Misleading Separation Anxiety Super Bowl Commercial


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The Amazon.com Super Bowl commercial (see below) depicting what is presumably a dog adopted in the pandemic and the family spending all their time with the dog. Hearing “lockdown is over,” everyone heads to work or to school. The dog, left home alone, is sad and becomes destructive, presumably suffering from separation anxiety. In the commercial, the family tries to solve the problem with a device to toss treats when no one is home. Finally, they purchase a dog crate from Amazon, and introduce a new dog to the home.

In the TV commercial, that second dog provides companionship, and separation anxiety instantly vanishes.

HOWEVER, the commercial is misleading! Amazon or their ad agency clearly never sought expertise from a veterinary behaviorist, PhD behaviorist or certified animal behavior consultant (which is my designation) – as getting a second dog for a dog with separation anxiety only rarely makes any difference.

What appears to be true is that (for various reasons) is that separation anxiety in dogs has become even more common post-pandemic, and is sadly often an explanation for dogs relinquished to shelters or rescues.

Separation anxiety occurs from human family members departing so usually adding another pet isn’t helpful.

Real separation anxiety tips:

  1. Ensure the problem, which you believe is separation anxiety, is diagnosed by a veterinary professional, ideally using video of the dog when no one is home. Some dogs may urinate in the house or become destructive for other reasons and may not actually be anxious.
  2. Understand a dog with separation anxiety is suffering a panic attack.
  3. It is important to lessen anxiety using tools, including a psychopharmaceutical and/or the Calmer Canine. Most often dogs with separation anxiety also have other anxieties such as anxiety with car rides or thunderstorm anxiety.
  4. Behavior modification, which may include graduated departures and teaching the dog how to be independent. However, in nearly all instances, step number three is required first as a panicked animal can’t easily learn.
  5. Ensure the dog is receiving appropriate exercise (both physical and mental exercise).

Absolutely, at some point two dogs may be better than one but getting a second dog is not a quick fix. In fact, that second dog may pick up on the panic that the original dog feels – so now there are two dogs with separation anxiety.

Here’s a segment I did for Good Morning America on separation anxiety.

This is the Super Bowl ad: