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Separation Anxiety?

992 Views 10 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Nil
I'm new here and in need of some advice, it sounds like other people here have dealt with similar issues.

A month ago I brought home a terrier mix Pete from a rescue. He is not only adorable (looks like a little fox!) but has a great temperament, gentle and very loving. He's been socialized in a lot of situations and acted like a champ, friendly with dogs but not super interested, really a people dog.... maybe a little too much so.

He had been at the rescue for a few months and we were told he was crate trained so we set one up in our kitchen thinking it would be a nice haven for him in an unusual environment. The first day he was literally on our (especially my) heels all day. He walked right into the crate and lay there for a few minutes in the afternoon. When evening came I sent him in there and went upstairs to bed. He proceeded to SCREAM and intermittently claw at the door for 3.5 hours with no break. I know you cant let them out when they're frantic but by midnight I was desperate and clearly he was too. I went downstairs and sat for half an hour till he fell asleep, I thought I could sneak away but as soon as I moved he was awake like a lighting bolt and I decided to take advantage of the lull to let him out instead of letting him get going again. He whines when he cant see me for a moment and refuses to go outside alone.

I'm home most of the day but I had a few appointments that required me to be out for 3 hours at a time, I'm pretty certain he barked the whole time and I came home to a puddle of drool. Another time we left him in the house with my brother (who got locked in the bathroom for an hour... hilarious) and when we came home Pete was barking at the door and had COVERED our front hall with sweaty pawprints, not one or two trails but layers of solid pattern. I have done LOTS of research and have been trying to get him used to being alone... all the standard stuff, no intense greetings or goodbyes, desensitizing him to triggers like opening the door, leaving for a few seconds then a few minutes. He still whines but wont start barking until about the 20 min mark.

He doesnt seem to destroy things or soil the house *thank god* but I can't spend my whole life inside my house... I've been assuming its SA but we're at the 5 week mark and have seen only minor improvements. I really want to fix the problem and make darn sure I don't make things worse. Advice? Suggestions?

Any help or support would be appreciated.
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Oh boy, this is definitely not a fun situation to be in, neither for you or the dog.

You seem to be doing all the right things though, and as you probably know SA is not something that goes away overnight. I hope we'll be of some help! :) Now, does he start whining the moment you're out of sight? I have read that at the beginning, departures should be as short as the dog can handle, so that you return to him before the onset of anxiety. My pup would also start whining/jumping his baby gate when he was left alone and I found that if I left him for a very short amount of time (then gradually increasing that time) and he didn't whine, if I rewarded the good behavior (staying quiet) with treats and/or affection he improved a lot faster. After I rewarded him I would leave and if he would whine I would wait until he stopped (even for a split second!) and reward him immediately.

Also, I take it you let him roam free when you're away from home? If not, my mistake; it's what I assumed from the information you gave us! It might be beneficial to give him a small, safe room where he cannot destroy or get a hold of anything potentially dangerous such as a bathroom or the laundry room and install his crate there. That way you can keep him in the room (if you don't want to completely isolate him by closing the door it may be best to start by installing a baby gate that he cannot jump over) when you are gone. You would have to accustom him to his room by gradually increasing the time as you are doing with his crate. To help further ease his anxiety, leave many treats dispersed in the room and in his cage, and give him many toys (interactive toys/stuffed toys tend to keep dogs busy for a while as well as Kongs filled with yogurt or other yummy freezable and dog-safe food). The purpose of all this is to allow him to feel comfortable and safe and also to keep you at ease when you are gone since you know he cannot eat or destroy anything. I know you've said he doesn't do such things but if his anxiety increases he might find new ways to release his stress.

I wish you luck and I hope we'll be able to offer valuable insight! :)
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