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I recently adopted a 1 year 75 lb shepherd mix named Max, and he is adapting wonderfully except...for some severe separation anxiety when no one is home. Breaking it down below:

Background:
I acquired max from a couple who seemed to have raised him pretty well. He's calm, very non-reactive, affectionate, potty trained, the basics. From what I got, the lady in the couple had been a stay-at-home nanny, but had to start a new job with lots of travel, and between that and the guy's change in work, needed to rehome him. So I'll presume Max primarily got to chill at home with Momma, likely little time alone (maybe this is why they needed to rehome him...) I take home Max, and he's nervous, as expected, but quickly attaches to me. He displayed some resource guarding towards others around me at first (out of uncertainty/fear is my understanding) but three weeks in and those problems have died down. He still follows me around though, always alert to What I am Doing and Where am I Going. Which brings us to .....separation anxietyyyyy!

The Problem:
We found that Max doesn't care who's home, he just needs SOMEONE to be home. He is fine with my housemate (my brother) being home and chilling with him, but left by himself, he panicks. Between my brother and I, we don't have too many days where he's left alone, but there are about 2-3 times a week where we will both be at work for about 4-6 hours. He's managed to chew up 2 beds, bend and escape from his wire crate, chew up a doorframe, and almost escape out of a third floor window while left alone. He has...issues.

What we've done so far:
1. Walks. He gets lots of walks. A 30 min-2hr walk in the morning before work, another walk (usually 30 min to 1 hr) in the evening, and potty breaks when we wake up and go to bed. He's not super high energy to begin with, but there are plenty of walks, trust me.
2. Treats and goodies in the cage. Not super effective though.
3. Slowly working on people leaving and being alone for tiiiiiny increments of time. This is what I'm hoping will decondition him to being alone, but...its a long haul.
4. Trazadone. It's not a preferred method, and he's only had it once, but if he does have to stay alone and this can help his anxiety, then I'll utilize it.
5. Waiting outside bathroom when I'm in it. He's gotten used to being alone while I'm doing my things in the bathroom (he just patiently waits right outside for me)...which I realized demonstrated that he has at least some capacity to be alone and be ok in a specific situation.
6. Socializing with new people & situations. Guests have come over, he's been housesat by friends, family, etc, all great.

....Advice?
Anyone in a similar situation? I'm just a bit personally stuck with how to break down this problem. I'm looking into doggy daycare for the time being, until we can make some progress with this situation, although my work schedule and COVID are making that a nightmare to coordinate....(yay!). What kind of conditioning is recommended with this problem? I've been letting him sleep in my room but have been advised to make him sleep in the living room alone, which I should probably take up. Should I condition with...going outside for small increments + coming back? What about getting all my items ready/getting ready for work, since he recognizes that as a signal? And the crate...since he's Not On Happy Terms with the crate, how would you approach integrating that in his...conditioning? I've never had a dog with this much...specific anxiety, and am in much need of advice....especially since I feel i'm being inconsistent with my approach to this...

Here are some pics of Max as well! Sorry for the ramble, I just wanted to give enough info!

image0 (8).jpg image0 (15).jpg image0 (5).jpg
 

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I don't honestly think being separated while sleeping or going to the bathroom has much impact on this issue. They know you're there, and they know when you're not. If you want to have the dog in your bedroom just enjoy your dog.

Probably going to need a sturdy crate. Like an Impact crate. You could try a plastic airline type crate first but in my experience, gradually increasing difficulty almost helps them become more proficient at escaping and it builds their confidence and makes them more dangerous escapers. Just go for the big guns and get him a real crate.

Then, start teaching him how to be alone in it for small increments at a time. Try to only come back and acknowledge him when he is calm. I forget how long you've had this dog but one rescue dog we adopted was a crate buster. We reinforced his crate with steel panels, he stayed in it, and he settled in very quickly and it was a short term problem to do with the transition.

It's not a bad idea to put him in daycare with the goal being that you use that so that you can work up to leaving him alone as he is successful rather than throwing him in the crate all day one day and having him hurt himself.

Mark Goldberg has a protocol for dogs like this where you stuff their crate with straw and they can dig in it or chew it or take out their frustrations on it and it helps them settle without being destructive or hurting themselves. I've never tried that. I have re-crate trained dogs who have escaped from crates using all sorts of things including all the current technology. If you put a cam on the dog and you leave and can still see/speak to them, it's a game changer with some dogs. It also lets you know what your dog is doing so if say you are hiding out in your driveway trying to get a successful five minutes and your dog settles down you see it immediately and you can come right back in and reward them by letting them out.

They definitely can get over it.

Another one I knew had torn his way out of a second story window and jumped onto the driveway. Miraculously he was not hurt. That dog was on heavy sedatives for awhile, benzos I think. I say go for it with the meds if it helps at all. Wean off later.
 

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oh boy, the anxiety .... I hated this phase! My GSD did not have it but the 18 month Malamute/shepherd mix I brought home from a kill shelter did! SHe had been returned twice and on the list to be put to sleep. I brought her home, very happy dog and my boy was 'okay' with the company. The next morning I opened my bedroom door to be slammed into the wall; she was over the top excited to see me. My boy did NOT like this and grabbed the nearest thing he could; her back legs to warn her. I went to work after everyone was settled; and returned to a tornado! My GSD laying on his bed completely disgusted and not happy! Anything and everything was destroyed; including items on the kitchen counter... anything she could reach she destroyed! I wasn't upset, I think I was in shock over the destruction and she was over the top to see me but with my boy standing in front of me blocking she couldn't jump up and knock me down. I'm 5'5' and 110-115. I thought at the time walking them and working out would help; which is what I did that night. The next morning; opened my bedroom door and she jumped so fast in excitement that I flew against the wall and fell down. My GSD had enough! He grabbed her by the snout and put her to the ground, I was still trying to get up while he came around to block her. Was I upset with my GSD, no he was protecting me while teaching her puppy manners that at 18 months she had not been taught. After that I decided she was going to learn it was 'okay' to be alone, that I would be back. Daily, I walked them but separately and when I left I crated her. When me and my GSD came back it was her turn to walk... patience and acceptance of a routine. When I left for work; she was not crated for that time period.... she had already destroyed everything and there wasn't much damage she could do. Oddly enough, depending on her demeanor when I returned I knew my boy had told her what was not acceptable. Over time of crating, one on one walks and allowing everyone in my bedroom at night she calmed down. My GSD passed away a year ago, and unfortunately I've noticed she is going back to chewing on minor things; the bathroom waste basket contents or cat toys.... I know she is lonely but I'm still having problems with my boy being gone and am not sure if I am past the pain to get another GSD...
 
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