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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a Carolina Dog that has (well, always had) high level anxiety. Some background:

Up until `4 months of age he was running wild with a pack that included his mother, brother, and several other dogs. When captured by the local Humane Society, all of the other dogs had to be put down due to aggressiveness. Like some other rescues, he was submissive and anxiety-ridden as a puppy. Seven years later he is a good, friendly dog that pretty much loves everyone but has ocassional issues with other dogs. He was self-potty-trained when I got him and has never had an accident or destroyed anything. He was crate-trained since the day I got him.

Even from a puppy, he never really knew how to play by himself or amuse himself. He is pretty smart, as I taught him the basics of sit, stay, and down within 4 hours using only positive attention. I bought him "smart dog" toys that he figures oiut in minutes.

The problem is I was always working at home and spent a lot of my time with him over the years. When we weren't at home we went everywhere together. Now I am on a 9-5 regular job (not at home) and he is being crated during the day. He has massive separation anxiety and howls like a wolf four hours on end. He has all the signs of anxiety: panting (no tongue), obsessive licking, pacing, etc.

I kicked up his exercise regimen (2 hours of walking a day) but he is still howling like mad. He doesn't really play unless I play with him. The instant my attention is not on him he goes into sad-dog mode (and boy does he milk it). He has bones he doesn't even chew on if I am not present. Now if I am going to leave he puts his nose at the crack of the front door. He jumps into any car in the driveway with a door open.

I am his world (and yes I know it is my fault). I have tried to get him adjusted to me not being there (leave a little at a time, etc) with no success. An anti-bark collar is on order and I will check the results with my Nest Cam.

Beyond that, anyone have any ideas how I can calm this guy down? I want to exhaust all options before I go the medication route.

Any help is appreciated, sorry for the long post.
 

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I agree, cancel the bark collar order and consult with a trainer who can help you with the separation anxiety.

Medication isn't a bad thing. Sometimes dogs need help calming their mind so that they can learn. Your dog may be so over the top anxious and panicked whenever you leave that he just doesn't understand that everything is going to be fine, and that you'll come back. Sometimes, training and using medication at the same time gets you the best results, and it doesn't mean the dog will have to be on medication the rest of its life (although some dogs do require it to be safe and happy) if they can learn to cope without the medication.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Welcome to the forum. Sorry to hear your pup is suffering.

Cancel the bark collar order as will more than likely make things worse. I'd suggest you find a trainer / behaviorist who is well-versed in treating separation anxiety. This is a good start: https://malenademartini.com/

I'd also urge you to rethink your stance on medication. http://www.drjensdogblog.com/behavior-medication-first-line-therapy-or-last-resort/
Thanks for the advice and fast reply. We just spent $650 for dew claw surgery due to an accident he had chasing a squirrel so a dog behaviorist simply isn't an option right now, financially speaking ($200 for intake, and nearly $100 per session). There is no short-term harm in trying out the collar and the dog will be closely monitored via camera to see how he is doing. I would likely go with medication if the collar fails to solve the problem. I understand there is no "magic pill", but as my girlfriend says, he has to learn to be a dog when not getting attention from me.

I understand he has a lot more anxiety-related problems than barking (and given his age this will likely take a loooooong time to resolve), but at this moment the barking could get us evicted from our apartment.
 

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A qualified trainer likely isn't going to be as expensive as a behaviorist and it's possible that you would only need a few sessions for someone to develop a protocol for you and your girlfriend to follow.

As Lilith said, if this is true separation anxiety, your dog isn't in a state of mind to learn anything. It would be like your trying to learn calculus while having a panic attack.

I would disagree that "[t]here is no short-term harm in trying out the collar." Also, you might stop the barking, but if you haven't addressed the underlying anxiety it will manifest in some other way: inappropriate elimination, destructive behavior, and self-harm are possibilities.
 

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While a trainer and medication are the way to go my anxious dogs stopped howling when they were allowed out of the crate. Max would pace from room to room and Bucky lays at the front door when I'm gone. Bucky will still howl if he's excited because I walked him then leave. You don't want to do anything engaging like play or train before going out. A leap of faith allowing a dog that howls and salivates and all that out but they have never destroyed anything or gotten into trouble uncrated.
 

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Thanks for the advice and fast reply. We just spent $650 for dew claw surgery due to an accident he had chasing a squirrel so a dog behaviorist simply isn't an option right now, financially speaking ($200 for intake, and nearly $100 per session). There is no short-term harm in trying out the collar and the dog will be closely monitored via camera to see how he is doing. I would likely go with medication if the collar fails to solve the problem. I understand there is no "magic pill", but as my girlfriend says, he has to learn to be a dog when not getting attention from me.

I understand he has a lot more anxiety-related problems than barking (and given his age this will likely take a loooooong time to resolve), but at this moment the barking could get us evicted from our apartment.
A bark collar can absolutely cause damage in the short term. A single shock could cause his anxiety to escalate, or a bad association to be created with something happening in the environment, such as a person walking by (oops, now he's afraid of strangers) or a dog (now he's fear aggressive to dogs). Sure, there's a chance it might work, but do you really want to risk making your dog worse or causing a problem where before there wasn't one?

I understand that this is an extremely difficult situation. Have you tried leaving him out in a single room where he can't get into much, as Kathy suggested? Some dogs do better that way. And yes, a regular trainer is probably less expensive than a behaviorist.
 

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There is no short-term harm in trying out the collar and the dog will be closely monitored via camera to see how he is doing. I would likely go with medication if the collar fails to solve the problem. I understand there is no "magic pill", but as my girlfriend says, he has to learn to be a dog when not getting attention from me.
Certified professional dog trainer here. Yes, there can be long term harm caused by short term use of a bark collar. The chances increase if the dog is already prone to anxiety. You are putting your needs and expectations above your dog's welfare.
 

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Think about it this way... Your dog is panicking when alone. Vocalizations are symptoms of his emotional response. You think stimming him (shock, spray, whatever the collar you bought would do) is going to make him feel BETTER about leaving alone? You think it's going to teach him to "learn to be a dog"?

Or, think about what this kind of punishment does to any animal, dogs to cats to people. At best, it will cause him to shut down. To the average owner, a shut down dog is at least not barking so they think they cured their dog. At worst, your dog will develop even more severe anxiety and instead of vocalizing he will try to escape the 'dangerous situation'. Dogs can very quickly degrade and start chewing their way out of crates, emptying their bowels, or self harming. Is that risk worth taking? Punishing a dog and masking symptoms is not remotely similar to addressing the underlying issue, which is anxiety.
 

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He has massive separation anxiety and howls like a wolf four hours on end. He has all the signs of anxiety: panting (no tongue), obsessive licking, pacing, etc.
On the complex spectrum that is separation anxiety... Yes, your dog does seem to be anxious about your departure. But "massive"? A current case I am dealing with has a very old dog who has jumped out of two windows, destroyed furniture and doors, broken her teeth and peed all over herself. Her owner regularly came home to her dog sitting in her own urine and blood and a slightly more damaged crate. This is the dog on meds. (Not saying meds won't help. Meds usually help a LOT and some of the best separation anxiety trainers in this country pretty much make it mandatory to use meds along with training. I am in support of this.)

Not saying your case isn't bad. Not saying you shouldn't seek help (you should, with a vet and with a trainer). But your response (using a corrective tool to suppress your panicking dog) to what you think the magnitude of your issue is, is completely blown out of proportion and again it is likely to do more harm than good. Honestly, with the behaviors you are describing, I think the prognosis and timeline for success for your dog are actually very good if you seek the right kind of help as soon as possible. Look for a trainer that favors positive reinforcement. For separation issues and especially for anxious or fearful dogs, I would never recommend any trainers who used corrective punishment or force.
 

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I'm going to 100% agree the bark collar is NOT the option for SA. I get that a barking dog is not something you want in an apartment, but that doesn't mean you make it worse. Have you tried over the counter calming meds? They make pheromone sprays and collars, treats, etc that can help. We exhausted all of those before anything else with Quill's SA (his response when kenneled is EXACTLY what you described), but I know someone who swears by the pheromone spray and the collar did seem to help the tiniest bit for Quill.

When not kenneled, Quill is a different dog. Still SA, but doesn't bark/pant/etc. He just doesn't eat, drink, and will obsessively lick still; but he also isn't making a lot of noise, panting, or trying to destroy things either so while we manage his SA, he gets free roam of the house.

Have you tried something that smells like you in his kennel? This is part of why we think Quill's SA is better out of the kennel -- he feels more comfortable being able to be on "his" couch or bed with things everywhere that smell like me vs a confined spaced with nothing that smells like me. Not to say being free roaming is the option for you, but just to show there are other things that can work while you try to work through the more severe aspects of the SA. Some dogs with it even do better just confined in a dog proofed room of the house or something to that extent.

Also, how does the dog do when kenneled and you are in another room? Would music or TV for some background noise maybe help?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That may be possible. I dropped a large referece text from a shelf yesterday and my dog jumped a country mile. It is possible that he developed a bad association from that as well. Though we certainly don't want it to happen, our pets don't live in a vaccuum. Things happen.

The problem is his barking, he doesn't chew, destroy, or defecate indoors. He has never had a problem with any of that. Wether crated or left in a room he still howls. So not a damaging problem per-se, but one that will get us evicted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Medication is the last resort. We are using human medications on dogs without really knowing what we are doing (as we don't in humans). The foundation of Psychology is self-report (the ability of the patient to inform the doctor how he is "feeling"). We have nothing like that in dogs. We watch for physical behaviors which may denote an emotion/condition of stress, but we don't really know.

I'll be averse to giving him 5mg of zantax until I see peer-reviewed studies in leading journals telling me it actually does something that does not make him feel worse. Plenty of people have their dogs on meds that are likely making their pet miserable.

I'll take positive punishment wayyyyy before I get to that point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Canyx:

think about what this kind of punishment does to any animal, dogs to cats to people. At best, it will cause him to shut down. To the average owner, a shut down dog is at least not barking so they think they cured their dog. At worst, your dog will develop even more severe anxiety and instead of vocalizing he will try to escape the 'dangerous situation'.

At best, it will cause him to shut down Nothing personal, but you have zero evidence this would/would not happen. Positive punishment can work if applied properly. The current trends focus on positive reinforcment only (in children and dogs- it's quite funny) but I will always subscribe to positive punishment - simply because it is effective and there is no consensus in the literature.

If you object to the use of a shock collar based on your personal belief that they are cruel, I get that. But don't make a blanket sstatement of something that is simply not true or completely unsupported.
 

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Medication is the last resort. We are using human medications on dogs without really knowing what we are doing (as we don't in humans). The foundation of Psychology is self-report (the ability of the patient to inform the doctor how he is "feeling"). We have nothing like that in dogs. We watch for physical behaviors which may denote an emotion/condition of stress, but we don't really know.

I'll be averse to giving him 5mg of zantax until I see peer-reviewed studies in leading journals telling me it actually does something that does not make him feel worse. Plenty of people have their dogs on meds that are likely making their pet miserable.

I'll take positive punishment wayyyyy before I get to that point.
You prefer to shock or stim your dog for being anxious (a feeling that he has no conscious control over) rather than use a medication that can actually alleviate the anxiety?

Your dog jumped a country mile from a book falling, what do you think he is going to feel when a shock comes out of nowhere with zero obvious explanation to him? (At least he could see the book, you could let him sniff the book, you could gently drop the book from a low place to recreate the sound etc)

PAIN (and yes, a shock is pain) will never fix anxiety or stress. In any creature.

Edit to add: and in case you want to start splitting hairs on the semantics of shock/pain and treatment, when I say that a shock is pain and pain does not fix anxiety, I am being specific to the use of pain as a punishment. Not something like a TENS unit for physical pain or possibly electroshock therapy under anesthetics. The shock from a bark collar (or the burn of a citronella spray, which can be worse IMO because it lingers and continues to create irritation) is not a carefully designed therapy but rather a blunt instrument of punishment through physical pain.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Marvel

My boy is the same inside or outside of the kennel, the difference being that mad pacing from window to window seeing if I were there ;)

I have left a shirt I have worn in the kennel with him to no avail. I have provided toys for him as well. Nothing seems to work. Lately I have been discouraging him from laying on my bed (he lays exactly where I slept - maximum scentage) for fear my scent is a fix supporting his habit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Shell


"You prefer to shock or stim your dog for being anxious (a feeling that he has no conscious control over) rather than use a medication that can actually alleviate the anxiety? "

Knowing how they work, that they can work quickly (positive punishment is not the devil) and the alternative will do little in the short term (eviction is in the short-term), absolutely. . A shock collar will likely never cure anxiety. Not the point. Could it keep him from barking long enough so we aren't evicted - thereby providing a stable place to live and time for us to pursue other avenues for anxiety? It may.

"Your dog jumped a country mile from a book falling, what do you think he is going to feel when a shock comes out of nowhere with zero obvious explanation to him? (At least he could see the book, you could let him sniff the book, you could gently drop the book from a low place to recreate the sound etc)"

The dog did not see the book. Nor does not see the source of any number of loud noises when we go for walks or at home. The dog does not live in a bubble. Plenty of things (noises, etc) startle dogs every day and they don't know where they are coming from. They deal.

"PAIN (and yes, a shock is pain) will never fix anxiety or stress. In any creature. "

Agreed. And right now not what I am trying to do. I am trying to keep us off the streets. And of course you are assuming that medications do not induce mental trauma, which of course they can and often do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Canyx

"You are putting your needs and expectations above your dog's welfare."

Yes, I am. If I don't resolve the barking issue we will be evicted. In that case, his needs are definitely going to take a hit then.

I in no way shape or form believe a shock collar will cure his anxiety. I just need him to stop barking so we have a place to live where we can work on long-term solutions (that Im sure it will take) to help him.

Yes, there can be long term harm caused by short term use of a bark collar.

Can you direct me to the studies that confirm this? I am not saying it can't (as someone else said it may only take one use) I am just want to know there is a scientific basis for the universal aversion to shock collars on display here. It's the kind of aversion I see directed at prong/pinch collars, which I have used successfully with my dog with no perceived negative impact.

I understand that with an anxious dog it is certainly not preferable.
 

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Shell


"You prefer to shock or stim your dog for being anxious (a feeling that he has no conscious control over) rather than use a medication that can actually alleviate the anxiety? "

Knowing how they work, that they can work quickly (positive punishment is not the devil) and the alternative will do little in the short term (eviction is in the short-term), absolutely. . A shock collar will likely never cure anxiety. Not the point. Could it keep him from barking long enough so we aren't evicted - thereby providing a stable place to live and time for us to pursue other avenues for anxiety? It may.

"Your dog jumped a country mile from a book falling, what do you think he is going to feel when a shock comes out of nowhere with zero obvious explanation to him? (At least he could see the book, you could let him sniff the book, you could gently drop the book from a low place to recreate the sound etc)"

The dog did not see the book. Nor does not see the source of any number of loud noises when we go for walks or at home. The dog does not live in a bubble. Plenty of things (noises, etc) startle dogs every day and they don't know where they are coming from. They deal.

"PAIN (and yes, a shock is pain) will never fix anxiety or stress. In any creature. "

Agreed. And right now not what I am trying to do. I am trying to keep us off the streets.
Ok, so let me see if I am following your line of thought--

You agree that pain as punishment will not help fix the anxiety.

You prefer (and are willing to use) a shock collar in an attempt to shut down the dog enough that he does not bark (display his anxiety, since the anxiety will of course still be there) even though you acknowledge that it may only change the outward actions and not the inner mind.

But yet, you are not willing to use medication that is highly likely to both heal the mind and prevent the outward action (remove the anxiety and thus remove the display of the anxiety, the barking) because, you say that not being able to self-report means it could make him miserable?

Medication is the last resort. We are using human medications on dogs without really knowing what we are doing (as we don't in humans). The foundation of Psychology is self-report (the ability of the patient to inform the doctor how he is "feeling"). We have nothing like that in dogs. We watch for physical behaviors which may denote an emotion/condition of stress, but we don't really know.

I'll be averse to giving him 5mg of zantax until I see peer-reviewed studies in leading journals telling me it actually does something that does not make him feel worse. Plenty of people have their dogs on meds that are likely making their pet miserable.
First, I'd argue that dogs can self-report on their feelings. Lack of speech does not equal lack of communication.

Second, I'd argue that even if we agree that the meds have some non-zero potential to make things worse (which, I think there are ways to avoid by things like starting on low dosages, trying different meds etc) that the much greater potential for actually fixing the source of the barking makes them a better choice than a punishment that will never fix the source of the barking.

Third, you seem to think that a shock collar will buy you time to try and fix the anxiety via other avenues (and what avenues btw?). I'd say that in my observation, the opposite is likely to be true. The pain worsens the anxiety making it harder and harder to fix.

Basically, it does not go shock collar>>stop barking>>prevent eviction>>cure anxiety by other means.
But rather more often it goes shock collar>>may or may not stop barking whilst turning dog into fearful mess>>fearful mess of a dog gets fear aggressive>>bites human>>euthanasia. Eviction prevented? Maybe, because the dog is dead.

As an aside, since you have mentioned positive punishment being your training method a few times, I would point out that a bark shock collar is not positive punishment. It is negative reinforcement (escape). The removal of an aversive (the shock) once a behavior (stopping barking) occurs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Again thanks to all of you taking time to reply to my questions. Here is another one:

Those of you that are opposed to a shock collar in my scenario (again I understand why in my case), are you opposed to it in any scenraio?

I ask because as mentioned there is a current trend in training that only promotes positive reinforcement. As mentioned previous I in no way subscribe to that trend, but like to hear pros+cons from everyone.

Are you also opposed to pinch/prong collars? Why?
 
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