SepAnx Glossary

Stuck on the lingo? Let’s get clear! 

Here are some terms that are typically used in the work we’re doing with our distressed dogs:

Assessment – A practice session where the dog is separated from the primary attachment figure or isolated and monitored in order to find their baseline. 

Baseline – the starting point for work. 

Desensitisation – a gradual experience to reduce the sensitivity to the stimulus. Also known as Systematic Desensitisation. 

Distress – signs may include: scratching at exit points, intensified vocalisations (whine/bark/howl), destruction, repetitive behaviours, increased grooming, urination / defecation, self-harm, escaping (or attempts), drooling, sweaty paws, vomiting, aggression. see “stress”

Flooding – a technique that involves exposing the patient/dog to their trigger at a level that is overwhelming with the idea that their panic will peak and then eventually lessen or disappear. (Remember the show Fear Factor? Not terribly effective in the treatment of fears, right?) Unfortunately, for dogs who are experiencing isolation distress, being left home alone for any period of time is the very same thing. Certainly not as entertaining as was that show!

Habituation – the technical term for “getting used to it” and unfortunately, when it comes to separation anxiety, many dogs don’t do this very well. Instead, they sensitise; they become more sensitive.

ID – short form for Isolation Distress.

Isolation Distress – a clinical panic disorder, when the dog is distressed when isolated but can be left with another person or pet without showing signs of distress.

Management the term used to describe not leaving your dog alone longer than they can handle. In the early days, this means…never, and utilising dog walkers, daycare, friends, family, neighbours, bringing your dog to work, working from home, etc… 

Mission – our term for a training session; generally 15-30min in length unless absences are longer.

PAF – short form form for Primary Attachment Figure.

PDQ – short form for pre-departure cue. “see pre-departure cue”

Pre-departure cue – anything performed by the human prior to, and leading up to an absence. That which predicts an absence. 

Primary attachment figure – the person with whom the dog has formed the strongest attachment. 

Rep – short form for Repetition

Repetition – one step in a mission

SepAnx – short form for Separation Anxiety.

Sensitisation a learning process through which repeated exposure to a stimulus results in the progressive amplification (increasing strength) of the reaction to the stimulus. 

Separation Anxiety – a clinical panic disorder, when the dog is distressed when separated from their primary attachment figure.

Stress – signs may include: Hyper-vigilance, shadowing, lip-licking, yawning, lowered head, trembling / shaking, lifted paw, lowered ears, walking slowly or freezing, panting, anorexia (food avoidance), mild or intermittent vocalisations (whine/bark/howl). see “distress”

Sub-threshold – the zone where we are training – below their threshold so that they are learning stress-free. see “threshold”

Systematic Desensitisation – a methodical, gradual experience to reduce the sensitivity to the stimulus. Also known as Desensitisation. 

Threshold – the point at which the dog moves from a relaxed state to a stressed or distressed state.