But if you aim to train in the evening, why not do it before dinner, TV, or yoga or whatever else you have planned?
6. Track your training
By charting progress, you’ll see how far you’ve come even when you feel stuck. I'm passionate about data for dog separation anxiety training. My Separation Anxiety App™️ not only generates plans for you, it makes you track factors in your dog’s day, not just the training session.
It’s so motivating to see achievements plotted put in black and white.
7. Recognize your excuses
It’s easy to use the same reasons not to do something. There’s always something else we could do. But the experts tell us if we start to spot our pattern of excuse-making we can reduce the power of those excuses.
One thing we need to be especially careful of is what bestselling author Gretchen Rubin calls the “false choice loophole.” This is where we say we can either do one thing or another but not both.
You might say, “I can’t do separation anxiety training because I have to help the kids with homework.” You could do both. And you most likely know that.
8. Be kind to yourself
Self-criticism kills motivation. Our critical inner voice can easily crush our enthusiasm.
So what if you think you should have started separation anxiety training months ago? And who cares if you don’t do it as often as you should?
The fact is, it is on your list. You’re committed to doing something about it. And as you’d say to a friend in your position, you have to start somewhere.
Instead of being critical of what you haven’t done, be kind to yourself and recognize tackling separation anxiety is tough.
You deserve credit for even acknowledging your dog has separation anxiety. Many people don’t even do that.
9. Take the first step
Productivity guru Mel Robbins explains why we put things off and how we can kick the procrastination habits.
- Forgive yourself for everything you have and haven't done up to know.
- Imagine what the “future you” would do. For example, imagine the future you attack separation anxiety training. Being organized, on it and achieving results.
- Just get started. Don't think about the finish. Don't think about the effort required. Just take that first step. Do something.
Watch Mel Robbins give a 5-minute explanation of her method in this video.
If you want to take your first step before the first week of January is out, join my free 5 Day Challenge. We've got 1, 2, and especially 3 covered. The Challenge is free, it's fun and it'll get you on the right track for 2019.
Over to you
What are your separation anxiety goals for 2019? What will your first step be? Let us know!