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Dealing With A Dog With Separation Anxiety

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#1
Overgron

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My husband and I rescued a 5 month old black lab mix last year at the local SPCA. We wanted a friend for our Jack Russell pup. We named him Cooper. We started to notice not too long after adopting him that he got really anxious whenever we put him in his crate at night. He'd start whining and barking. He's 1 1/2 now and it's really difficult with him. He started freaking out when my husband goes outside to do something. He barks nervously, it's easy to make him stop, we have somewhat of a control over him but when he's crated when we go to bed, he whines and 'screams' for a good 10 minutes before he stops. When we leave the house, he sees us leave and barks uncontrollably... 

 

We had a dog specialist come not too long ago to work on both our dogs. For the excessive barking, fear of strangers and trying to not be so obsessed with our cats and bunnies. We've seen some improvement but for Cooper's separation anxiety, she told us to let him sleep by our bedside. But that doesn't solve his problem does it? He still freaks out when we leave the house! Plus I think having him sleep with us is not doing him a favor because he's even MORE with us.

 

My husband and I are home a lot. I work 3 days a week and my husband works at home so both dogs are with my husband all the time. I know that's probably the reason for Cooper's separation anxiety but how do we fix it?! I don't want to hear him whine and bark constantly every time we go to bed and every time we leave the house! He whines first thing in the morning when we get up and until he's out. When he's out he sprints to the front door, you better get out of the way! When we come back to the house after being out, he barks like crazy until he's out. I'm sick of it!

 

Please help :( I've come to the point that I don't find him lovable and I'd rather find him another family :(

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#2
Prey Model Raw

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I would hire a different dog trainer and specialist in your area- one that will actually help you. SA is a complex issue and every case is a little different.....


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#3
Overgron

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Thanks :)

 

But does anyone have ideas to maybe help a little?



#4
lauren43

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My first thought is, does he have to be crated at night?

 

As for what you are describing, I would assume he follows your husband around the house all day long?  I that part needs to be weened first.  Perhaps close him in another room for about 1 sec, your husband should be ready with a treat.  Close the door then open it immediately, before he has a chance to whine or bark or really get nervous, and toss a small treat on the floor.  Rinse and repeat in every room in the house, in his crate, anywhere you can think of.  He needs to be reassured that when you go out of sight you will be coming back, and to top it off you come back with food!   Do not reward any noises, if he whines or barks (depending on the severity of his SA you could wait it out or just let him out and try again later if he gets too nervous).. You want to keep the separations super short at the beginning.  It should be very boring work on your end.  Then as he get more used to the game you could up it to 2 secs, then 5 secs, then 3 secs, then 2 secs, always varying the time not just going longer and longer.

 

Work with him and his crate.  Look up crate games (reward him for going in, give him chews that take a while to chew, reward for closing the door of the crate, reward reward reward)...

 

Unfortunately when you have to leave him in there every time you go anywhere this could set your training back.  Is there anywhere in the house he could be safely contained? Just while you are re-introing the crate...If not, make sure you have a stuffed Kong ready every time you leave, this way he can start associating you leaving with getting a delicious snack.


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#5
Overgron

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Both my dogs are crated at night so we don't have to worry what they'll get into. Cooper does a lot better sleeping beside our bed on his cushion. But we stopped that after we realized it doesn't solve the problem at all...

 

Cooper doesn't take treats when he's in his crate... He's too freaked out. And we've tried letting him loose in the basement while we're gone but he still freaks out when we leave, the crate is not the problem... :/



#6
lauren43

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If he is freaking out in the crate and not taking treats while in there, then I would say it is definitely part of the problem.  If he doesn't take treats in the crate, but takes treats elsewhere, he is extremely stressed in his crate.  I have to agree with Nat on this one.  Find another trainer, pref positive based and go from there.



#7
Overgron

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Alright... Thanks for the advice.



#8
Erica

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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.

 

http://www.aspca.org...-crate-training

 

(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.

http://www.placerspc...g/behavior2.htm

 

 

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 :)


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#9
bigjones4

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I'd hate to see you get rid of him over this. Everyone else has it pretty much covered. I'm currently fostering a dog who freaks out at the sight of a crate. What I did was cleaned up my bathroom so there wasn't anything she could get into and left her in there while I was gone with the TV on in the other room. I left her water toys and a blanket in there and didn't have any issues. Maybe you could keep the 2 of them like that in the bathroom so they can keep each other company?

#10
bigjones4

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Oh and exercise, exercise,exercise, exercise. Better chance of her not freaking out much if she's tired from a long walk or jog or playing fetch than if she's full of nerves and energy.
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#11
raw_in_malawi

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You have to change his association of the crate because right now it's causing him to panic. I suggest getting a new crate amd clicker training him to it. If you are new to clicker, you can find tons of gettinf started resources online. Click and treat him for looking at the crate, sniffing it, stepping toward it, etc. If he's too stressed to even look at it, click for being in the same room as the crate. Once he is more calm being around the crate, you could put something yummy near or on the crate and click him for moving towards it. As for going outside, other people have given good ideas. Another thing might be working on sit/stay so that he learns you moving away from him isn't distressing. Gradually work up to Moving farther away and then try it with him on One side of the threshold and you on the other, leaving the door open and working toward closing it. This will be a very long, probably frustrating process. My dog has had some fear issues that have taken months and months of work to overcome. If you don't think you can put in the work to make him functional and lovable, you aren't a bad owner. I also recommend the Facebook group Fearful Dogs, which is a really supportive amd knowledgeable community that can help. The founder, Debbie Jacobs also offers a 1 hour Skype consultation that helped me and my dog immensely.

#12
Erica

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We used to leave Max in the bathroom and that was a disaster EVERY time idk why it took us two weeks to realize we had to stop. He would poop and then play in it, open the bathroom door and escape, knock over his crate and drag it across the floor, tear up the peepee pads we put in there, open the cabinets, go in the shower and knock everything down and TURN ON THE SHOWER!!! And for some odd reason he had no dirt poop or anything, like he was trying to fool us. Idk if Cooper is destructive but he is I would highly advise leaving him in any room without some kind of restraint or boundary or something of that sort.



#13
Overgron

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Thanks for all the help. I've been sharing your replies with my husband :) We have a lot of work to do -_-

 

raw_in_malawi, I'll check out that facebook group :) Thanks.



#14
GoingPostal

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A couple of suggestions, since he is home with your hubby usually all day, use that time to train him to love the crate and spend some alone time.  Give him stuffed kongs, his dinner, throw in treats and have him go in after.  Currently I am training my younger two dogs to accept being in a basement kennel setup for the warmer summer months instead of being upstairs.  Every time I go downstairs to do laundry or clean out my mice, I bring a dog down there and put them in the kennel, door open, with a deer leg or favorite chew.  The only soft spot to lay and chew is a crate in that kennel.  I can leave for short periods and they will keep chewing away calmly.  But like the other day James put his dog down there, came upstairs with people over and Nero cried the whole time.  He's not used to being left with the door shut or while stuff is going on upstairs yet and he is fairly clingy and likes to sing about his unhappiness. 

 

Tire him out big time if possible before crating.  There's a little booklet on SA that's pretty cheap, I believe it's called I'll be Home Soon that has at home exercises and advice.  We've had Ripley for 3 years and she still carries on in her crate, when we get home or people come over if she's still crated she will bark and bark, she's not anxious about her crate just wants to be out with whatever is going on and makes sure to let us know.  Just bratty lol. 

 

I had a foster with real SA, she howled and barked (super highpitched of course) pretty much nonstop when crated or left, drooled buckets in the crate, tried to break out of it, would potty if you left her eyesight, my basement door is scratched to hell and the doorknob has teeth dents from her.  It was horrendous.  Your dog is not anywhere near that bad from what you've described, you can turn this around but it will take a lot of work and effort and a trainer involved and maybe medicating while you countercondition him to being alone.



#15
Overgron

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Thank you :)



#16
Sprocket

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Our weimaraner/Chocolate lab named Jody, has SA.  We found this out by her destroying a crate and then destroying the room she was in..  Our "dog room" has some gnarly scratches on the door frame now ;) 

 

Fortunately my husband is able to take her to work with him every day. She hangs out in the shop, goes in the service truck and runs around on gorgeous giant properties in wine country (LUCKY DOG).  When we HAVE to leave her home, we make sure she is crated next to her best buddy, Gunner.  She cannot be crated in the black wire type kennels.  We managed to keep her in a large plastic kennel for a while but she figured out how to get it open.  Now we are searching for a solid metal crate or an outdoor dog kennel on a concrete pad.  

 

We love her, but shes a bit of a head case when it comes to SA.  She often jumps our 4 foot fence when my husband spends too much time in the barnyard away from her.  She clears it easily without even touching it.  

 

If it comes down to my husband not being able to take her to work, we will just invest in the outdoor kennel to contain her and make sure she is always with Gunner.






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