Book Review – Be Right Back!: How To Overcome Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety and Regain Your Freedom by Julie Naismith

First published, 2019

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I live in a multi-dog household. I’ve had dogs since I was really little – six months old when we picked up Rupert from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home – and I’ve had my dog Doobie for almost ten years. Although I have spent my life with dogs, I don’t pretend to be an expert. Luckily, my partner is training to be a canine behaviourist, so I have a bit of a leg-up when it comes to doggy problems. But I suspect one of the most troubling behaviours for most owners is separation anxiety.

It is heartbreaking when you hear a whining, barking, scratching sound from behind the front door, or come home to find the house trashed, the dog trembling; and there’s so much advice out there. Much of it, dreadful. Some of it, harmful. And everyone has an opinion. I’ll say it: often, it’s wrong.

As explained adroitly by Ms Naismith in this how-to guide to dealing with your dog’s separation anxiety, there is no need to use painful, damaging or uncomfortable collars and other equipment to frighten your dog into behaving better. Although shock collars and such do supply quick results, they will do physical and psychological harm an already petrified dog. If you have dogs, especially a dog with separation anxiety, you know you need to put in the work to see meaningful results and a happier dog.

I especially loved the explanation of the difference between attention-seeking and terror-barking. I’ve been told by drinking buddies to let my dog bark it out and I’m absolutely going to quote this in conversations in bars from now on:
“When your dog uses barking to get what he wants, letting him bark it out does work. The dog thinks, Hmm, this isn’t getting me anywhere. I guess I’ll give up.
“The barking that comes from their fear of being alone doesn’t die out. In fact, this kind of barking can spiral. Your dog isn’t barking with an end in mind. It might start out as, “Hey, where did you go? Come back!” but as long as the fear remains, the barking will continue. Anxious dogs don’t think clearly. The longer you leave the dog who has separation anxiety, the more fearful he will become and the longer he will bark.”
Page 43, Chapter One, What Is Separation Anxiety?, Be Right Back! by Julie Naismith

This book teaches the reader, step by step, how to gradually expose your dog to short periods of alone time, at the dog’s pace, so that they learn to manage their emotions and not associate your leaving with the end of the world.

It is so refreshing to find a guide that’s written not for the expert, but for the standard dog-owner (me). There’s a lot of emphasis placed on the dog’s emotional well fare and a lot of honesty regarding how long it’ll take for the training to stick, and I think that’s very important.