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I recently adopted my very first dog 3 weeks and 2 days ago. Her name is Madison, a 1 year old German Shepherd Mix, and she is AMAZING! I would like to say first off, that I finally understand what people mean when they say that it is like NO OTHER feeling owning a dog. She was instantly loved and my fiance and I are very happy.

We made a decision when we got her that I would be the primary caregiver for her because he works long hours and I am more flexible. I have more time to train her as well. I have had a ton of support from my friends and family that own dogs and get good advice from them but there are a few problems that they are all not able to really help me with.

1) She isn't fond of my cat as of this moment. The MD-SPCA did not say she shouldn't be around cats and it has been a nerve racking experience trying to get them acclimated to each other. My cat is the definition of a scared-y-cat and Madison is soooo interested in playing with her and when my cat swats at her she starts to lunge and bark. Any advice?

2) She is showing signs of separation anxiety. She follows me step for step most of the time and when she is put in her crate she cries and barks and looks incredible anxious. The first time we put her crate together the first day she knew exactly what is was and HATED it. I read a lot online about making it her "den" and putting her favorite toy in there with her during the day or a cong with her favorite treats or yummy dog recipes. So far I have done that all and she now 3 weeks in is starting to react worse, not better. I bought her the ThunderShirt that you see in infomercials. My co-workers best friend tried it and said it was a life saver for her. It should be arriving today or tomorrow. Does this really work? What else can I do to calm her. I feel so guilty putting her in there when I know she is hating it.

Please help!

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Congratulations on your new dog! :)

I have heard really positive comments about the ThunderShirt, but haven't tried it!

Here are my thoughts on your problems:
1. Cats: we have 2 dogs, 2 cats and a parrot. They all get along great! It can happen. A couple things that can help are making sure the cat has a "cat only" area. We use a spare bedroom, blocked by a baby gate. The cats can always go in the "cat room" when they have had enough of the dogs. Also, supervise, supervise, supervise in the beginning. It can help to teach Madison the "leave it" command. We do that, but we also have a "gentle" command. If the dogs are getting a bit too rough, we give the gentle command, and they usually stop what they're doing and snuggle or just bump up against each other instead of rough housing.

If your cat is too scared, it might help for you to play with your dog when the cat is around, so your dog's focus is on you, but the cat can watch and hopefully become more used to the dog, without having the dog's attention focused on her.

2. I think, from your description, that your dog is a bit anxious, but I would not go so far as to say she is showing signs of separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is usually quite serious, with signs being a dog that will whine, cry, or howl for hours and hours, without stopping, peeing and pooping and making a mess with it, excessive destruction. Sometimes they'll even claw to get out of a room or crate so badly that they make their nails bleed.

I think your dog is still getting used to her surroundings, even after 3 weeks. She's in a new home, with new people, a cat, and new sights, smells, sounds, and procedures. Many shelter dogs have issues with crates, as it may seem a bit like where they came from. But, slowly conditioning her to be more tolerant of the crate can help a lot! Basically, crate conditioning is putting her in the crate, with something to work on, like a frozen, stuffed kong, and shutting the door for very short periods of time.

It could look something like this: whenever you have a few minutes throughout the day, put her in the crate with a tasty treat, start with 1-2 minutes only. Come back and let her out, and don't make a big fuss. Do this as often as you can throughout the day, so that it starts to become normal for her, but just 1-2 minutes at a time.
After a few days, try increasing the time to 3-4 minutes, as often as you can throughout the day. After several days of this, try 6 minutes. You get the point. Start small, and very gradually work up. The goal is to increase her tolerance of being in the crate.

Of course, sometimes you'll need to leave her in the crate for longer periods of time, if you have to leave, or need to do chores, or what have you. That's fine. But, keep up the conditioning, as it helps her to tolerate longer periods of time in the crate.

Another thing you can do is google "crate games". And, feed her in the crate, so that she sees it associated with positive things.

As for her following you, try this: if you're sitting in the living room watching tv or reading, make lots of boring, short trips. Get up to get a drink, sit back down. Get up to get a book, sit back down. Get up to get a snack, sit back down. Go put the drink away, sit back down. Go get a different book, sit back down. Just make a ton of really short, boring trips out of the room in a short period of time. The goal with this is to get her to think that nothing exciting is going on, so she might as well stay put and not follow you every time you get up....

Good luck!
 

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doxiemommy makes some great points. I would like to just add, if possible, do not allow the cat access to the dog in crate. We have one cat that will actually terrorize the dogs if they are locked in. It is just a game for the cat but very upsetting to the dog.

Keep working on making the crate a "happy place", she'll get there. Treats, toys, whatever works. Also, if all the "boring trips" suggested above doesn't deter the Velcro dog but she gets accustomed to the crate and you leaving - don't worry about it. Tazzy is glued to my leg when I'm home. It's just her thing. I can close a door and she'll just lay down. I can leave for work and she's fine. She just would rather be in the room with me if possible. As long as you dog is o k with separation, the Velcro act can be cute/fun.

I have had some luck with the Thundershirt. My big girl has a problem with fireworks and living in Indiana that doesn't work. She is more relaxed wearing it than not and will actually sleep.

Good luck.
 

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Thanks everyone! I will trying some crate games with her. I did once try feeding her in it and she didn't want anything to do with her food (even though I know she was hungry). I also tried the frozen cong (worked a little at first but the last few days she could care less, she just doesn't want to be in the crate). My Fiance and I both work full time so we have to crate her during the day. We made a rookie mistake by not crating her the first two days after seeing her reaction to the crate was bad. First day she didn't touch anything in the room we left her in (I was so pleased and those we might not need to crate her at all). The second day she figured out to open the closet and made a huge mess of the room, thankfully not chewing on anything, but it looked like it rained clothes and shoes in our room. We have crated her during the day ever since the last 3 weeks.

I also heard that putting a TV in front of her would help with some animal planet type programing on and it would help. To do this we would have to move her crate to the basement where the cats "safe room" is though and change the cats safe area to upstairs.

As for the comment about making sure the cat doesn't have access to her crate:
Our cat is so scared he won't even go near the upstairs, much less the crate. He hides behind the stairs or the basement couch the entire time the dog is out.
He won't even attempt to get near us while the dog is out so I don't know how to play with the cat in front of the dog unless we lock them in the room together and try that. We tried that once and the cat reacted with terror and the dog kept trying to get near the cat. It was a disaster. I guess I will keep doing those slow introductions.
 

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Use a toddler gate to block off a room for the cat to escape to...but raise the gate about 6-8 inches off of the floor so the cat can just scoot under it, since your dog might be able to jump it if it was on the floor.

I've had good luck holding a cat on my lap while I sit in a chair, with the rear end facing the dog, and letting the dog sniff the rear end away from scratching front paws. It helps to let them sniff/figure out what it is, without the cat running or scratching. The running can trigger prey drive.
 

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I usually leave the tv on, but not to animal planet or any animal programming. I had heard that some dogs will bark or become agitated if they hear animal noises, like another dog barking, on tv. Just something to think about...
 

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All great advice! I am going to get a baby gate this weekend and see what I can do. I also like the idea about having the cat's rump facing the dog so she can smell him. I will try that tonight.

Again I appreciate all the help!

On the up side (which there are many!), Madison is learning so quick all her new commands. She only knew how to sit (barely) when I got her. She now knows sit (well), lay down, ball, drop it, come, leave it, and take. She also responds to my leash training very well. She no longer pulls (unless she see's a rabbit/squirrel/cat/sometimes other dogs). She is ignoring other dogs much better now also.
 

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I love hearing about your joy with getting a dog. You have received some great advice here.

Maybe you can try a radio instead of a tv. Then you wouldn't have to compromise the kitty's safe room.

As for the crate. This is what I would try, if she was my little girl. I would do what I could to avoid putting her in the crate until she's not afraid of it. This may be temporarily dog proofing a small room or bathroom or leaving her with a neighbor, friend or family. I know this isn't ideal, but I think in the long run if you really wanted to work on the crate, it would help a lot!

I would find the closest place to the crate that your doggy is comfortable with and just reward her every time she gets close to that spot. I would just say, "Crate - good girl!!!" and give her some petting, the occasional treat, etc. In fact, randomly throughout your home time, I would just lead her over to that spot and say, "crate -good girl and give her a treat" Only give her treats near the crate, only feed her by the crate. Soon, when you start walking to the crate, the anxiety will go away. Also give her the yummy kong's in that spot near the crate and sit there while she works on it. When she starts to wander away from the crate. Move her back near the crate with the kong.

Continue to praise her when she walks by the crate and slowly move her spot of praise, treats, eating closer and closer to the crate until she is eating with her food half in the crate, or right near the door. Take it slow, if she shows any anxiety move the food further away. Instead of just walking near the crate, reinforce her when she touches the crate with praise and treats. Sometimes walk over there to give her the opportunity to touch it. When she is finally eating/chewing on kong in the crate sit by her with the door open and THEN, I would implement the plan doxiemommy spoke about.

Every doggy is different. But, she sounds like a smart little girl and I think she would figure out soon enough that the crate is a happy place. My guess is it may just be too much of a jump to go from fear to spending hours in there (especially if she had a bad experience there before. You never know she could have been put in a crate for punishment). This could take a few days, a week or a month.

As for the kitty, I will be dealing with the same thing when I get my new puppy in about a week and a half. Obviously, my approach is to take it slow and reward reward. :) I heard tips about rubbing down a blanket with your doggy's smell and leaving it in the kitty's area, so she can associate the smell with good things. Feeding them on opposite sides of a closed door (which is different than my advice about the crate, oops). I think you'll get there.

It seems like your new little doggy has a great owner. Good for you and your fiance for introducing her to a happy family life!!
 

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Hi. Regarding the crate. You might want to try a different crate. If yours is an airline type crate, try a wire one and vice-versa. I had a German Shepherd once who hated the airline crate. She kept breaking out of it. She went out the back! I even tried putting her in a room in the basement, but she broke thru the paneling. I'm sure she did have separation anxiety. I decided to try her in a wire crate, and whalla! she never tried to get out of it. She just settled down in it. I don't think she loved it because she never went into the crate on her own, but she was relaxed and stayed there all day while I was gone. It seemed like a miracle at the time.
 
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