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I recently adopted a jug about 2 weeks ago. He has serious separation anxiety. It is a task to leave our house! He barks and jumps at the door to stop us. Today he nipped my fiancee's foot when we left. I know he has been through a lot. He was found by the animal control in May. I've heard it takes adopted dogs 6 weeks to adjust, but I want to work on this ASAP! What can we do to decrease his separation anxiety?
 

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You need to slowly desensitize him to leaving. I had this problem with my dog (we are still working through it). Here is what we did.

1. Patricia Mcconnell has an ebook called I'll Be Home Soon that was really helpful.
2. Give him a special treat like a bully stick or a kong when you leave (and only when you leave). Make sure to pick it up when you come back so he associates your absence with something really great. Added bonus it might distract him from nipping at you as you leave.
3. If he follows you around the house teach down/stay and practice it everywhere and for various stretches of time. I taught Pete 'go to your spot' and had him stay there while I got ready to leave and left for only seconds at a time to get him habituated. The self-restraint really helped so he didnt feel the need to tear down barriers to follow me.
4. Make arrivals and departures as low-key as possible, dont talk to or look at or touch the dog for 20 min before you leave and when you get back. I even noticed that as I get ready to leave there is usually a final rush when I'm looking for keys, getting my stuff together, I slowed that down so there is no sense of excitement before I walk out the door.
5. If you use a crate try 'crate games' (youtube it) but for us a gated room worked way better, something about the confinement made it worse for Pete.
6. Go slow. The worst part is the beginning (when you can't go a few seconds without him whining) that takes the longest but a good foundation means you won't have big setbacks later.
7. Film him (set up a webcam) so you can see exactly what and when he does, that way you can tell how to manage the specific behaviours.
8. Routine is good, dogs thrive when they know what to expect and when.

I was insanely frustrated but in the last week (after about 2 months) we had a breakthrough and now he can be left alone for hours at a time. Its hard work but worth it... good luck!
 

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AIW suggestion look good.

FYI - This is not "separation anxiety." It is just a normal reaction of not yet understanding the rules and not yet understanding how the rules of your house work... and the fact that you will be coming back. As aiw suggests, your dog should be able to learn and relax in a couple of months.

Separation anxiety is a phobia, a strong emotional fear and reaction, that can include tearing up the house, and trying to escape when left alone. It can take a long time to calm things down, and sometimes requires drug intervention, when extreme.
 

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Thank you! Great suggestions! I will definitely use these. We are training him to sit before we fully enter the door. He did it twice! We don't crate him or keep him in the kitchen. He doesn't need it. He is completely house trained and doesn't destroy our stuff. He really is a great dog. He is totally my shadow! He follows me everywhere. I can't even switch the laundry without him following me to the basement! We'll establish "his space".
 

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Good, sensible advice, aiw, although regarding #3, ten minutes is probably long enough, don't you think? Patricia McConnell has some very good books out; a favorite of mine is The Other End of the Leash.
 

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We have gone as high as 1.5 hours, working up slowly of course. He is of course able to stand up and change positions while remaining "on his spot". Because Pete HATES confinement we have to rely on self-restraint when we leave. I wanted him to get used to the idea that when we leave its his job to hang out where he is until we get back. To reduce the desire to escape and follow us. I'm hoping to be able to confine him in a small area with his "spot" and not have him barking like crazy or trying to break out eventually. That will be an added bonus because he is not reliably housetrained and right now we have to make the trade of a crated dog (without accidents) who barks and drools and scratches like crazy or a quiet, slightly anxious, loose dog who MIGHT pee somewhere we don't know about. Tough choice.

I haven't read any other Mcconnell books but I hear they're great, I should try another... I read the first one out of sheer despair when we first realized Pete couldnt be left alone!
 

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@aiw: whoops, I cited the wrong number; I meant #4 -- talking to, looking at, touching the dog before leaving -- when I asked if you didn't think 10 minutes would do as well as 20. Agree totally that a long down/stay should be possible (worked up to gradually, as you said). To crate or not to crate has varied from dog to dog in my experience. All of my dogs are rescues from shelters (except for the one was picked up from the middle of an intersection and another who was handed to me by a little boy who found her), and they have mostly been 1 -2 years old when they came home; I never know in advance who is going to do well crated (in my absence) and who won't. My last German Shepherd was extremely anxious about being confined, so in pretty short order I decided to just give it a go and let him have the run of the house when I left: he did just great. The dog I have at present is definitely a Velcro Boy, who sticks to my side and scratches at the front door if I so much as run out to the car for a minute. Fortunately, he kennels up willingly (the kennels are in the kitchen) and is quite calm when he's in there. I take the dogs out before I get ready to go somewhere and when we come back in, I always say, "Okay, boys, I've got to get my shower": my German Shepherd immediately runs into his kennel (I usually have to tell the little grey dog to kennel up). That's it for contact until I go out the front door, when I sometimes say, "Guard the house!" When I come home I put my keys and stuff away, get changed if I need to, and then let them out of their kennels to be walked and played with. You sound like a great dog owner, aiw!
 
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