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Discussion Starter #1
I think I've asked this before, but it has been a long time and a non-issue until recently.

It has been awhile since I've been on, so quick backstory...Quill is an almost four-year-old German Shepherd x Malamute x Elkhound mix. He is extremely sensitive, anxious, and generally fearful with the capacity to be pushed to fear aggressive. Along with general anxiety, he has horrible separation anxiety. He is on fluoxetine daily, and does have alprazolam for extra anxiety-inducing events (bolding that, so people know he is already medicated).

In general, he's fine outside of his kennel. His SA manifests in restlessness and refusing to play/eat, which I am fine with. He eats before I leave and when I'm home, he doesn't need to be playful, I can manage that. He adores his kennel when I'm home and the door is open (naps in there, retreats to it when he's stressed, etc). If I try to kennel him with the door shut, it is a different story. He stress pants until his bed is soaked, chews at the bars, screams, etc. So, I usually leave him out in the house.

However, recently he became 1,000,000x more fearful of thunderstorms. In the past, he was fine if I was home, but I was informed he was showing signs of fear when I was gone (stress panting, shaking, etc). Now, he's terrified and shaking even when I'm home and SO much worse when left alone. He literally chewed through my ex-boyfriend's wooden door the other day. I was at a conference, so my ex was watching him (and he's 100% comfortable with the ex), and while the ex was at work...a huge storm rolled through and he came home to Quill with bloody gums on the other side of the door with his head poking through. Obviously, this is NOT okay. Both for Quill's health and safety, and in general eating doors is not a habit I want him to develop.

He's only done something similar once before, and it was after a long stretch of me being super busy and the last day him being left for ~9 hours, which is super rare for him. And he didn't eat the whole door, he chewed it a bit. That was about 2 years ago, so he was much younger and hasn't done anything like this since. It always is the front or back doors, and with the storm once he was in the dark, small back entry he didn't touch the other door. I'm not sure if this is because he didn't have time, or because he felt safe in the small, dark space. He generally retreats to the smallest room in the house (such as a bathroom) during thunderstorms.

I want to be able to kennel him so he can be safe, but chewing on metal isn't ideal either. He is in a wire crate right now, and has a plastic one as well, but either way he chews at the metal and screams. Does anyone have any thoughts on how I might help him calm down in the crate?!

A few things to note:
  1. He is medicated. He is on fluoxetine daily, and I can't give him alprazolam every day.
  2. He is 100% fine if I crate while I'm home. Maybe a peep or two, but not the stress like when I leave.
  3. I leave a fan running right next to his kennel and the tv on to try to drown out thunder and help him think I'm still there.
  4. I've tried adaptil collars before with very little lucky, but am debating adding a diffuser to my new house because...it can't hurt?
Thanks for any advice!!
 

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There are crates that are made for chewing maniacs and escape artists. They're pretty spendy but it might end up saving on property damage and vet bills enough that you'd break even or come out ahead despite the expense.

I'd revisit the vet to see whether his med regime could be adjusted.
 

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Obligatory not-a-vet. But have you asked about increasing his dosage of fluoxetine if Quill's general anxiety is increasing? Anecdotally, I've had a few clients find a nice comfortable plateau of progress with their dog's anxiety after using fluoxitine, but then hitting another roadblock like you have with Quill. Again anecdotally, increasing the dosage of fluoxetine (when approved by vet to be safe), helped the dog get through that block.

Another thing to think about is changing your short acting medication. Clearly the alprazolam is no longer helping, assuming you used it for these storm events. I know even the short acting stuff should ideally decrease anxiety and not necessarily sedate. But I think even sedating (don't use acepromazine!!!) is kinder than a dog freaking out, screaming, and chewing his gums raw. You might also talk to your vet about short acting meds like Sileo that were developed primarily for events like thunderstorms or fireworks.

Regardless, sorry to hear that you and Quill have hit a rough patch. I could say the usual about DS/CC (and that could be a good idea still). But I totally get that these are often sudden and intense situations, and I think medication would be your best bet for these events.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
He's due for a vet visit, but unfortunately also has horrific anxiety there so I'm working with them to get him in soon for a checkup! I'll talk to them about the fluoxetine dosage when we go in though!

As for alprazolam, he wasn't on it the day the storm hit. My ex had been gone for several hours and was at the end of his shift when the storm hit out of nowhere. Unfortunately, we've been having almost daily severe thunderstorms. And the screaming and chewing in the kennel happen pretty much anytime he is in there, so wouldn't work for a daily event. I did give him the alprazolam the other day when I knew I was going to be gone for about 3 hours and a storm might hit, and he did fine in his kennel that day. So I do think it works okay for that! And I have a suite of other meds (including one for mild sedation) if absolutely necessary (but not Ace, definitely...I had a vet give me that for Quill's anxiety only to later learn what it really does -- I was not pleased, and never went back to her again).

And apologies, but DS/CC? Thanks, it has been rough. I hate seeing him like this and just want him to be happy! I was so pleased he could just be left out and that was a workable solution. Very unfortunate that he's had such a horrible setback.

Parus, could you share what kind of crate you are thinking of? The extreme ones I've seen were intense, but seemed like he would still have plenty of options to chew, just not destroy which seems just as risky for breaking a tooth! I'm definitely not against spending money to keep him safe and happy, but either way, he's not doing well in a crate if he's stress panting to the point of dehydration and screaming all day long. :(
 

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There are crates that are made for chewing maniacs and escape artists. They're pretty spendy but it might end up saving on property damage and vet bills enough that you'd break even or come out ahead despite the expense.

I'd revisit the vet to see whether his med regime could be adjusted.

Yeah, Impact is a one such company that makes these crates. I like that you included the vet recommendation at the end. I think a sturdier crate should only be used in conjunctions with a solid medical plan, not in lieu of. It reminds me of something I heard a vet say at a conference... Putting a cone on a dog that is worrying their incision site will prevent them from irritating the site. But it does not relieve the dog of discomfort. This was in regards to using a cone AND pain meds for simple procedures like spay/neuter, rather than just "preventing the behavior" but inadvertently leaving the animal in a state of distress.

I'm not really writing this for you (parus) or OP, but thought it wouldn't hurt to state it. There are plenty of owners out there who 'solve' SA by putting their dogs into stronger crates, unfortunately.
 

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Sorry, I should have elaborated. DS/CC stands for desensitization and counter conditioning. You can do it for sounds like thunder. But I have not heard of people having any success with that. The thing is, there is so much about a thunder storm (pressure, wind, etc.) and not just the sound. But for a generally anxious dog, or if Quill has sound sensitivities in general, getting him started on that kind of training would not hurt and could overall be beneficial.

I'm glad that the alprazolam worked when you used it! So maybe it's just a matter of using it more during the stormy season? Unfortunately, I think the best thing for Quill, especially in the short term, is finding which cocktail of meds is best for him. I'd recommend talking to your vet and figuring out which option would be safe to use frequently, so that you can preemptively medicate him if you even think there is a storm that day. Poor pup. But I know you care a ton about him and he's in good hands with you :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Ah okay! I hadn't heard the abbreviations, but yes we work on that with other things he's anxious around. In general, I think his anxiety has gotten A LOT better. It is really the storms that are the only thing I've noticed him go in the opposite direction with. He still gets stressed when I packed and that type of thing, but his anxiety of new people and new things seems improved. But I'll add that he has had a big, rough spring. My BF and I broke up and that was messy so we moved to a new house, I've been gone for a few trips and while my ex who he is comfortable with watched him...he's still got SA when I'm gone, and now we're moving again for a new job. So I'm wondering if some of it is just the stress building from so much happening that's making the storms that much more stressful for him. Who knows. But I feel awful for him, so I'm ready to be at the new house and get settled in for his sake!!

I will definitely speak with the vet about it. As I said, I'm happy to get a better crate if needed, but I also fully realize that won't solve the issue since he's screaming and stress panting too. I just feel awful for him. I hate to see him so stressed, and I wish he loved the kennel as much as he does when I'm home. I just went in to find him curled up in there, zonked out. :doh:
 

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Ah, all those big life changes might do it. Either way, I'm glad you've seen a lot of progress in many areas. I hope settling in and finding a good medication plan helps Quill through these humps!
 

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The thing I have most consistently heard from people with dogs who have trouble specifically with storms that if the dog can find a safe place - any safe place - to go it is helpful. Kiran has periodically gotten pretty disturbed by thunderstorms (it's not bad, I'm not pretending it is, and it's also not noise, it's something atmospheric and random) - and he basically puts himself in our bathtub. I know other people who have had to pick their dogs up and put them in a tub, or a favorite spot in the basement or whatever, which seems to help. If you can help him by being there with him (at first, as well as medication changes) it might be helpful.
 

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I am sorry you are having this much trouble. What you need is a "dog box."

Here is a link to a crate and company I actually purchased from: https://www.zingerwinger.com/Crates/Need/EscapeProof/
I have heard two other companies are "ok" and I looked at both. TNC and Impact. I did not like some of the reviews I got from either one from people who have working dogs who have drives that make them (sometimes) difficult to "contain." Especially in the back of a van when they hear protection work going on. The zinger has an interior door latch cover so the dog can't unlatch the door from the inside. It is something like $20 extra. The crates have a slam latch and a key to lock them. I got this so the Animal Rights whackoes cannot let my dog loose at a competition or other public place (I have a cable lock to the truck and lock the tail gate as well.. we have had issues in this sport as have others at dog shows and so forth).

Owens also makes an EXCELLENT product so I would look at their dog boxes as well. A lot of their products are for transporting hunting dogs.

You will spend north of $600 for a good crate. Mine was close to $1000 for a 4500 (450) size crate that has a 30 inch height (my dog needs that height). So that is a decision that needs to be made (affordability vs. dog damage to the house etc. vs keeping the dog at all) (and while not necessarily palatable, the last is also a choice).

Good Luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
That is exactly the kind of crate I thought of with Parus' suggestion, and the exact kind I don't see how it would help. Sure, he couldn't break it...but I'm not worried about the crate. And honestly, once he gets out of the crate (which he hasn't done in a LONG time, but as a puppy we had the same crating issue which is why he isn't crated anymore), he's 100% fine. So escaping isn't my problem. Just as yeah, it sucks he chewed the door, but I can buy a new door for my house. I'm more worried about HIS well being. With that type of crate you linked, he could definitely still get his mouth on those bars at the front and chew and I would worry then about him really breaking a tooth. His crate as it is is causing him to scrape the back of his teeth.

As I said, I will gladly spend however much is necessary to make him happier and safer, but a sturdier kennel is still going to be one he stress pants and screams in so it is making it maybe easier for me but not him. This isn't an issue of I'm too poor or I'm angry he chewed. I wouldn't even scold him for chewing the door because at the point, he wasn't doing it to destroy. He was doing it out of fear, trying to escape, and by that point was likely in such a frenzy he didn't even know what was happening. It was just instinct telling him to flee. And he is most definitely not going anywhere. He could chew down my entire house and I wouldn't get rid of him for it. It is fear based, and without me, he would only be 1000000x more fearful and worse off (which I know because my ex is the other person he is most comfortable with in this world, and his anxiety is STILL far worse when I leave him with him for extended periods). He needs someone who is patient and understands his anxiety, and I'm his person forever.

CptJack, I do think that's what he tries to do. Our new house has a basement and if he's comfortable down there, I'm wondering if that might be the best place for his crate. Maybe the added sound proofing and darkness would actually help him feel more comfortable? Might be worth a try once we get there. Either way, hopefully these nasty storms end soon so he can get settled into the new house and maybe once we have that routine down he'll be better next storm season!

Either way, I'll speak with the vet about meds and hopefully we can work something out! I just figured I would see if there was anything else I'm missing before resorting to more meds (which, obviously I am not against, but doesn't hurt to ask for other potential tips in the meantime).
 

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I was answering the question about a high anxiety crate. I was not implying it was the answer for what you want. It was the answer about the crate only.

Chewing through a door is as dangerous to the dog as the high anxiety crate or any other confinement when the dog loses his mind from fear. My concern would not be the door as much as the electrical outlets and wires (again, the dog has lost his mind and anything could be fair game for destruction).

I actually have two full size regular dog kennels in my basement for inclement weather situations (cold, hot and storms). I have had very few dogs really anxious about thunder and the basement has always been a good option (I think the dark coupled with quieter helps). I DO have an issue with fireworks with the working dog (he is looking for the Decoy). Basement is ideal and worked well with fireworks going off over my house from the neighbor's field.

The one dog I had that was fearful in storms (after she got zapped from a lightning leader that came through the lightning rods on a barn and zapped us all.. cows, people and dog) was better off alone in a crate. In that storm I actually lost a cow to lightning. Being with anyone seemed to increase her anxiety.. but her ONLY anxiety was thunder storms and she was anxious with a good reason!

Good luck with finding a solution that helps your dog. Each case is individual.
 
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