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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

I read the sticky thread about separation anxiety, and now I'm looking for a little more insight from Weimeraner and other velcro-dog owners. Baloo gets a yes to everything on the list, but I'm not sure how much of that is SA and how much is his breed.

A bit of background, first of all.

Baloo was a rescue puppy. All that the shelter would tell us was that he was "from an unwanted litter", which we assumed meant that he was brought in to the shelter voluntarily but of course it could also mean he was abandoned, or anything really. Since the day we got him he's been the most loving and sweet dog you can imagine.

Another reason I'm here is that he's not crate-trained. I'll admit to bad 'parenting' there. I could bore you with why we haven't crate-trained him yet but it's a long story, so I'll just keep it brief and say that for the past over months there have been a lot of changes in the household, and he was unsettled. We are beginning his crate training next week. I'm not sure how much of his behaviour is because he has SA, because he's a velcro dog, or because he just isn't crate trained.

What he does when we leave him in a room:
- He never has any interest in chewing anything other than his toys when we're home. As soon as we leave, we return to a destroyed room (even if we remove absolutely everything from the room, he will chew through the doorknobs).
- Even if he's just been to the bathroom outside, within 20 minutes of us being gone he will pee and poop everywhere.
- He scratches up the door to the point that the paint comes off and his paws seem to be sore.
- He barks constantly throughout the whole time he's left alone, whether it's for ten minutes or all day.
- Chews on his 'elbows' until the skin is raw.
- When we get home, he doesn't show any signs of feeling guilty about destroying things. He goes completely crazy greeting us and doesn't stop barking. When he eventually settles, it's on my/my husband's lap, where he cries himself to sleep. If we move him he looks panicky.

When he's left alone in his crate:
- He pees and poops. He does this regardless of how much or how little room he has.
- If we leave him with a toy, it winds up covered in pee. We're not sure whether he pees on it or it just gets dragged in it.
- He claws at the crate walls, which damages his webbed feet.
- A few times he's been able to get the bottom panel out and send it across the room.

He also goes crazy if ever he's left alone in a car. He doesn't pee or poop (thank goodness) but that's probably only because the longest we've ever left him in a car was about ten minutes. But he barks and howls so much that more than once we've had to stop people from calling the police: people just don't believe that he's only been left alone for a few minutes. The windows are also always covered in slobber from him pressing his nose against them. Also, he reacts to cues that we're about to leave, like getting our shoes from the shoe rack: even if he's sleeping, the moment that we go near the shoe rack he jumps to our side.

Throughout the day, he is always with us. When my husband's not home he follows me absolutely everywhere. When my husband is home, he still tries to follow me, but when my husband tells him "no" he's quite content to chill with my husband. He knows the stay command and will do it, but if the person telling him to stay goes out of his sight, he whines. If only one of us is home and we tell him stay, he follows us if we move out of his sight. At night he doesn't just sleep in the bed with us, he sleeps in my arms. If we make him sleep on his own bed he cries all night and doesn't sleep. All of the behaviours I've listed above only happen when he's alone. If we leave him with a friend, he whines and tries to get out the door after us for a little bit, but then calms down (I hope: it could be that the friend is just being polite).

Velcro-dog owners, does that sound like velcro-behaviour or SA?

I do have a plan of action as to where to go from here, which I'd like to share, too. But I won't make this post any longer than it already is!
 

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It sounds like SA to me. Lots of owners confuse regular anxiety, being a bit upset, with actual SA. But, I think yours leans toward SA, for these reasons:
- destruction (doorknobs, yikes!)
- pee and poop everywhere, even if you're only gone 20 min.
- scratches til the paint's gone and his paws are sore
- chews elbows,
- barking all day.

Those things tend to say SA to me. A little barking is nothing, but if he'll bark the entire day, that's a different story.

As for crate training: some dogs with SA LOVE their crates, because it feels like a nice, safe, cocoon. BUT, some dogs with SA HATE their crates because they can't handle feeling isolated and not being able to look out. So, my advice, as you get ready to crate train him, is to adjust your strategy if the crate seems to be making him worse.

Also, it's important to start with very short periods of time when you are trying to condition a dog to like his crate. If you put him in the crate and leave him there for a couple hours, he may hate it so much that he will never adjust to it.

So, start leaving him in the crate, with a frozen, stuffed kong, for 30 seconds. Do this as many times throughout the day as you can. Any time you have a few minutes, do it. (don't put much "stuffing" in the kong, though, otherwise you'll end up with a stuffed dog!)
After a few days, try 1-2 minutes in the crate, as often throughout the day as you can. After a few days, try 3 minutes.
You get the point.
You can also feed him in the crate, and google "crate games" as you'll find some good ideas there to make his crate fun.

As for him following you around, try to discourage this by making so many short, boring trips out of the room that he decides it's too much trouble to follow you every time you get up. Take a few afternoons, or a weekend, and settle down with a book. Then, get up to get a drink. Then get up to get a sweater. Then put your drink away. Then, go get a different book. Then, go put your sweater away. Then go get a blanket. Then, go get a snack. You get the idea. Many dogs decide that all this is boring and pointless, and may stay in the room when you leave....

And, when you get ready to leave the house, switch your routine up a bit. You mentioned that he pays attention to cues, like getting shoes on, etc. So, re-arrange the order of how you get ready to leave. Get your shoes on, but then sit down for a few minutes. Then, get your keys. Then put them back. Then, get your coat. Then, get your keys again. That way, he never really knows when you're leaving...
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Unforunately, he still follows me everywhere for even very brief, boring trips, like going upstairs to get a sweater. At least now he will stay if I tell him, though.

My plan of action was this:
1. Start by desensitising him to cues, like putting shoes on (I would put my shoes on, then return to my seat).
2. Leave the room for up to a minute at a time and make him stay.
3. Leave him in the house while I do something very quick outside, like getting the mail. Make no fuss before or after leaving.
4. Set up the crate in the living room, so he can go in and out of his own accord.
5. Introduce rewards when he starts to calmly sit or lay in the crate.
6. Move his food bowl into his crate.
7. Start shutting him in the crate while I'm in the room and he can still see me.
8. Start shutting him in the crate while I leave the room or go outside, and build the time up gradually.

However, since we got the kitten, it's been slightly modified, because he seems to be a lot calmer. We now have a spare bedroom, which I've turned into an office and I'm in there all day; so in there with me is absolutely everything the he and kitten need, and his crate. If ever I have to leave them unattended, I shut Baloo in his crate and let the kitten have the run of the room. I guess it's just because there is something in there with him, but he's so much calmer already it's unbelievable. I was able to skip steps 2, 5, and 6.

I now leave him in the crate, in the room with the kitten, while I take a shower; fix up some food downstairs; grab a drink from downstairs... It all adds up to about an hour a day, in short bursts. So far, we're up to fifteen minutes in the crate before he starts whining, and twenty before he starts barking. I'm always careful to make sure that I return before he starts whining or barking, so he doesn't think that that behaviour has caused me to come back. When I do return, if I'm too late and he is barking/whining, I ignore him. If he's quiet, I very calmly tell him "good boy" and rub his ears, but leave it at that: I don't go crazy with praise. I'm now able to leave him in his crate with his bed, food and water, without him peeing on his bed and knocking his bowls over in a frenzy. A few times I've come back into the room to find him laying calmly on the bed!

While I'm really, really pleased with him so far, is there anything else I need to be doing?
 

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Your plan of action is exactly what any good trainer/behaviorist would do. Nice job. How did you figure out what to do?
 

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Yaaaay! That's made me feel really good :D

Internet research, reading this forum, and a little common sense ("he thinks I'm going to leave if I put my shoes on... ...so why don't I put my shoes on and not leave?") and voila. I think I'm going to work on actually leaving the house instead of just the room, though. I think he can smell that I'm still there with that big old Bloodhound nose of his, and the sound of the front door closing might set him off again for all I know.

Do you think that, once he's completely comfortable with being in the crate with the kitten in the room, I should start taking the kitten away? I'm wondering whether he would start to freak out if, heaven forbid, the kitten was ever at the vet or something and we needed to leave him in the crate.
 

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I think you can use the kitten to your advantage in desensitizing him to being all alone. The idea as you may know, is to move slowly in a way that he can handle.
 
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