Regressions in training, when your dog seems to fall apart and no longer is able to handle being left for anywhere near as long as it used to, flatten us. But everyone's training falters at some point.
Regressions are part and parcel of separation anxiety training.
No matter how logically we think about them. No matter how often we tell ourselves it will all be fine again, regressions take the wind out of your sails.
Regressions leave you frustrated. Disappointed. And they steal your optimism.
No one likes having to start over. With any task. And separation anxiety training is no different.
Regressions suck. And they happen to everyone
Setbacks are normal and to be expected
It’s almost unheard of for a dog to get over separation anxiety without a regression. And unless there has been a change in the dog’s world, it’s almost certain that he will get back to where he was.
You just need to drop back to a duration that your dog is comfortable with and build up from there.
Chances are your dog will get back to where he was, quicker than it took him the first time.
In the depths of a setback, you really think “That’s it. This is never going to work”. Everyone who has ever been through a regression thinks this too.
Though one good session doesn't make you think “Yes, we've cracked separation anxiety”, one bad session can make many of us want to throw in the towel.
Why regressions are so frustrating
You know you should go back a few steps and ask yourself “What can my dog do now”? But doing that feels unbearable.
Instead, you try the same duration again. Nothing doing.
So you rest for a day or two and try again. Same thing – pretty much a disaster.
It feels like a futile game of snakes and ladders. It’s as if you slid all the way down a slippery snake.
Starting over never feels good, even when we know it’s the right thing to do. Have you ever worked all day on a document only to find it didn’t save?
You want to cry, scream, or throw the computer out of the window. You know you could recreate the work in about a quarter of the time it originally took you.
But no way are you going over what you’ve already done!
So you decide to find a way to rescue the file. You spend hours googling, you try different hacks, and you do endless searches of your hard drive, convinced it must be there.
You don’t ever find it or recover it though. You have no choice but to recreate it.
And guess what happens? It takes you no time at all to do it over. Much less time, in fact, than it took you to search in vain for a fix.
Not back to square one
It’s not in our nature to be comfortable going back over old ground.
Remember though, with regressions it’s not really old ground. Every time you step out of the door successfully your dog is learning that being alone is safe.
Doesn’t matter whether you’re out for 5 seconds or 5 hours, your dog gets another data point that says you going out of the door doesn’t result in the end of the world.
So when your next regression does happen, try not to think about it as a setback. Think of it more as a diversion. You’ll get back on track but you might have to take the more scenic route for a little while.
Have you had setbacks in your training? How did you feel? Share in the comments!