Help with Severe Separation Anxiety!
Hi! I just adopted my first dog and he is a 10 mos.-1 year old shepherd mix. He is such a sweetheart around anybody, but his separation anxiety is out of control, and I've had him for 4 weeks now. Since I've got him my family and I practiced slowly increasing increments of leaving him by himself. We would give him a kong and other chew toys, not make a big deal leaving and coming home, and only greeting him when he calms down. This method worked until we got him up to 4 hours by himself once.
After 2 weeks I had to go back to school and he was left for 4-5 hours by himself 4 days a week and he started freaking out and destroying the house. The destruction got worse, so by the third day we put him in a metal crate with a kong and bone. He broke out and the destruction got worse!
After this episode I tried associating the crate with treats: feeding him in there, sitting next to him, keeping the door open with his kong; basically trying to make the crate a happy place. However, leaving him for a minute, in the crate or outside, makes him start to cry and bark. Today he was left by himself for an hour and the crate was zip tied shut, the tv was on, he was given a kong and chew toy, and we put a one of our socks with him. When we came back the bottom of the crate was pushed out, he peed on the floor (he's housebroken), and he shook the crate so much that he moved it next to the couch and chewed the side off! This was also staying with him 15 minutes before we left while he was in the crate and content.
We are at our wits end and I feel horrible all the time, worrying about my pup and feeling upset over how bad his panic attacks are. Is the anxiety worsened by him being a a rescue dog that moved from shelter to shelter ( I don't know if he even had a home)? Moreover, we can't even leave him at doggy daycare because of his nervous aggression against other dogs and financial reasons. We also recently enrolled him in obedience classes (we train him 15-30 min. day as well, walk him twice a day, and play fetch frequently) to try and increase his confidence. Additionally, he follows everyone around the house constantly, no matter how tired he is; he just can't control his anxiety and it saddens me. I won't give up on him, I just need some good advice on how to stop his separation anxiety.
Sorry for the long post. Thanks all!
I have an exceptional case that took three years to crate break. He must be kenneled in a welded aluminum kennel with a keyed lock or he WILL find a way out in his hysteria. No reconditioning program, medication, exercise and training regimen, or other tricks worked. Just time and a lot of me getting used to coming home and finding stuff destroyed.
I wish I had good news for you, I do. There are plenty of folks on this board who have had successfully reconditioned SA dogs. I'm not one of them. They might be able to recommend books or methods that did work for them, though! Good luck!
Ralphie had a bad case of SA when I got him; he "redecorated" for us by ripping down all the blinds and curtains off any window he could, clawed to bits my window sills, and scratched the heck out of the doors. The vet put him on Clomicalm and I supplemented that with over-the-counter Anxitane in addition to the reconditioning training that comes along with both meds. After 3 weeks he was roaming the house while we were at work without destroying anything or having any accidents, 5 weeks he stopped panicking/being anxious before we'd leave (he would pant like he just ran a marathon and pace around the house) and at 6 weeks I stopped the meds completely. I haven't had an issue with SA since. My thoughts are, since he was a rescue, he just really didn't know that our home was his permanent home and that every time we leave, we DO come back. Maybe your dog just needs more time to adjust to his new routine? How long have you had him?
Also wanted to add - we didn't do crating with him; we would confine him to our spare bedroom. It got to the point that I would have to trick him to go into the room and that was making the SA worse but maybe your boy is associating the crate with being alone? Maybe try leaving him out of the crate, grab your keys, jacket, etc. like you're leaving, lock the door behind you and just stay outside for like 15 minutes then go back in. Or get your stuff ready like you're going to leave, but then go and sit on the couch and watch TV instead (these are part of the desensitization training that I did and they worked pretty well). Another thing to try is IGNORE him for 15 or 20 minutes before you know you're leaving. Say your "goodbyes" well before you actually leave the house.
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