One of the most popular questions that we get is “when can I get rid of warm-ups?” My answer is “when you hit 30 minutes in your missions.”
Now, there is a caveat. As you work through this protocol, you may reach the point of 10min and then you’re going to really pare down the warm-ups so that your missions aren’t an hour long or two hours long. You’ll hit 15min and 20min and do the same thing. As you build up the final duration, your warm-up steps will decrease in number. I’ve added a couple mission examples in the next lesson so that you can see what that might look like and make the appropriate adjustments.
When you have reached 30min comfortably, that’s when we start to really wean off the warm-ups, but they’re not going to disappear completely, because cold-trials can be very jarring for dogs with anxiety about being left alone. We will keep some warm-up steps even up to the 3-4 hour mark and then we’ll get rid of them altogether.
Why do we even need these warm-up steps? They matter to your dog. When you leave for a split second and your dog doesn’t care, that was a practice run and it was easy and successful. That puts money in your dog’s bank, so to speak. They didn’t practice the stress/anxiety. When we leave for longer than they can handle, it’s a withdrawal from their bank account and a hefty one at that! We have to make sure there’s enough in that account to prevent them from going into overdraft!
They get into the game – “Oh s/he’s leaving again. Whatever. I’ll go rest and I don’t care what they’re doing, coming and going.” That’s what we want going through your dog’s head until they eventually don’t care at all when you leave with fewer or no warm-ups. Everything is gradual and working on home-alone issues proves that very well.
Click “NEXT LESSON” to look at some examples of later missions.