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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello everyone!
Sam (8 months old flat-coated retriever) is an adorable, loving and well-listening dog, but there's one biiiiiig problem: I can not leave him home alone.
Not for an hour, not for 10 minutes, not even for one minute...he barks up a storm the minute I step outside and won't calm down until I return.
At first we were living in some kind of loft, had no neighbors around and I'd leave him in the apartment for a couple of hours, every now and then. Due to a new job I had to move and now we're living in an apartment complex, surrounded by 6 other parties. I understand that Sam has to get used to this new place and the new noises (doors slamming, people talking in the stairways), but it's gotten so bad that I have not left the house without Sam for over 5 weeks now.
Having a neighbor who yells at me, insults me for disturbing "his peace" and quite time doesn't really help us either. I honestly do not even dare practising with Sam anymore because I'm to afraid of annoying the neighbors to much. I tried to talk to them, explained them the situation, explained them that I have to train Sam, but they have zero understanding and actually threatend calling the police.
Sam and I did (do) practice starting at 0: I'd leave the apartment and try to stay outside for a minute...I say try because after 20 seconds Sam began whining and barking to much, so I waited for a quite moment to come back in.
You're supposed to gradualy increase those minutes, but for weeks now we're stuck in this first minute.
Also, a dog trainer said I should put him in the bedroom, a smaller area would make him feel more comfortable, but putting him there (on in any other room, closing the doors) makes it even worse.
I don't know what to do anymore and I know I can't solve this issue over night, but it's been weeks now since my husband and I last could go out for dinner without taking Sam and I'll start my job soon which will be impossible to do if Sam barks non-stop while I'm gone.
Also, I'd like to say that I only practice with Sam after we've been on a 90-120 minute long walk, so he does get enoug of exercice everyday.
I'm looking forward reading from you and getting some advice, because right now I'm completely lost, frustrated and sad about this situation.
 

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My dog did this when I lived out of state - she didn't feel secure in that environment. I had neighbors dog-sit her, so I didn't really solve it in terms of her staying in my place alone and not crying. Poor baby used to have a lot of anxiety when separated from me but it's better now.

If worse comes to worse you could do a doggie day-care while you work on this so you can go to work. I know it's expensive but it costs less than not being able to leave for work!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
You are right, getting a dog-sitter or finding the right doggie day care is definitely a solution I was thinking of, even though it won't solve the "problem".
Isn't it horrible when you have to leave knowing how much your dog actually suffers?
The rare times I actually go to be outside the apartment without Sam barking to to much (or me just not carrying about what my neighbors say) I could hear him running around the apartment, nervously looking for us, not being able to settle down...breaking my heart.
 

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You are right, getting a dog-sitter or finding the right doggie day care is definitely a solution I was thinking of, even though it won't solve the "problem".
Isn't it horrible when you have to leave knowing how much your dog actually suffers?
The rare times I actually go to be outside the apartment without Sam barking to to much (or me just not carrying about what my neighbors say) I could hear him running around the apartment, nervously looking for us, not being able to settle down...breaking my heart.
Someone who has dealt with this will offer you some solutions I am sure. Yes, it is heartbreaking! We can't explain anything to them :(
 

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This is where crate training would help because it would give Sam a place of his own where he felt secure. But, don't expect it to be an instant solution especially if Sam wasn't crate trained from puppyhood.

It also sounds as if Sam is not getting anywhere near enough mental as well as physical exercise.

You could try Rescue Remedy (by Bach Flowers) to see if that takes the edge off his anxiety or, ask your vet about Clomicalm if he needs strong meds temporarily so that you can work on his training.

Practice the things you do to get ready to leave such as puting on shoes, a sweater, picking up keys but don't leave. For example, put your sweater on, take it off; pick up your keys and put them down, etc.

Don't say anything to Sam when coming or going. Keep it very low key.

Does he get a special alone time only interactive toy such as a stuffed Kong?

Don't be afraid to correct him when warranted.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
This is where crate training would help because it would give Sam a place of his own where he felt secure
I was thinking of crate training Sam, but after seeing how much worse his behavior gets when leaving him in "his" room before leaving I thought he might not enjoy an even smaller space.
Sam does not sleep with us and to avoid giving him to much space he sleeps in a smaller spare bedroom, which works fine for overnight. Also I do give him multiple sessions of alone-time in that same room during the day. I put him in there with a Kong (or a bone or other stuffed chew toys) and he'll do fine for about 10-15 minutes. Then he'll slowly start whining and barking.

I decided to start practicing alllll over again, so right now where's at step one: taking the keys, putting shoes on, running around the apartment to then placing it all back again.
Also I step outside a few times a day, just closing the door behind me and coming back inside right away.
 

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Separation anxiety is a tough thing to deal with.
I have a couple of questions:
Is he only barking? Or do you see evidence of inappropriate urination or defecation, inappropriate chewing (around the doors etc), hypersalivation or extreme pacing?
If you don't then your case is still "mild". Yeah, I know it doesn't seem mild to you, the dog or to your neighbours..lol.

There are a couple of things I can suggest:
First off to help control the barking to placate your neighbours, try an ultrasonic anti bark device. It just sits on a shelf or table near where the dog spends most of his time barking (most likely near the front door) and when he barks it emits an ultrasonic sound to startle him out of the bark. Don't go with a collar as they can misfire and freak the dog out.

Secondly: think about trying a DAP diffuser. DAP is a dog appeasing pheromone, it plugs into the wall like a Glade plug in and contains lavender, St. John's Wort and Valerian extracts along with a synthetic pheromone that mimics a lactating female dog (which is like going home to mom,) I have found it made a great difference in Cracker's anxiety. You replace the bottle part of the diffuser once a month.

Reconcile (fluoxetine..which is Prozac) and Clomicalm (clomipramine) are both meds recommended for severe separation anxiety and require an okay by your vet. Cracker is on Clomipramine but she had all of the prior mentioned symptoms and was getting sick from the stress. You may not need to go to medication where he is now, but keep it in mind. The idea is that the dog is so stressed that learning the behaviour modification cannot happen, the meds reduce the extreme anxiety enough for the dog to be able to learn.

Buy the book "I'll Be HOme Soon" by Patricia McConnell (you can get it online)..it has great information on how to desensitise the dog to you being away.

For the change in environment (noises in the hallway etc) that can trigger worse behaviour after he has likely calmed some, do some research into Dr. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation. It is a series of training exercises that you do with the dog (that seem very silly as they involve you making noises and jumping around and clapping, etc..so be prepared!) but it DOES help if you have dog that reacts to noises and movement.

For general care: ensure proper exercise BUT try not to OVERstimulate in the exercise before you leave..a long CALM walk or run as opposed to manic fetching exercises so he isn't revved up (tired or not) when you leave.

Practice ignoring the dog. This for me was the hardest part, but not giving an excess of attention at all times makes a big difference. Encourage him to just go lay down on his mat with a good chew while you are doing other things in the house.

Spend at least ten minutes (more is better) working his brain each day. Clicker training new behaviours is ideal..teach him tricks, complicated behaviours like cleaning up his own toys etc. This will help calm him AND to tire him out in a good way.

Now, for the neighbours..I have been lucky enough to have neighbours that complain but DO understand the issue...but what I did is I sent each neighbour on both sides on my floor and the floor above and below me a handwritten card/note saying that my dog (specified by NAME) was having some difficulties adjusting to the new place, that I WAS working on the issue as best as I can, using training and behaviour modification, but that it would take some time. Thank them for their understanding and enlist their help by asking them to please let you know if there is any change for good or for bad with the noise etc.

Now, my neighbours are obviously a bit nicer than yours, but they WERE complaining to management when the issue first cropped up. Now they send me cards and tell me when we see us in the elevator that things are better, or that they heard Cracker on sunday for about twenty minutes but it stopped or whatever. By asking for and thanking them for their help they have become more sympathetic to the issue, more comfortable in approaching me if the issues change and since this makes for happy neighbours it greatly reduces MY stress, which I'm sure reduces Cracker's.

If you do these things now before it gets worse you should be able to get this under control and live a peaceful life.

Good luck.
 

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Building the confidence to be alone takes time, practice and gets better as the dog matures....they learn that being alone is OK. At 8 months old, it's hard....he's still a puppy and in a new place.
The ideal scenario would be that Sam would just sleep while you are gone. As dogs sleep 16-18 hours a day, the trick is how to schedule your leaving around that sleep cycle.
Teaching him that being alone can be a good thing takes some creativity....leaving him with a big soup bone or giving him something really good (a Kong filled with peanut butter) or a favorite toy while you step out for a minute or two is one tactic.
You mentioned the noise of the neighbors in the hallway, etc. That's part of the puppy socialization process...how to cope with strange noises, scary sights and I hope you're still working on improving that confidence....teaching him what is 'normal' to reduce any reactivity.
It was also mentioned earlier about your coming and going...keeping it very low key/normal. Your attitude is crucial, especially when leaving. If you're apprehensive about leaving, I guarantee that Sam will pick-up on that in a flash.
What you're feeding Sam can also have an impact on his activity level. Puppy food is high energy/high calorie. If that's what he's getting now, he's getting close to switching to adult food. You might want to consider changing to a good quality adult food...something that has meats....not grains or cereals (too high in sugars). Meats should make-up 3 of the top 4 ingredients.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
First of all, thank you Cracker for your very interesting and helpful answer!

Is he only barking? Or do you see evidence of inappropriate urination or defecation, inappropriate chewing (around the doors etc), hypersalivation or extreme pacing?
Sam only barks and whines and whenever I stayed outside the door I could hear him nervously running around the apartment. He would lay down next to the door for maybe 30 seconds before getting up and pacing around again.

For general care: ensure proper exercise BUT try not to OVERstimulate in the exercise before you leave..a long CALM walk or run as opposed to manic fetching exercises so he isn't revved up (tired or not) when you leave.
We try our best to not get Sam all reved up. At first we'd play many fetch games, throwing sticks, but he'd get so hyped up that he began releasing his stress by humping us. Since then we go on long, calm walks (off-leash), don't throw anymore sticks but offer him beginners' dummy training games as an alternative.

Practice ignoring the dog. This for me was the hardest part, but not giving an excess of attention at all times makes a big difference. Encourage him to just go lay down on his mat with a good chew while you are doing other things in the house.
You are right, Sam gets to much attention!!! He's pretty much always around me and since I worked from home until recently I was always there and 95% of the time Sam's laying next to me. I'm currently working on actually closing the doors behind me (i.e. when being in the kitchen) and I put him in his room a few times a day. What I don't understand is, why is he fine being in that room overnight but putting him there during the day (with a yummy chew toy) turns into a big drama after 10 minutes.

Again, thank you very much for your help! I'll look into the recommended books as well.
 

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I don't have "the solution" but I do have some experience in this and some suggestions. This will be a little long... sorry.

We adopted a 2 year old dog that (as we quickly learned) has severe separation anxiety. The vet recommended crating the dog to give him a sense of security (like a den) when we leave. The barking, howling, growling, and all around "panic" when we left was terrible. It started as soon as the dog realized that we were leaving.

We did all the conditioning.. pick up the keys, put them down. put on your coat.. sit back down... open the door... then close it and sit down again... open the door and step outside but leave the door open... return and sit down... etc... I also walk him twice a day (once before I go to work in the morning and once in the evening). Each walk is about an hour so we walk about 6 miles a day or so.

We did the conditioning for a long time and progress was very slow. When we crated the dog, we set up a camera so we could watch the tape when we returned to see how he did. Did he bark the entire time, or did he quit a couple minutes after we left, etc.? Unfortunately, the tape showed that he broke out of the crate within a minute and proceeded to ransack the house. Chewed the doorknobs, clawed at the bottom of the doors, tore down and chewed up the window and patio door blinds, urinated and defecated on the floor, got up on the kitchen counter and tore up everything on it. It was horrible to watch (and expensive). He was not trying to punish us, he was in a complete panic. Very sad.

The vet said that he was a classic case of separation anxiety and that we probably needed to medicate him to try to help him through it. She also suggested a dog behaviorist, but the closest one is hours away and would need to come to our home to see the dog (and us) here. She prescribed prozac, but that takes up to 8 weeks to take effect, so she also prescribed valium until the prozac had time to take effect. She told us that there is a percentage of dogs that do worse with the valium and that it is harder to train them when they are on it so we had to watch him closely for a while. Our dog was one of those who had problems with it. He was completely unmanageable when he was on it. We discontinued that and she tried xanex instead. The xanex was not as bad as the valium, but he was very poorly behaved. He normally was an excellent dog when we were home, but when he was on the xanex, he was a very bad dog. We took him off that too.

I bought a larger, all-metal kennel that he should not have been able to break out of, but he did! I ended up reinforcing it to where he could not break out, but he started chewing on the bars so much that he chipped a tooth and was wearing the enamel off his teeth. I replaced it with another smaller plastic crate, but made some steel rods to reinforce the door and he has been unable to break out of it. Unfortunately, he managed to hop it across the room until it bumped into the arm of my recliner, then he ate a hole in the arm of the recliner through the vent holes. :eek:

We relocated the crate and kept working on the conditioning. The Vet suggested trying to leave him out of the crate again with the warning that he could tear the house up again. We tried it and he went on another rampage. We came very close to getting rid of the dog by this point. He had done close to $2,000 in damage to the house, lots of vet bills, we felt awful that he was so panicked when we left. Family vote: three to one to keep trying. My wife had enough and wanted to get rid of the dog, but we talked her into giving it a little more time.

OK... here is where the story starts getting better. After two months, the conditioning (and prozac) began to take effect. He still went ape-shit when we left him in the crate, (we set up the camera every day to check). Initially the panic, barking, etc would start before we left and continue until we returned. We always gave him toys, Kongs stuffed with food, etc.) but he would not touch any of them. Gradually, he started calming down after a couple hours, then an hour and a half, an hour, etc. We made pretty steady progress from about the 7 week mark on the prozac through today.

Eventually, the tape showed that he was only barking for a few minutes when we left and then laid down. It was such a relief knowing that he was not in a panic the entire time we were gone anymore. It has now been about 6 months and he does not bark at all when we leave. If he is in his crate for about 4 hours, he will bark and try to break out, but it only lasts about 3 minutes before he lays back down again. He still will not eat his food-filled kong in the crate. As soon as we let him out, he runs back in to get it and wants to eat it immediately, but we don't let him. It is not a reward for getting out, it is a special treat for being in the crate. I am going to claim that he is cured when he finally can eat in his crate.

I know people here will disagree with the prozac, but I am going with my Vet's advice on that. If it were not for the prozac, I doubt we could have kept the dog. Our mutual goal is to get him off it eventually, but it seems to have no negative effect on him in the short-term (like the vailum and xanex did) and I believe it is helping a great deal at this point.

I can understand your neighbors' concerns. I would not have wanted to live in an apartment building with a dog that was doing what my dog did for the first couple months. I would encourage you to talk to your vet about the situation to see if he or she has any ideas. Medication may or may not be the right approach for you and your dog, but the behavior change will take time, and the medicine might be what buys you the time you need to keep your dog more calm, your neighbors happy, and give you some peace of mind while you do the conditioning with your dog.

Best wishes to you both!!!
-Mike-
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Ohh, I really appreciate your help, thanks for taking the time and answering to my thread!

The vet said that he was a classic case of separation anxiety and that we probably needed to medicate him to try to help him through it.
I currently live in Germany where most dog owners and vets are absolutely against using any type of meds to calm a dog down. They believe that you know what you get into when getting a dog and you need to be creative and consistent in your training until you solve whatever problem your dog has. I did dare mentionning calming meds once while talking to a friend and you should have seen her face! It was like "Ooohhh my god! You are a horrible dog owner, you wanted the dog now it's up to you to deal with it and meds will only harm your dog"
As far as I know vets here have the same attitude, they might give you some homeopathic drops.

Teaching him that being alone can be a good thing takes some creativity....leaving him with a big soup bone or giving him something really good (a Kong filled with peanut butter) or a favorite toy while you step out for a minute or two is one tactic.
Unfortunately Sam shows no interested whatsoever in his chew toys or peanut butter filled kongs when I leave. The second I close the door behind me he starts barking non-stop.
What I just realized is that he used to bark, then give up and just lay next to the front door, but now that we've been practicing more intensively he'll start barking from the first second on without any break.
Why is that? Why did we take such a major step back?
Uhhh, it sometimes is so frustrating but we'll keep training and hope for the best!

You might want to consider changing to a good quality adult food...something that has meats....not grains or cereals (too high in sugars). Meats should make-up 3 of the top 4 ingredients.
Thanks for the tip! I still do feed puppy food which has 70% meats and I'll definitely consider switching to adult food earlier than I had planned.

The ideal scenario would be that Sam would just sleep while you are gone. As dogs sleep 16-18 hours a day, the trick is how to schedule your leaving around that sleep cycle.
We always make sure he's sleeping or chilling out before attempting to step outside. But as soon as we get up Sam gets up with us, follows us and while we are outside he cannot calm down anymore. He's constantly pacing, getting up and laying back down every 15-30 seconds.
 

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I understand your frustrations - I'm dealing with a case of SA myself. The other posters have given you a lot of good information. It seems to be a matter of finding what works best for the individual dog.

Rufus would not tolerate being left inside a crate, despite months of crate training. He eventually broke a tooth and escaped multiple times. Since then I've had to leave him loose in the house when I leave, which is is a constant source of worry. Having the ability to walk around the house has eliminated the constant barking, but has opened up a whole new world of stuff to destroy. He has good days and bad days. Moving to a new house certainly sparked a regression, as does people coming to the door in the middle of the day.

I eventually had to put him on Fluoxitine and Alprazolam. I was worried at first about the side effects, and about ending up with a zombie dog. I haven't noticed any major personality changes, but sadly I haven't noticed a huge improvement in his behavior either. I'm continuing with it as an aide to behavior modification. Don't let what others say about drugs influence you - it's certainly possible for a dog to have a chemical imbalance. You are working on the behavior modification techniques, which is the most important part. In my case, I had to put aside my worries and the opinions of others in exchange for a dog that is not mentally and physically hurting.

I would recommend persistence with the kong or bone though - Rufus is generally too anxious at first to pay it much attention, but when he starts to go into destructive mode it has helped immensely to have a safe toy for him to focus on.

Good luck, and let us know if you start to see improvement. You're not the only one dealing with this problem, and the boards are a good way to find support and ideas. I like Cracker's idea of making advance peace with the neighbors - I'm moving again in a few months and it's something I'm definitely going to try!
 

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He was not trying to punish us, he was in a complete panic (Squishy).

This is a perfect example of why NOT accepting the use of medication in extreme cases is unfair to the dog. As much as I "get" that many people do not like the use of psychopharmaceuticals, this simply shows a lack of understanding how panic and anxiety go hand in hand with an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. This is not about "this is the dog you got, deal with it", this is about the general health and wellbeing of a much loved (if they are lucky) pet.

No one can learn anything (humans included) when they are in an extreme anxiety attack. Logic doesn't work, consoling doesn't work and practicing behaviour modification that requires a certain amount of UNDER THRESHOLD classical conditioning will not work when the brain is flooded with cortisol and other stress hormones.

This is why a dog that normally would accept food and bones will not touch it when anxious. Food is the LAST thing on their mind..as it is racing to figure out a way to bring their people back, or as others have discovered, how to GET OUT to find their owners.

Even when doing reactivity modification you know you are too close to the trigger as soon as the dog refuses to accept food.

My veterinarian and I discussed the pros and cons of medication when Cracker started to lose weight due to the stress. He was adamant that I have a beh. mod plan in place (which I did..) and that we do it for six months with the meds and then wean off and see how she did. We aren't at six months yet, but she HAS made great progress.

Remember that your vet is there to help YOU and YOUR DOG and that you have the right to insist on treatment if you think it will help your dog. Whether it is "generally accepted" in your country or not has nothing to do with your personal situation. For years, depression and anxiety in humans was seen as a sign of weakness, not as a viable medical/psychological chemical imbalance..that has changed. Why not for animals too? They have the same brains we do (with only a smaller frontal cortex), the same chemicals floating around and the same physical illnesses...in fact, most psychopharmaceuticals were tested on dogs prior to use in humans..gee, I wonder why?

Clomipramine and fluoxetine are used in humans for anxiety and depression with great success BECAUSE they worked on dogs. Remember these are not sedatives, they simply balance out the serotonin and dopamine levels in the dog's brain. Not all dogs do well on these meds and sometimes other meds are used, but these are the most common. And yes, it takes 6-8 weeks or so to "see" a difference.

I'm not saying medication is the be all and end all, nor that it should not be researched and carefully applied with a good behaviour mod. program. What I am saying is it should always be an option if the traditional, classic case of SA does not respond to BM alone. If it saves a dog from being given up (and probably euthed due to inadoptability) or saves a family from being evicted, it is a viable option.

As for the question of the increased barking...it may be that you were moving too fast with the desensitization process, increasing the stress in him and then since he is barking NONSTOP you opened the door and "rewarded" the bark. Yeah, I know..tough one to prevent. So, I ask, when you started working with the in and out of the door thing..did you work on just opening and closing the door first (without YOU leaving) or did you go right to stepping out and stepping back in?

The Protocol for Relaxation has it very well explained for timing of the door opening and closing for many repeats before you actually go OUT. Baby steps baby steps baby steps.

What I don't understand is, why is he fine being in that room overnight but putting him there during the day (with a yummy chew toy) turns into a big drama after 10 minutes.

Oops, forgot to answer this.
This means that 10 minutes is his threshold.
Let him out BEFORE he hits that marker and then gradually build it up. At night, his "schedule" is set to go to bed as is YOURS and he knows it, as that has always been the routine. Daytime used to mean "time with Mom" and now means "time WITHOUT Mom", that's a big change in routine for the boy.

This is why when people get pups and work from home I always recommend they go out and do stuff without the dog occasionally and use tethering and crating occasionally to help the dog become accustomed to not having constant attention, while still paying attention to potty training etc. It's the big change in routine in an SA prone dog that throws a wrench into the works.

Dogs are social animals and also very routine driven (this is part of how they learn) so any change in routine, environment etc can be stressful. If it is built into the puppies early socialization and training it is then not such a big deal when the owners go out.
 

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2 things (didnt read all the responses)
1. buy a comfort zone diffuser. it releases an odorless pheromone similar to what momma dogs emit when whelping. it comforts alot of anxious dogs.
2. Any time he gets vocal in his crate, come in like the big mean loud alpha bitch and do whatever it takes to shut him up. If all you have to do is speak in a low tone, then fine, if you have to bang on the door, fine, shake the cage, fine. He needs to associate being vocal in the crate with sudden doom. Takes 1-2 sessions to eliminate the problem completely, and he'll still love his crate and you, i promise
 

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2 things (didnt read all the responses)
1. buy a comfort zone diffuser. it releases an odorless pheromone similar to what momma dogs emit when whelping. it comforts alot of anxious dogs.
2. Any time he gets vocal in his crate, come in like the big mean loud alpha bitch and do whatever it takes to shut him up. If all you have to do is speak in a low tone, then fine, if you have to bang on the door, fine, shake the cage, fine. He needs to associate being vocal in the crate with sudden doom. Takes 1-2 sessions to eliminate the problem completely, and he'll still love his crate and you, i promise
What?! Kidding, right? I would not recommend this at all -- will create a bad association with the crate and probably with you, too.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Oh my god!!! You will not believe what happened!

I decided to go visit my parents for a couple of days, so I grabbed Sam and we both drove down there. My mom she knows about Sam's problem but she wanted to see herself how he behaves, so I stepped outside and there was...nothing! No whining, no barking, not a peep!
I was completely surprised, thought it might be because my mom's still in the house, so we both left the house and drove off. We had set up a camera before and what was taped is absolutely surprising to me: sam stands near the door for a few minutes, runs off and comes back with a bone to then lay down agains the door. Absolutely calm, no barking, nothing!
How the heck is this possible?! Since I have Sam I've never lived at my parents', we'd occasionally visited them, spend 2-3 days there, but never lived there for a longer periode of time.
How come he had a bit of trouble staying alone at my first place, is having a horrible time leaving my side at the new place and at my parents' he's completely chill.
I don't get it...
We actually left him alone for well over 3 hours and yet the camera did not record any whining or barking.
Right now I'm not sure how I should feel about this. On one hand I'm super-happy because I see that he can actually stay by himself, but on the other hand I know that there has to be one big, big issue with our new place and I know that we'll have to go back there soon. I know he'll soon be at a place again where he obviously does not feel comfortable whatsoever.

To calm her down have you tried leaving the TV or radio on?
Yes, we tried it many times but it didn't change any of his behaviour, unfortunately.
 

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Is it possible that you were more relaxed at your mother's house so that your body language was more confident giving your dog some confidence in turn?
 

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I'm going to throw something out there that's going to seem completely random.
have your home checked for black mold.
black mold can make people and pets psychotic to varying degrees as well as very physically ill. I had black mold in my previous home and was forced to move for my health's sake.
i'm a very healthy person, and before moving into black mold central had been sick once in 10 years! after moving in it was a monthly occurance, i even got walking pneumonia. i was forgetfull, i had terrible joint pain, i couldnt control my hunger, the list goes on.
my cat was the most bizarre. i adopted a 9 year old maine coon while living at black mold central and he was by far a personality anomaly. he'd have breathing fits, like asthma that the vet couldnt pin point. his facial expressions were always deranged, and he behaved awkwardly. he'd moan in the middle of the night like a cat in heat (he's a neutered male), he was phobic about getting on the bed, but not on the sofas.
I moved from black mold central and within the first day i had a whole new cat! the breathing fits have vanished, his expression seems loving now, he actually comes up for pets and snuggles where before an approaching hand was terrifying.

its worth looking into
 

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Rufus reacts better to my absences when he's at my parents house as well. He did spend quite a bit of time there initially, but it doesn't sound like your pup has been there long enough to attribute his comfort to that.

My other theory is that when Rufus (or Sam in your case) is living with me, he becomes very dependent and clingy because i'm the only human he interacts with. At my parents house he doesn't focus on what I'm doing nearly as much because there are other distractions.

I don't know what solution this is leading me to... except that I've noticed that behavior in my SA dog as well. I've actually taken him home to my parents for a few days if I know there will be something going on at my house that will make him anxious (people coming and going in the middle of the day or something). If your parents aren't too far away you could try this as a short term solution?
 
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