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Separation anxiety, Can't stay calm in class settings


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Mini-novel.

 

Jude is almost 2 --he will be 22 months december second, and he is just starting his second set of classes. The first one was intro to flyball, this second one based on Susan Salo's jumping. I wanted to get him into obedience in september but it clashed with my school schedule, and the other class I found was over 2 hundred dollars for 6 classes I think. Something I just can't afford. I haven't been able to take him in any classes before because I just frankly couldn't afford it.

 

He has had bad separation anxiety. I've let him get away with too much I think. He's crate trained, and won't bark in the house anymore. As long as I keep a routine, he's ok, -- I get ready to leave, put on coat, tell him to go to bed, kiss him on the nose and say goodbye, he knows I'm leaving but will return. He barks in the car for like 1 minute when i leave but then just goes to sleep. He's made HUGE progress from the puppy who would bark for countless hours when I had to go to work. He's brave as all hell, would do anything, jump anything, try anything new, i've never encountered a more fearless dog in that aspect. But calming him down is a different story. He's very high-drive and high focus, and i'm having a hard time to be the main aspect of his focus. He gets very anxious.

 

Like in class multiple dogs could be working and if he is too, he's fine. But if I ask him to wait, let's say another dog is running, he just can't focus. He can be off-leash, ignoring all other dogs when he has a job. But when his job is to, lie down and stay quiet for even 10 seconds, it's over. His mind is all the way UP here (my hand is way over my head right now) and I'd just like him to take it down a notch or two. He gets very anxious, that whiny high pitch squealing/barking, and it's very hard to get eye contact with him, distractions only work for a minute or two, and I'd like to be able to listen and what the other dogs and learn at the same time, versus always working him. When I do get eye contacts or he's listening the minute I even shift the smallest bit of my focus he takes everything ALL the way back up. I understand that why should he focus on me if I'm not totally on him.

 

His crate is too big to bring to class, barely fits it my small car, and that with taking it apart. I found an article with steps called: Protocol for Desensitizing and Counterconditioning Using Gradual Departures, and I've been doing this, and trying to do these in other places. All baby steps of course. I'm thinking of "mat training" him. And using the protocols on the mat, to really make that a calm place, just like his kennel. And hopefully it'll turn into a tool I can bring to class to calm him down. He's already calmer during flyball, we just had a fun day with like 30 dogs there, and he was quiet waited his turn, and rarely strained to go, like he finally knew being patient pays off. I know he will eventually calm down at this new training area, but how can I help him achieve that better?

 

I've researching the hell out of this, but I think personal experiences and actual advice on little things I could do would be much more beneficial. He has so much potential, but I have so much left to learn. Problem is I can't find private classes (let alone afford it), and I feel like that would just be avoiding his behaviour and not helping cope, and I need to learn how to deal.

 

I have control unleashed ordered, and I think that may help. I was also looking at the book, Click to Calm by Emma Parsons, anyone have anything to say about that book?

 

Thanks, for anything you can give me. I'm trying to be a good dog mom, but I have so much left to learn, but I'm eager!!

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When we tried agility when Poke was about that age he had a very hard time settling down in class. We were in a class of 20 dogs (which I found out here is HUGE) and in hindsight much of his inability to relax had to do with the other folks amping up their dogs. Poke would get so frustrated at the high voices quick quick quick language and occasional yelling when the handler gets excited. Poke does not like people to have heightened emotions. He feels if you are not calm and cool and relaxed that person is out of control. ;)

 

This is something we are still working on and definitely gets better with time, and a quiet patience. The immediate remedy I used for class was to bring a tennis ball. Poke has always blocked out everything around him with a ball or Frisbee in sight. I would always work with him first on his patience with others, but as soon as he started to loose it out would come the ball. We would back off a small distance and I would put him in a down and we would roll the ball back and forth to each other.

 

The second thing we have done is a t-shirt. When Poke is over stimulated, say when our entire family was in from Colorado for the CU vs Nebraska game last Friday, he wears his shirt. Some how having that shirt tight and close to his body just takes the edge off the world. I imagine it is similar to t-touch and reminds me a lot of the response Temple Grandin describes with her "Squeeze machine."

 

I hope that helps a bit with what you are working on. I am not sure if it is the exact same issue, but possibly it could still help.

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When he does look at you (even the slightest glance to begin with) do you mark the behavior ('yes' or click or whatever) and reward him for it? I would do this regardless of where you are. Carry treats or whatever he sees as a reward and any time he looks at your face and gives you his attention let him know that's what you want and he did good.

 

Once we got into clicker training Meg really blossomed. She likes to know exactly what I want and the clicker lets me tell her. I also use 'yes' but I tend to be a bit slow and end up saying it too late and confuse us both. If I forget to use a marker altogether, she starts to get frustrated with me.:rolleyes: She's got me pretty well trained now though.

 

My Bear is 10 yrs old and has separation anxiety too (has since he was about 10 months old). It's improved over the years, but he can't ever be left alone. He has to have a person or Meg with him at all times. If he's alone outside, he will whine, bark, pace, and drool all over and it will go on for hours if no one is with him. In the house, he'll whine and pace, but will eventually settle down...of course inside he has the cat to keep him company so he's not totally alone.

 

Poke does not like people to have heightened emotions. He feels if you are not calm and cool and relaxed that person is out of control.

 

Meg is the same...I think that's a big part of why she doesn't really like our agility instructor (who tries to motivate dogs with a high pitched loud repetitive voice...works for her dogs and some others, but not Meg).

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Meg is the same...I think that's a big part of why she doesn't really like our agility instructor (who tries to motivate dogs with a high pitched loud repetitive voice...works for her dogs and some others, but not Meg).

 

Yeah, Jude tends to be the same. He's a very serious guy. I was marking everything eye contact, (or look away from the dog who was running, but I didn't bring the clicker. My fault, I only just got into clicker stuff and I still feel quite silly with it. Though, Jude is doing great. I have to seriously work on my timing. It's horrible!

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Watch Craig's List for crates, I see them all the time. Buy a collapsible wire crate that fits easily into your car -- Maybe your training center will even let you leave it there so you don't have to haul it back and forth. I think crates are a huge help with dogs like this. He needs to learn that he can go to his happy place between exercises. I hate group classes that involve everyone standing there with a dog at the end of a leash. It is so demotivating to dogs -- Or, in some cases, too stimulating. If they can go into their crate to rest between turns, they can give you their full attention when they are up and so much more can be accomplished.

 

Mat training is a good alternative, but I still prefer the barrier of a crate because the dog can totally relax.

 

Did you actually have a question about separation anxiety? Because it sounds like you guys are doing pretty well with that one. When I have to leave the dogs all day, I try to get the ya-yas out of them the a.m. and then leave them with frozen Kongs -- I figure by the time they finish those, they'll be ready for a good long nap! :P

 

I used to have dogs that tried to follow me out the door, then would whine, dig & bark at the door. Then I started the Kong routine and now they don't even look at me. It's more a case of, "So hey, when are you leaving?"

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