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HELP!! Separation anxiety getting the best of us!


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Ok, right now I'm about ready to pull my hair out.... I'm sure other people have inquired about separation anxiety, but I didn't find exactly what I was looking for and I figure this is a unique case, as each and every one is.

I am in the process of trying to get Bella to have free-roam of the house while I am gone with my other dog, but we have so many failed attempts that I don't know where I should go from here and would like some friendly advice... (Please don't be too harsh... I didn't grow up with dogs and owning a dog is something relatively new to me within the past 4 or 5 years... and 2 out of the 3 dogs I've had in this time have been destructive). My last dog was crated; she hated it and I hated doing it, but we got her from a family giving her up and we had tried to have her roam, but she had been crated for so long that she panicked every time she was left out. She did not like the change.

Now in Bella's case, she was crated as a puppy just to avoid accidents and chewing around the house, but she also hated it and we got rid of it as she got older to give her more freedom. For a while, I had put up a gate in the hallway (which is only a small 8' of space or so.. she hated that too since it was pretty much the same thing) while no one was home. My house is set up with no doorways so it's difficult to put a gate anywhere else. I gradually tried expanding her area, but it was too much of a process and she ran away every time she knew we were leaving.

I then tried using a lightweight mesh muzzle that she can slightly open her mouth to eat or drink. This has been our best bet yet, though she still runs away when she sees it coming. I have given her restricted access to the house and she has been ok for the most part. I gradually want to wean her off of it, so I started putting her in one room without it and wanted to expand her area again, but she's being destructive again. In the past month or so, she has chewed the decorative knob on a kitchen chair off, opened my backpack (which was hung up and put away) to eat chocolate or food, ripped up a stack of papers, ripped off and chewed apart a plastic cat door as well as chewed the door to splinters, and shredded her bed to name a few. I was just gone for less than an hour and came back to find my kitchen destroyed. It's at the point now where I can't even put her in an empty room because she will find something to chew. I really would love to be able to give her the freedom, but it's very difficult when everything is getting chewed. She will have a bunch of good days in a row, then all of a sudden lose it and rip apart the house.

I'm hoping that someone has experience and success with a separation issue like this and can give tips. (It's not an exercise issue - she gets to run around and wrestle with my other dog for an hour and a half before I go to work, then they play more when I get home from work and they get walked. She also has a lot of toys out to choose from and those remain untouched while we are gone.)

 

Thanks in advance... and sorry for ranting so much. I think this is all the facts, but if I come across any more, I'll update. :huh:

 

 

**PS: I just bought a thundershirt for my other dog with anxiety over thunder and fireworks... anyone tried one for separation anxiety?

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I'm unclear based on your post if she really has separation anxiety or is just into tearing things up recreation-ally because shes alone. Does she bark, whine, pace or other wise act stressed when you are leaving? Or does she just get into stuff when you are not there?

 

If she really has separation anxiety, muzzling her is keeping her from chewing things up, but its not addressing the underlying problem. You need to treat the anxiety first.

 

If shes just being destructive, then really, a crate is your best friend.

 

Here is a useful link about causes and treatment, and I know others will chime in.

 

link

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Never leave a dog unattended with a muzzle on. The only way a dog has of cooling itself is by panting. If your dog gets hot and worked up she could die of overheating.

 

Put her in a crate or secure kennel with some interactive toys (kong, squirrel dude, tug-a-jug, everlasting treat ball, etc). It will save your sanity, relationship and possibly even her life. Crates are for the dog's safety so that they don't chew something like electric wires or toxic substances.

 

Read up on methods to reduce the effects of separation anxiety. http://www.dogstardaily.com/training/separation-anxiety

 

 

If she is so bad that she breaks teeth on her crate and hurts herself you need to seek professional help. http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/

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We had to wait until our aussie was almost 5 before we could leave him loose in the house without him chewing stuff. He has mild anxiety issues about being left by hubby but at this point its limited to acting anxious when hubby is getting ready to leave and once he goes, the dog settles down. Your dog is still pretty young and might not be mature enough at this point to be left loose without getting into stuff. My border collie was around 2 when I started leaving her loose in the house but she never chewed anything she wasn't supposed to.

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I think that if your dog likes the crate, go with it. Put them in there when you are gone (I am thinking about your last dog that liked the crate.) Add toys, treats, etc. Use a crate that is a size larger than recommended for the size of your dog. I also give a chew toy (Kong or similar) with a little squeeze cheese or PB on it EVERY time I put my dog in his crate. You could work on building up the time the dog stays quietly in their crate.

 

The previous replies have pointed you to good resources to help you figure out how to deal with your situation.

 

Also, when you are leaving, give her a nice treat (whether she is in a crate or if the future, if you leave her out). They are thinking "OK, get gone already, I want my treat!" Don't do something they don't like (muzzle) right before you leave.

 

Jovi

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My dog grew up having free run of the house and he had very nice manners when left home alone. However, while home alone a week while I was out of town in 2008, even though DH was there every night and a pet sitter came multiple times a day, he became very destructive 2 days before I returned home. He chewed my big, nice blinds in 2 rooms, chewed the windowsills and door frame, etc. It was terrible. I was sad that I had to start crating him again and he was so upset about it that he snapped most of his teeth off chewing inside the crate. Our regular vet started him on Clomicalm but recommended we see a veterinary behaviorist. The vet behaviorist met with us for several hours and upped his dose of Clomicalm to 50 mg twice a day. The first several weeks on the medication he has very dopey and lethargic but eventually he became his old self again. The Clomicalm took the edge off his anxiety at being separated from us and helped him cope. A positive side effect was that thunderstorms just didn't really disturb him anymore! I had regular phone consultations with the VB for a year.

 

Several years later, he still takes a 50 mg Clomicalm pill but only in the morning now. If I board him, he goes back to the full dose while he is at the kennel. I still have to crate him because I can't have that kind of damage to my home, but I know he is safe while I am gone. He has free run of the house at night while we are there.

 

One important thing that we learned at the VB was to quit making a big dramatic exit and entrance when leaving the dog or coming back home. The VB said it signalled to the dog that entrances and exits were traumatic or overly exciting events.

 

I suggest getting a referral for a veterinary behaviorist. It really helped me understand what was going on in my dog's mind. Good luck. This is a process that takes quite a while to fix, so enlist the best professional help that you can.

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By the sound of your post, it doesn't really sound like true separation anxiety. Just destructive behaviour because she's alone. I had a foster dog with SA (and possibly not quite all there upstairs) and she WILL eat through a wall to get out of confinement. She used to wake up in the night and start heavily panting and crying if she wasn't sure where I was. She wasn't quite right, but the sweetest dog none the less. Anyway, I don't have a lot of time to type, but why doesn't your dog like her crate? And why don't you like using it? And why did you stop using it? Just because a dog isn't a puppy anymore, doesn't mean they won't get into trouble! Riley is almost 2 and I have to still crate him any time he can't be watched. He gets into all kinds of trouble when he's bored, regardless of the fact that Daisy is out with him....

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Dogs are amazing and pick up on our emotions much more than I think we understand. If you are worried, anxious, nervous when leaving then your dog knows. If you are worried about putting her in the crate for whatever reason she will know that. She will understand 'why' she may just associate the crate with stress. I would teach her to like the crate. Put her in the crate while you are home, give her something enjoyable to do in the crate - a kong with something yummy, a meaty bone, a favorite toy. Gradually increase the amount of time she is in the crate and begin to do other things in the house or yard. When you put her in make it simple and matter of fact. Here you go I'll be back in a bit. Leave her in for 10 min then 15 go mow the lawn then let her out just as matter of factly, don't make a big deal of it. Do not let her out of the crate if she is 'demanding to be let out' make sure she is calm and quiet first for 5 minutes. This teaches them that it will not do her any good to make a fuss. If you let her out while she is making a fuss she learns that this behavior gets her what she wants and she will do it sooner and louder ect. Ignore the bad behavior and she will stop.

 

I think she will begin to realx and learn that being in the crate is no big deal and you will be back. Not all dogs are comportable being alone in the house. What you consider freedom sounds like it is stressful for her. While you may not like the idea of a crate most dogs I know do not mind being crated. I believe all dogs should be taught a crate is not a big deal. There may be times in their lives that a crate is necessary and at those times you will know that it is not adding extra stress.

 

Hope this is helpful. There is also a phermone spray that has a calming effect for many dogs called DAP. I use it for one of my dogs that worries about storms as well as using a thundershirt

 

Denice

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Hi everyone,

 

Thanks for your replies. A lot of you had some very good ideas, some of which I have tried, and I'll try to elaborate on what I've been working on.

 

First off, those of you who were concerned about the muzzle... she CAN open her mouth enough to pant, drink or eat -- it's just to stop her from opening her mouth wide enough to rip apart things like my door and furniture. She actually destroyed my kitchen twice since I had made the first posting less than a week ago. I only put that on her (even though I mentioned she doesn't like it), because it is the most tolerable for her out of my options -- gating her in a small area of my hallway, crating, muzzle or leaving her in my bedroom.

 

I do think it's separation anxiety (but again, I'm also not a doctor, etc. to diagnose this) because she panics when she is left home alone and she ONLY destroys the house when she is left alone - not when she has unsupervised free roam at night or while we are outside working on our yard or down the street. As long as she knows where we are, she is fine.

 

I brought up her crate again the other day to give it another try. She will go in it (as I have trained her as a puppy) when told to, but she panics when the door is shut. She does not eat any treats, bones, etc. in her crate for fear that the other dog or cats will take it away (she is VERY food/toy dominant and gets very tense when she senses another animal or human will take what she has regardless of where she is. Last fall, she gave my other dog a big enough gash for 6 stitches in his ear because he walked "too close" as she was chewing on a bone). For this reason I do not leave treats in her kennel because she becomes very aggressive with the other animals - she will bark, growl and shake the crate even when they are ~6-8 feet near her. I almost think she's worse in the crate because she's so stressed and she hates being in there.

 

I will continue to work on the crate, but I really don't see it as fair to her because she gets herself so worked up while in there. But, who knows, maybe time will prove me wrong!

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I would try to find a certified veterinarian behaviourist then. That way they can work with you on counter conditioning and if needed, prescribe meds.

 

Personally, I think the muzzle is the worst idea. They are not meant to be used in this manner.

 

Patricia McConnell has a great book called "I'll be home soon" that addresses separation anxiety. It's small, easy to read and cheap. I'd start with that. I'd also look at Jean Donaldson books "Mine" and "Fight" too if she's got guarding issues. If you're going to crate her, I would makes sure there are no other animals in the room that she's crated in, especially if she's a guarder. That's only going to make the whole stressful situation way worse.

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Agreed that she sounds like she has some issues that you could use help with including the resource guarding and destructive behavior. Muzzling her won't solve the underlying problem and muzzling her when you are not home really isn't a good idea.

 

Being upset to the point she has to destroy things to relieve tension isn't a good state of mind for her. The sooner you can help her, the better. Counter conditioning her to both remain relaxed when you leave and to not guard her things takes some skill and time, and like DaisyDuke suggests above, you really would benefit from the help of a vet behaviorist. Yes, it will cost some money but probably less than you are spending fixing things she is tearing up and having your other dog stitched up!

 

Do you need some help locating help?

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