Our pup Max has separation anxiety also. After reading your post we had thought it was severe but seems you have a totally different situation. I'll save all the details but from our experience and maybe you can relate, once the dog hates the crate it's going to be the hardest thing for him to get used to again. We brought Max home in a 6 hour car ride in a crate and ever since we let him sleep on our bed with us at night the 2nd day we brought him home (he no longer does this) he has never willingly gone into the crate to sleep again. The biggest issue we have with him is drooling excessively, destroying everything we put in the crate while he's in there, and following ME around the house in every room. Within the past couple of weeks he has not made any fight or noise going into the crate, knowing that we're leaving, locking the front door, etc,. I thnk his attitude went from "freaked out im never gonna see you again panic attack" to "great locking me up again ok hurry back i'll be here you mf's"
I am DEFINITELY NOT AN EXPERT, but for many months I did so much research online, in books, through trainers, through fellow separation anxiety dog owners, etc. We even thought of returning our pup to my parents but the number one reason why dogs get returned to where they came from is because of separation anxiety. We did not want to further damage Max nor give up a huge part of our life...and become a statistic! ....or show my parents that I'm not mature enough for a dog XD
Don't know if you ever read this article but it is a decent method, we kinda gave up on it when we bought a larger, travel kennel that he can't break out of (that was one of the bigger problems we had with a wire crate) and thought to hell with crate training as long as he wasn't hurting himself/destroying our apartment.
(We dont crate him at night. We only crate him when we go to work or out where we can't bring him. He does not sleep next to us but in a corner of the room on his dog bed and still has us in sight.)
Another extremely helpful site is my local shelter's website. They have a plethora of information on behavorial problems that may be contributing to his SA.
The most important thing is to figure out or at least, make a list of what you think triggers/contributes/factors into the seperation anxiety. ie lack of proper exercise, not enough mental simulation, constant affection, lack of proper obedience training or any kind of training, learning from your other pets etc etc etc. Absolutely anything you think and start the process of elimination...
Other things you can try while searching for a trainer that i have tried that i feel works for me but may or may not for you...
- practice going out the front door (or whatever entrance/exit). I understand he's not alone alot but he needs to start realizing there will be times when he will be alone. Is there a routine you/your husband do when getting ready to leave? ie doing your hair, bringing out your purse, putting on shoes, etc. idk about my husband, but my pup knows when im going to work when i put on my uniform and boots. Start pretending you're going out by doing whatever it is you do to going out, walk out the front door, then come back right in. INcrease the time slowly but surely, random times of the day, and not doing all parts of the routine/different things. Max gets set off by the sound of the keys. You have to do EVERYTHING as you usally would when going out, lockingthe door and all.
- there are variations of the whole teaching to be alone game for a few seconds and increasing the time, like the one lauren talked about. try different parts of your house, like the back door or bathroom, etc, not necessarily getting ready to leave.
- Set boundaries around the house., including the other animals (it has to be a two way street, but knowing cats...try your best!) Do you give him free rein around the place? I tried banning him from under our dining table, the bathroom, our bed, the couch. He did very well as far as the boundaries go but would still stare to make sure I wasn't going anywhere. This taught him that he doesn't need to be NEXT to us all the time and learned about distance. I have become extremely lax and lazy with this as of late and now he's all over the place (he as at my feet under the table as i am typing this) so I'm going to have to start reinforcing before this evolves to a more difficult stage.
- How strict are you with him/how much obedience training has he had? Obviously a dog that doesn;t receive any training is going to be more unruly and that's not your fault; he was in a shelter and most shelter dogs receive little to no training. It's never too late to start or change, shelter dogs take a lot more work to learn new things but with patience, persistence, and ONLY positive reinforcement will it prevail. I guess strict isn't the right word; be firm but not angry. I don't know you personally so I'm not going to generalize all women, but typically from what i've seen from other women and controlling/disciplining their dog is that their tone of voice is the same or similar to rewarding/encouraging a certain behavior: light, friendly, high pitched. How is your dog knowing he's doing something wrong if you go "nooooo" in a girly voice?
You can google how to teach your dog to bark and be quiet on command if you're having problems with the barking still.
- How does he get along with the other pets, besides wanting to mess around with the smaller ones? This is just more curiousity because I personally wouldn't know much about other dogs/pets in the house and if that can affect him in anyway.
- As far the going in and out the door like he owns the place, sounds like it could be a pack order problem. You have to enforce and demonstrate that the humans are in charge, not he is. Start teaching him to sit for the door to be open, and to wait until YOU walk out first and YOU allow him to go through. My biggest pet peeve with dogs in the house is a dog that charges through a door freely so I can only imagine how you feel :/ Our 2 boxers at my parents home have this problem and its EXTREMELY annoying having an 85lb and 55lb dog push you over like that. You control the environment, so set the boundaries, rules and limits.
- Trick training provides the mental stimulation a dog needs, making them work for a reward and pleasing their owner. This mental simulation tires them out, something Cooper might have, too much pent up energy. treat training sessions as a good game that you want to leave on a good note ie just stop after 5 min intervals, leaving him to expect more.
- going along with mental simulation, take him on long walks, let him run around a closed off park or safe area, teach a dog sport, anything to burn off pent up energy
- Going along with trianing, teach him its not ok to whine/bark/etc to get your attention. If he does this to let you know he has to go outside or something, try the ring a bell to open the door method or something else to teach him. From a very early age we taught Max to sit if he wants anything, including attention.
....I HAVE AN EXTREMELY BAD HABIT OF WRITING EXTREMELY LONG POSTS AND I APOLOGIZE FOR THE LONGNESS.
But with anyone struggling with SA, I can relate and it's just stressful for both owner and dog. I may come back with more suggestions!
Let me know if you need any clarifications