Separation Anxiety: A View from Both Sides

Canine behavior specialists know that separation anxiety can be a challenging behavior problem to “fix” due to the level of owner compliance and commitment required, and because of the nature of the problem itself. I’ve worked with a large number of dogs with separation issues over the years, and have been able to help in the majority of cases. But never did I truly understand what owners are living with until I adopted Sierra.

Sierra, as some of you already know, came to us from the Lancaster shelter in southern California, an overcrowded shelter in the middle of the desert. Sierra (as we named her), a young husky mix, had been brought in as a stray; this was her fourth time being impounded. Once we brought her home it quickly became apparent why she’d been in the shelter so often—she had an unfortunate combination of severe separation distress and Houdini-like escape skills. I spent the next six months working on the separation issue, and let me tell you, there is no teacher like personal experience. Sure, I had a list of techniques and ideas for my clients, and had always tried to be as supportive as possible. But the day-to-day challenges of living with a dog who has a separation issue was something else entirely. It gave me a whole new empathy for owners.

When the problem had first become apparent, my husband turned to me and said, “You know what this is, don’t you? It’s your next book.” Having enjoyed a brief respite from writing, I said something along the lines of, “Hah!” and dismissed the idea. But the more deeply I delved into working with Sierra’s issues, and the more creative I had to be, the more strongly I felt that owners would benefit from more in-depth help than what was currently available in print. And so I finally wrote, “Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety.” If you’d like to view the Table of Contents, full Introduction, and lovely testimonials from Dr. Ian Dunbar and Suzanne Clothier, go to

By the way, that’s Sierra on the cover. I was lucky enough to capture that shot of her looking out the window. I love the longing expression in her eyes, although it’s almost painful to see. But hey, going from four-time shelter dog to cover girl, not bad! I sincerely hope the book will be helpful to dog owners and trainers alike, as it’s an issue that’s close to my heart. Oh, and the book is now available for pre-order, with books expected to arrive at Phantom Publishing late next week! Hope you’ll enjoy it and find it useful.

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