Separation anxiety

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Dog_lover
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Separation anxiety

Post by Dog_lover » Tue Mar 15, 2016 7:28 am

Hi, I'm new to this forum.
I have a 1 year old Maltese who we got at 5 months old. We don't know much about his life before us but from what everyone sees, he seems to have had a rough life. Considering the fact that we don't know much about his past, there is a possibility that he left his mother at a younger age than normal.
Mickey is showing signs of severe separation anxiety. He's been like this the entire time we've had him. He lives with me, my mom, my sister and her fiancé but yet, is only attached to me. This could be because I'm always the only one home and the only one to walk him, feed him, etc.
I understand that with SA, it's best to not leave them alone for more than their comfortable with but that's just not possible right now as I go to school and everyone else works. Even if I step out the door for literally two seconds, I come back home and he acts like he hasn't seen me for ever. Whenever anyone comes home, he will bark and cry for ten minutes at least.
Many times we have came home, and saw that he had brought one of our shoes to the living room. He has many many toys!
Everyone says to give him long lasting treats/rewards but he is not motivated for anything. I don't feel comfortable giving him rawhides when we are not present. I have tried kongs, bully sticks (didn't work for his stomach) and treat balls. I've tried making the treats easy to fall out. I literally can't get him to interact with any of those. He needs mental stimulation but how else? Whenever I go in the room, even for one second, he will follow.
If it's late, and I'm in the living room, he will stay there even if he is exhausted. On rare occasions, he will on his own go in the room into his crate. That's about it. I really hate seeing him so anxious. I need help.

JudyN
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by JudyN » Tue Mar 15, 2016 8:05 am

Have a read of this thread which might give you some ideas: viewtopic.php?f=20&t=20143

Unfortunately, SA is really difficult to crack if you have to leave your dog. Is there anyone who could look after your dog while you're all out, e.g. a retired relative, or even dog daycare?

What does he do when you get ready to leave the house? Does he get upset then? And can you hear him once you've left the house? Is he destructive, or does he bark or howl? It could be worth recording/videoing him to find out just how upset he is.

Don't worry about him taking your shoes - it's fine for him to comfort himself like that, and is common even in dogs who are OK with being left. The shoe smells of you so is much better than a toy!

Will he play with kongs, treat balls etc. when you are there? Many dogs aren't inclined to play 'by themselves' and it's probably not something he learnt to do when younger. Rather than giving him something to do when you're out, it could be better to focus on ensuring he us physically and mentally tired/relaxed so ready to chill.

It is still relatively early days, given his probable background.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

Dog_lover
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by Dog_lover » Wed Mar 16, 2016 4:04 am

Thanks Judy,
He seems to be fine when we are getting ready to leave the house. He will just sit/stand there and look at us. Usually my family will leave for work at 2 and I get home at 3 so he isn't alone too much. It's just recently that he's had to be alone for about 3-4 hours sometimes. No more than that. Now I'm off school for 2 weeks but I doubt he will be better by then. I've checked out a few dog daycares and 1 of them that we liked, is a bit pricey that we would have a hard time paying for that every day when I'm at school. That's the only daycare that I fully trust at the moment as I've heard other places sometimes using shock collars when dogs are "being bad". It's a difficult decision because I never know what could happen when I'm not there. As for relatives, we have some family that may be sometimes able to watch him but he has shown many many signs that he is uncomfortable with them and has been bitten them in the past. I can't say that I blame him, they used to be really rough on him until I started sticking up for him more.

I admit, he doesn't get as much exercise as I would like, but that's going to change now. He won't even play with the kong, treat balls, or other interactive toys when we are home. He just does not seem to be motivated for any of that. I am trying to get him to be tired before leaving but it would have helped if he was even a little motivated for those so he can also be more mentally tired.
People have told me that this is because of his attachment to us and it's our fault for not leaving him alone the day we got him. While it might have been, he was not trained AT ALL at that time so that was not possible.
Another thing that seems like a sign of SA: I always have to leave his puppy pads for him because even if it's right after I walk him, sometimes he has to use the bathroom which maybe could be because of stress?

JudyN
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by JudyN » Wed Mar 16, 2016 7:17 am

Dog_lover wrote:People have told me that this is because of his attachment to us and it's our fault for not leaving him alone the day we got him.
Ignore that - I don't think leaving him alone from the start would have made any difference.

I'm still not clear why you think he's suffering from severe SA. Is it that he is so excited to see you when you've just popped out for a moment, or that he needs to be near you in the house, or is there anything else? As far as him being near you in the house is concerned, I'd just let him choose to be with you. As he settles in more you may well find that occasionally he'll choose to be on a comfy bed in the sun rather than with you in a cold room with a hard floor, and then he should gradually get more independent. Once he knows he's not going to be prevented from being with you while you're in, he won't have to worry when you leave the room. When my dog was a young pup with SA I once tried moving from room, to room, to room, in the hope that he'd settle in one room eventually. Bad move... two hours later, I'm not sure which of us was more stressed or exhausted :lol: Now he'll choose He still often chooses to be where I am, but the sunny spot takes precedence :wink:

By all means, while you have two weeks off, work on leaving him little and often, as described in the link I gave above. Will he eat at all while you're gone? How about if you just scattered some kibble on the floor? It's good to have something positive to mark your leaving, even if it won't occupy him for long.

The peeing could be a stress thing, or it could be habit, or marking his home. Does he pee when left on his own? Ideally, you'd remove the puppy pads and train him that he always pees outside - so you'd come in from a walk and might have to immediately let him out - but there is a risk of stressing him (and you!) more and you don't want to increase his anxiety.

For motivating him generally, and giving him a mental workout - what does he enjoy? Does he like balls, walks, sniffing verges, praise, tug of war? Is he enthusiastic about food, treats, etc? What is his favourite treat? What makes him happy? Have you trained behaviours like sit, paw, etc, and does he seem to enjoy that?
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

Dog_lover
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by Dog_lover » Wed Mar 16, 2016 7:02 pm

I think he is suffering from severe SA mainly because he cries and howls for most, if not all the time we are gone. I have used my iPad to record him & his howling is pretty bad. Let's say we are gone for two hours, he will cry for most of that 2 hours with a few minute breaks here and there to drink water. He won't touch his kibbles at all while we are gone. I haven't thought of scattering it. I could try that. As of yesterday, we added canned food to his diet since sometimes he will go day's without eating (vet said he needs more protein) so maybe we can leave it in the mornings sometimes before we leave so he has something positive. Yes, he only pees when left alone. Since being potty trained, he's never peed in the house while we are home. He used to pee every single time we left the house but he has improved on that, as in he won't do it every single time but he will do it sometimes. The main thing he enjoys are walks. Sometimes he will play with a ball. He also likes praise. He's not so enthusiastic about his regular food (he won't eat his kibbles much) and with treats, he is a little enthusiastic but not too much. I mean, he will take it from me and do whatever trick I ask him to but he's not as enthusiastic as I would like him to be. I have yet to find what his favourite treats are. He does not seem to have a favourite. He just takes whatever we give him. People say give him "high value" but we are struggling to find what those are for him. Also, every time we leave him home alone, we just throw some treats for him on his bed so it occupies him while we leave. Maybe he's had so much of those that it's not something he loves and is just something he eats? Something I found out of him, is that he absolutely loves when people sweet talk him. As soon as someone does that, he runs up to them and starts giving them kisses. We have trained him to sit, shake, lie down, dance, and beg, and roll over. He seems to like it but the only one he will do without a treat is sit. Everything else he won't do unless I have a treat. Like for example, if I want him to lie down, I have to lure him into that position.

JudyN
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by JudyN » Thu Mar 17, 2016 3:18 am

Dog_lover wrote:I think he is suffering from severe SA mainly because he cries and howls for most, if not all the time we are gone.
Ah, right... Yes, my commiserations, I know what it's like listening to those recordings :( It really is a case of trying to work within his comfort zone as far as possible, along with trying to keep him relaxed in general.

Have you tried treats like home-made liver cake or salmon cake? They don't smell great while you're cooking them, but dogs usually love them.

I'm not an expert, and someone else may be able to help more on fading the lure, but with teaching down, etc, are you using a hand signal? If the hand signal is the same as the luring (e.g. moving hand to floor when you want a down), he may find it easier to learn that than the word - and at first he may assume you have a treat in your hand (which may smell of treats from earlier). Then, make sure you reward him from the other hand, so he learns that following your hand movement gets the treat, as opposed to following the treat itself. Keep treats on you at all times, so he thinks you can magically produce them at any time and not just when he sees one in your hand.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

Shalista
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by Shalista » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:19 am

Ditto the hand signs. Bax knows his hand signs perfectly but he's still a bit spotty on verbal ques.
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

Dog_lover
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by Dog_lover » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:30 am

I will definitely try the hand signals. My mistake was, I'd ask him to lie down without a treat in my hand. Once I saw that he wasn't doing it, I showed him the treat and lured him down with the treat. I've never thought about rewarding from the other hand but I'm going to try, thanks!

It's super sad listening to those recordings and I can't help but feel guilty for leaving him home alone.
As for his SA, we got a trainer once & she suggested putting him in my room in his crate since he goes there voluntarily when I'm home. He goes nuts when he's in there without me. Which is why we let him roam the living room.
How should we deal with him when coming home? He barks and whines for attention for at least 10 minutes before he sits. Some trainers say to not give him any attention which hasn't worked too much with him. This has only worked a little. And some say say hi or something and a few pets. Just saying 'hi mickey' makes him more excited. So should we stick with ignoring him for 10 minutes first?

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Nettle
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by Nettle » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:32 am

It may be that these things are not what he enjoys. To a dog, it's pointless. Some types like to obey just for fun, others don't find it fun at all. Try some 'exercise the mind' games and see if he likes those better.

For homecoming, I'd get him outside right away in case he needs to potty, then walk round your yard together. Movement is good for stress.
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Dog_lover
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by Dog_lover » Sat Mar 19, 2016 3:38 am

I'll try, thanks!

There's just one main thing that is really stressing me out right now. My sisters wedding is in June and we will most likely be out the entire day. Like from 3pm till 1am..

It's so hard finding a daycare we actually trust. I found one and even took him for an evaluation (he passed) they said they don't do pick ups that late so he will need to board there. If he was to board there, no one is with the dogs overnight. The staff leaves at 9pm and wouldn't be there until 8am the next day. How about if something happens to the dogs? I found that weird, to be honest. I'm also scared my dog would have a really hard time adjusting, especially to the crates there (he's crate trained but only when we are there). I'm not so sure about other day cares. I found some dog sitters/walkers but the most they can be with him is for 1-2 hours to walk and interact with him. My family doesn't feel comfortable with someone coming over so that's going to be hard. My neighbours can't look after him because the ones we know well, are also coming to the wedding. Everyone we know is pretty much coming.

I'm the only one that thinks he shouldn't be alone for this long. My mom, sister & her fiancé think this isn't a big deal and he'll be find. The thought of him being alone THAT LONG really stresses me out.

JudyN
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by JudyN » Sat Mar 19, 2016 7:00 am

That's a difficult one - the best solution really would be to get someone in to sit with him but if your family can't be persuaded that's out. Having him boarded where he'll be on his own in a strange place I imagine would be worse than him being alone in his home. Is there any way you could come home earlier without causing a family fallout?
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by Dog_lover » Sat Mar 26, 2016 5:22 am

Sorry for the late reply! Yeah I don't feel comfortable with him being on his own in a strange place. I am trying to see if my mom will be okay with him going to the daycare to play for the morning/afternoon so at least when he's at home, he's super tired (hopefully). My mom says we will be out all day so if I can find someone to drop him home from the daycare that would be great. Or if I can convince my mom to quickly pick him up and drop him home. I don't think I can leave earlier seeing as my mom would wanna be with my sister for the whole time and I don't drive. I will talk with her though. It'll be harder because I'm one of the brides maid and I don't want a fight happening. For now until June though, I am just trying to get him at least comfortable with being home alone. He had to stay home for 3 hours last week and I played home "music for dogs with separation anxiety" on YouTube. I never thought they might help so I never gave it a chance. I played it loud for him. He still cried. A lot. But he did stop for about 20-30 minutes which is better than usual. I think he cries at first because he wants to be with us and then he continues crying every time he hears someone outside. Our neighbour said when we are gone and he cries, she sometimes stands outside the door and tells him "it's okay Mickey. Good boy" and he stops. So we think he may just cry when he hears stuff. It's still really sad watching those videos.

Deb29033
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by Deb29033 » Sat Mar 26, 2016 3:03 pm

We are in the same boat, but at least there is always someone at my house (usually my mom who is disabled) that sits with my Chihuahua. Hearing our babies scream just tears out our hearts, I know. I agree that having a boarder who actually stays with your pets is preferable. It is horrible because it is a chore to always find someone to sit with him and it means that we can never go out to dinner as a family because someone has to doggie sit. He's almost 2 years old and has never been alone since I rescued him. I know I should have tried to ease him into being by himself for periods of time before he got this bad, but now I am lost as to how to address the problem. As a Chihuahua he is a HUGE BARKER and screams the second he is left in a room alone. I mean the second you leave a room, if he can't follow you, he has a fit. :roll:

I also have a Lab/Pit mix (I have 4 rescues, but my two "boys" are the ones I need help with) who was dumped in my parking lot at work and I have no idea what kind of treatment he received but he is a scardy cat of everything. I hope that by reading posts here, I will finally be able to give my boys the security and love they deserve. If you are able to find something that works well for you, please share. I have never had any experience training dogs, so I am definitely out of my comfort zone.

Dog_lover
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Re: Separation anxiety

Post by Dog_lover » Fri Apr 01, 2016 5:51 pm

Hi Deb,
This is my first dog so I haven't had much experience with training dogs until now. When we first got him, he would cry even if I was in the othertheir room. He was only attached to me. I mean, when I wanted to shower, I had to wait until someone was home to stay with him (even though I was only in the other room) or else he would CRY. Or if I left home to go to school but someone was home with him, he would cry. He has gotten ALOT better with that. He no longer cries if I'm in the other room so it's made doing things and going to school a whole lot easier. Honestly, I did not do anything for that. When he would cry, we wouldn't say "no" or "stop" but we wouldn't say "it's okay, good boy" either. Sometimes when his crying was really bad, we would just say "shhh" in a calming voice until he calmed down. Then he got a treat. But that was only sometimes. As for his separation anxiety in general, it's hard because the first two weeks when we brought him home, I was really sick so I was at home with him which made him more attached. We are just working on leaving home alone for short amounts. Right now, he only can stay for 5 seconds. Not that long I know, but that's the only way to make him comfortable. We've found out that calming music for dogs playing loudly helps him. This is how our leaving him alone goes like:
1) we clear off the tables and start his music
2) we give him a few treats (he usually has not eaten before)
3) we leave
At first, he will cry when he realizes we are gone. Once he is starting to calm down, he will cry when he hears neighbours. So we put the music on loud, to prevent him panicking even more. It's helped a bit. A few weeks ago, we came home and he didn't even notice! And today, I came home from school and all he did is jump on me a few times, and then I gave him a treat when he was calm. Usually, even after we come home, he CRIES and barks. Not this time. He didn't make a sound! I have a neighbour with a chihuahua and I know what you mean with the barking. If you haven't tried music, I recommend that you do. As for your other dog being fearful, that's exactly how my dog was. He was fearful aggressive (still is). It makes walks and going places and people coming over very difficult but the best we can do is manage. My dog would bite when guests got too close to him or to me. He has drawn blood MANY times (but in his defence, it wasn't his fault) so now I make it clear that no one is to touch him, or look at him or talk to him. As for being scared of things, we just treat him when he even looks at the trigger. He's reactive of bikes for example, and we are walking and there's a bike. I continue walking and he stays calm. I then reward. Aside from that, make sure to never force him towards what he's scared of. Your dog trusts you to make him feel safe and comfortable. Even if that means moving away from the trigger.
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