What clients have said about the Separation Distress Program
"At this point, we can’t imagine life without our year-and-a-half morkie, Lola. And, as much as we love her, she loves us. Unfortunately, like many morkies and “pandemic pups,” she loves us
perhaps a little too much. The isolation anxiety is real. She was always SUPER agitated whenever we would leave. We did our homework online and tried all sorts of training techniques or calming chews
or pheromones, but it wasn’t working. We were starting to resign ourselves to our fate when we decided to give Deb’s training a try, and we are so, so, SO glad we did. There’s hope. And Deb gave us
In just a few weeks, Lola went from openly anxious and jumping on the door as soon as it closed when we left to a few minutes where she could not care less. We’re still training, because we know it won’t happen over night, but now we know we’ll be able to leave Lola home alone, even if for a short time, some time soon.
Deb’s training was individualized, she knew what to look for, and pointed things out about Lola’s behaviors and our reactions that had never actively occurred to us. She explained what Lola was doing, what we were doing, and how our reactions would affect Lola—and then Deb would make adjustments to Lola’s training between every “mission.” And, finally, after all our failed attempts on our own, we saw real progress!
Even more importantly, it’s very clear she cares about us and Lola, not just her bottom line—she was training us on how to train Lola. She told us what we needed to know and do to help Lola improve. There was no hiding the “secret sauce”; she didn’t withhold information or dangle it like a carrot to make us sign up again. She used her network and resources to help improve Lola’s program, and it really showed. Helping Lola was always her priority. So thank you, Deb!!"
- Steven Kish and Alexis Wendl
"Deb is a miracle worker! For the first time in 2 years we can leave our little Gilly alone in our apartment without her creating a disturbance for our neighbors. While we are still building her tolerance, this is the first time we have seen any progress with Gilly and it has only been 9 weeks. After trying four different trainers and vet behaviorists that held themselves out as "trained" in separation anxiety (plus every other "solution" under the sun), I can tell you Deb is the real deal. She makes herself widely accessible through video and phone, so working with her in NYC from her home in Las Vegas was a breeze. We highly recommend Deb!" - Emily Several
"We adopted Wally, a Dachshund/Chihuahua mix, from a shelter here in Las Vegas in June of 2015. He was about one year old, and recently rescued from a kill shelter in California. Wally had obviously gone through a very unsettled first year of his life. There was no evidence of obedience training, he was aggressive toward other dogs...and we soon found out that when left home alone, he went into a panic. He was barking, howling, fighting to get out of his crate, and it didn't stop until we returned. Wally had separation anxiety.
He was our first dog, so we did not even know what SA was. But after doing some research, it became clear to us that we needed some professional guidance to get Wally well. So we started working with Deb Manheim in August of 2015, and learned that an unwavering level of commitment is required by an owner/trainer in getting a dog past its SA demons. Deb also told us that in order to succeed, it is vital to understand a dogs body language. A dog is always telling you something, you just need to know what to look for in order to "hear" it.
There is a real dichotomy at the beginning of the SA training process. As the dogs trainer you are committed to never leaving it alone...essentially giving it 24/7 support. But at the same time, in your initial training sessions, success is measured in mere seconds. It can be as simple as touching a door knob for 2 seconds, or leaving the dog alone for 1 second. And it is difficult to comprehend at that point in the process, but all of those tiny steps are critical building blocks toward the ultimate goal of a dog being comfortable in its own skin when left alone for extended periods of time.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao Tzu
So through repetition in the de-sensitization training, we learned that those departure durations measured in seconds could eventually become measured in minutes, and with a lot of work minutes can become hours. But we also learned that minutes can become seconds again - progress in this effort does not follow a straight line. In fact, Wally regressed several times during his first 5 months. Yet despite this there was an overall positive trend, so we remained upbeat, taking what he was giving us and building from it.
We did our best to always position Wally for success. If he was having a bad day, then we would shorten our planned departure time to ensure that the "mission" would be a success. We would give him as many warmups (shorter pre-departures) as he needed to be sure he was comfortable before we actually left for the true mission duration. And when he reached a duration plateau that he just could not get past, we decided to help him along with anti-anxiety medication. The goal here was not to keep him medicated for life, but to use the drug as a tool during his training. It allowed him to get past the plateau, and allowed us to continue his positive progress. Ultimately, when we feel he is ready, we will begin a very gradual process of weaning him off the meds. We will observe him closely during that time, paying attention to his comfort level when left alone, and making our treatment decisions based on that.
So...it is now 8 months later, and Wally has made tremendous strides in his "independence training". We routinely leave him home alone for 2-3 hours at a time and he tolerates it well. Most of the time he is partially or fully awake, and calmly waiting for us to return. But there are other times when he actually falls asleep! In all cases he remains under control and not in any type of distress or panic mode. And when we finally return home, he greets us happily but still remains under control.
This has not been an easy process, and we still have a ways to go in terms of duration (the goal is 4-5 hours). But we can confidently say 8 months later that the training works! Deb's expertise has been vital during this journey. We worked directly with her for the first two months of training, and through the use of off the shelf video technology (webcams, etc.) she was able to join us in our home...observing Wally in the home environment and getting a true picture of his situation. She made several suggestions that were appropriate for Wally (ex: we added a see through gate at the main entrance/exit point, we also stopped crating Wally as the containment only heightened his anxiety, etc.) and all of them have helped him immensely. Since those first two months we have been on our own with her helpful guidance, and she has been a dedicated partner in the process. The training is not easy...in fact it is very hard...but with diligent commitment we have learned that it is very effective at getting an SA dog well. Wally is the better for it, and so are we." - Peter & Cindy Gormley