At wit's end deal with kennel/separation anxiety - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-05-2011, 11:41 AM Thread Starter
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Unhappy At wit's end deal with kennel/separation anxiety

Hey everyone,

My husband and I adopted a 2yr old (approx) german shepard mix almost a year ago, and have been having separation anxiety issues ever since. I've spent hours on the internet and in books and talking with people, trying all of the most common techniques and solutions. Some of them help, but to a large degree, the issue remains. At this point I'm about ready to rip my hair out, because I want so badly to help her get past this, but both of us work full time and simply can't afford to work less, or pay for 5-days-a-week dog care, so it's just not feasible to work our way up to an 8 hour stretch at her pace/comfort level before Monday comes again, and I need to be to work. Right now some of my bigger questions are:

1.) How can I get her to use chew toys/rawhide/etc inside the kennel? (she goes in fine, but leaves any food/toys inside untouched. If we're home, she will only step in with her front paws, lean in, and "save" the toy or treat from the kennel to enjoy it outside. So far any attempts to correct just confuse her. She doesn't understand that entering is fine, treat is fine, removing treat from kennel not fine.) That could be a good outlet for some nervous energy or boredom instead of shredding any towel/rug/mat I try to put in the kennel for her comfort.

2.) How long should I wait before I let her out of the kennel? (Ideally, I only approach the kennel if she's silent and her tail isn't banging on the sides. When she sits or lies down and isn't panting nervously I'll open the door, and only when she appears relaxed will I let her step out. Lately though, even then she'll get a sudden burst of excitement once she's out, and any correction, however subtle, gets her more worked up. Frequently she'll run back into the kennel (even if I didn't tell her to), but she's whining and panicky again, so we have to start all over from square 1. If it's been a full work day, and I know she genuinely has to pee, or if we've been going at this for 15-20 minutes now, it's hard for me to tell if I'm pushing her beyond her mental limits, or if I simply haven't waited long enough.)

3.) What do I do about Mr. Husband, who arrives home before me most days, doesn't recognize the more subtle signs of anxiety/excitement, and doesn't place such a high importance on doing things "perfectly" or "the right way", like I do? I don't want to order him around, but after almost a year of this, it seems like Dakota is one of those cases where you can't just do 80% of it right/consistently and she'll catch on and meet you the rest of the way.

4.) Different, yet related: How can I build her confidence in handling new/different situations? For example, yesterday I decided to put Dakota on the tie-out in front while I cleaned my car 10 ft. away in the driveway. I had just finished running Dakota up and down the hill in the backyard until she could barely breathe, so I figured she'd be exhausted, and would enjoy being nearby while I did my own thing. But no. She whined and fussed and paced. I tried to ignore for a while, then I scolded, then finally just took her back in the house. What was the issue?! Is that even separation anxiety, or does she just not know what's happening and therefore what to do? All she had to do was lie down and catch her breath. Maybe even watch me or something, I don't care! But why the scene?

Looking for non-cliche or generalized advice, please!
~Rebecca

p.s. Because life wasn't crazy enough, we'll be moving in about a month. On the plus side, I'll be close enough to work to stop home on my lunch break, but No more than 30 minutes, and if she's not calm when I leave, I'm afraid of messing her up further...not to mention she'll probably relapse all over again anyway, simply by being alone somewhere new. *sigh* I need help.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-05-2011, 05:09 PM
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i'm sorry! When I adopted a 1 year old shepherd mix from the pound she had seperation issues too-except she barked and barked and barked. it took about 5 months but she finally stopped...however she still barks and barks if I tie her up outside a store I am going into (something i haven't done and will never do since i moved to the city 2 years ago).

Other than that, there are some great posters on here that i am sure will share wonderful advice.

It's great you adopted!! but they also seem to need more special care
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-05-2011, 07:08 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the support! I have my up and down phases dealing with this, but I'm determined to see it through. There was one point earlier this year that my husband proposed finding her a new home, and as soon as the realization hit home, I couldn't bear the thought, so I know she's worth the effort to me. I just know that she's miserable like this, and it's stress on us as well, so if only there were a way to reassure and comfort her, the everyday routines wouldn't have to be so terrifying, you know?
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-05-2011, 09:17 PM
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We had a severe separation anxiety dog. Corrections and scoldings really have no place in the work that you, and also have no value is trying to counter-condition the dog (which is what you need to do) as most SA dogs are so worried about their handler that corrections/scolding only increase their anxiety.

Not eating is a sign treats/chews in the kennel is a symptom of her anxiety. It means she is not comfortable. Think about when you are really nervous...can you eat? Or do you just pace, maybe pick at your nails and shred paper...It's the same thing. Don't put anything in her kennel that she can destroy. I would consider playing some crate games with her and a clicker teaching her to go into the kennel for snacks and making the kennel a place where fun games with Mom happen. (I would start by throwing treats in to lure her) Does she like to eat? I would consider maybe putting her meals in a toy and putting her in her kennel to eat. She may skip eating for a couple days...but eventually she'll likely settle into eating.


If shes staying in her kennel that's pretty good. My girl would bloody her mouth and break every weld trying to escape. We'd come home and find her loose covered in drool, the crate in a mangle, and if there was a thunderstorm- diarrhea on the floor because she'd made herself sick with worry.

I'm of 2 minds about the kennel because it depends on what she is really doing...is she really relaxing? Watch her pupils. A dog that is still stressing will have dilated pupils. Once the pupils are normal you can assume she's no longer in an anxious state...just excited to see you. Or is she just containing herself so that you'll come get her out? We call that loading. It's like shaking up a soda and then putting the cap on...the energy is building...under control but waiting for you to release it. Even my dogs who have no separation issues will be PSYCHED to get out of the kennel when we get home.

With our SA dog we just let her out and ignored her. There was no talking, no petting, no eye contact. It was very clinical- until she calmed down. And then we would give her affection. It initially would take 15 minutes of her bouncing around...but over time it got quicker and quicker until we were down to just a minute or so. Leaving her in the kennel would just bottle her up and make it worse.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-05-2011, 09:21 PM
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My fiance had a shepherd/lab mix as well with really bad anxiety issues to where he would be in his crate and we would go to the store or work and when we come back the crate bars were chewed up and he would pee himself. It would be a disaster even more if we let him out of the crate and have free roam. We tried everything we could and read and followed everything to the T and still nothing worked. At the time my fiance was early in her pregnancy and caused too much stress for the both of us and we had to find a different family for him.
Good luck to you because I've been through it too. Not a fun process and I hope you all can get this issue under control. It's not an easy thing to do.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-05-2011, 09:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JKlatsky View Post
We had a severe separation anxiety dog. Corrections and scoldings really have no place in the work that you, and also have no value is trying to counter-condition the dog (which is what you need to do) as most SA dogs are so worried about their handler that corrections/scolding only increase their anxiety.

Not eating is a sign treats/chews in the kennel is a symptom of her anxiety. It means she is not comfortable. Think about when you are really nervous...can you eat? Or do you just pace, maybe pick at your nails and shred paper...It's the same thing. Don't put anything in her kennel that she can destroy. I would consider playing some crate games with her and a clicker teaching her to go into the kennel for snacks and making the kennel a place where fun games with Mom happen. (I would start by throwing treats in to lure her) Does she like to eat? I would consider maybe putting her meals in a toy and putting her in her kennel to eat. She may skip eating for a couple days...but eventually she'll likely settle into eating.

YouTube - Crate Games Part 1: Zelda 13 wks

If shes staying in her kennel that's pretty good. My girl would bloody her mouth and break every weld trying to escape. We'd come home and find her loose covered in drool, the crate in a mangle, and if there was a thunderstorm- diarrhea on the floor because she'd made herself sick with worry.

I'm of 2 minds about the kennel because it depends on what she is really doing...is she really relaxing? Watch her pupils. A dog that is still stressing will have dilated pupils. Once the pupils are normal you can assume she's no longer in an anxious state...just excited to see you. Or is she just containing herself so that you'll come get her out? We call that loading. It's like shaking up a soda and then putting the cap on...the energy is building...under control but waiting for you to release it. Even my dogs who have no separation issues will be PSYCHED to get out of the kennel when we get home.

With our SA dog we just let her out and ignored her. There was no talking, no petting, no eye contact. It was very clinical- until she calmed down. And then we would give her affection. It initially would take 15 minutes of her bouncing around...but over time it got quicker and quicker until we were down to just a minute or so. Leaving her in the kennel would just bottle her up and make it worse.
Yup, the best thing to do actually is ignor him when you come home/leave. As hard it is to do it's the best thing. Try this exercise;

Put dog in crate, leave for 5 minutes, come back calmly and ignor her. Walk around the house or sit on the couch for 5 minutes and then let her out while still ignoring her until she is calm.

Put her in the crate again and leave for 10 minutes this time. Do the process over and over with longer and longer intervals. This will teach the dog that you're not leaving for good as the dog may been left behind in the past causing this anxiety. I hope this helps!
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-10-2011, 09:54 AM
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You problem is like mine - and there doesn't seem to be any good advice. I've contacted trainers, the adoption agency I used, and they all parrot the same stuff, but no-one has an answer to the problem of a dog that doesn't want to go in his crate and knows that he will be in there several hours. My problem isn't as extreme as bloodied jaws and mangled welds but it distresses me to see Max so upset. I fear that the more I push him (literally and figuratively) the more afraid of his crate he will become. The good news is that he will go in his crate by himself in the afternoon to have his stuffed Kong because he knows he won't be locked in for several hours.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-19-2011, 06:46 AM
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I feel your pain, it's a really hard one to deal with - especially as it stresses you out, which leasds to you stressing the dog out more - a viscious circle....

I think you are going down the right route with the books and research, and you are clearly trying to fathom his behavious and notice patterns which can be key. I tried a range of herbal remedies, aromatherapy and anything i could get (as i said i fully sympathise with your sense of despair!!) I eventually got a thundershirt as it was recommeded for dog stress so fitted it (its like a coat, but very snug fitting). Maizie was a different dog. She calmed right down and although a little uneasy at first, found that she could sit int he crate quite comfortably for hours with the door open at first, then closed - i still built it up gradually, but over a couple of weeks she got better and better til we could put her in all night.

Good luck and hope you find soemthing that works for you!
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-19-2011, 09:03 AM
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What's your pups exercise schedule like?
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-19-2011, 02:33 PM
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I have had success with the drug Clomipramine (Clomicalm). This is the only FDA approved medication for dogs with separation anxiety. It is an anti-OCD drug and I have used it with my personal dogs and rescue foster dogs too. You can start it at a lower dosage based upon your dog's weight and, if they need a bit more, there is a good range to increase the medication for dogs that need the help. Many dogs can be gently weaned off of the medication after a few months as they learn to deal with the separation once they are not so anxious. This is, certainly dependent upon the owner's participation in some behavior modification as well.

Shannon

Sabra - female GSD - born April 30, 2012
Sargeant - rescued senior GSD male/foster failure - approximately ten years old (August 2013)
Max - rescued GSD - Dec 22, 2010 to March 7, 2012 - at the bridge
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