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Hi everyone,

I just joined because I'm hoping to get some help training my year-old lab mix, Jackie.

Background: We adopted Jackie from the pound last fall. She was a complete demon dog at first, but she's gotten a lot better with a little work. We live in a cabin in a rural area, so we haven't been too concerned about her barking when we leave originally -- she'd gone from being hysterical when we leave, to barking some but settling down by the time we get back home. We sort of figured she'd grow out of it, but now, around 8 months later, she's still doing it, so I figure it's time to start training (better late than never).

I'm using the methods suggested in Patricia McConnell's "I'll Be Home Soon" -- trying to desensitize her to "triggers" like me putting on my shoes, grabbing my keys and my purse, by doing them randomly throughout the day. I've also started giving her a stuffed kong, walking out the door and back in again a few times daily.

No marked improvement so far, but it's only been about 4 days. I do have a few questions, though.

Firstly, I've noticed that when we leave, she doesn't start barking until we get a ways down the path from our house to the car. If I just walk outside the door, then stand and wait, she won't bark -- maybe because she doesn't hear me walking away?

Given this, should I start -- as McConnell suggests -- by simply walking out the door and back in, or should I walk towards the car for a bit before coming back?

Also, what's the best way to react if she starts barking before I come back? I don't want her thinking that barking will make me let her out, or get me to come back to her. Should I wait until she settles down, THEN come back?

My other question is with regards to crate training. Jackie HATES her crate, which I suspect comes from being locked up constantly for 3 months at the pound. We've been crating her when we leave, because when we left her loose she had a tendency to destroy things. Lately, I've been thinking that it might lessen her anxiety to contain her in the bathroom when we leave, instead, or even give her a chance to be left loose in the house.

I've tried the bathroom thing a couple times, but it doesn't seem to be helping -- she loses it the minute the door shuts. Would it be worth it to try and train her in there, or should I stick with the crate and try to train her to like it? Can I experiment with leaving her in different places without slowing her training down?

Thanks for reading -- I'm new to dog training, obviously. Thanks in advance for your help!

Thanks everyone!
 

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First of all, kudos to you for taking this gal on and sticking with it!

Hi everyone,

I'm using the methods suggested in Patricia McConnell's "I'll Be Home Soon" -- trying to desensitize her to "triggers" like me putting on my shoes, grabbing my keys and my purse, by doing them randomly throughout the day. I've also started giving her a stuffed kong, walking out the door and back in again a few times daily.
Great book, great author. Wonderful speaker.

Firstly, I've noticed that when we leave, she doesn't start barking until we get a ways down the path from our house to the car. If I just walk outside the door, then stand and wait, she won't bark -- maybe because she doesn't hear me walking away?
That's probably the case. She knows you are not really gone, or she's somehow figured out the pattern.

Given this, should I start -- as McConnell suggests -- by simply walking out the door and back in, or should I walk towards the car for a bit before coming back?
.

Yes. :)

I would play around with both. Keep her guessing.

Also, what's the best way to react if she starts barking before I come back? I don't want her thinking that barking will make me let her out, or get me to come back to her. Should I wait until she settles down, THEN come back?
Yes, you should wait - but it's going to be tough. it will get worse before it gets better, and then it may get worse again.. Look into "extinction burst" and "spontaneous recovery". (I don't remember if Patricia goes into that in your booklet or not.)

My other question is with regards to crate training. Jackie HATES her crate,
This is a really, really, tough call. A dog with "true" separation anxiety - and I am pretty sure Patricia covers all of the nuances of that in the book - probably shouldn't be crated. She can hurt herself trying to get out.

I don't think trying different places will cause issues. In a way, that's scrambling the various triggers just like the protocol calls for, isn't it? The problem is when signals like closing doors cause her to react immediately.

I don't have a direct answer, other than I wouldn't necessarily give up on having a crate, it may just take a looooooong time before she is really comfortable with it. I would keep it around, make it comfy, feed her near it if possible and just forget about closing the door for a very long time.

Hope this helps .
 

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If i was you i would use boredom busters so she doesn't even know are gone! This means you can leave her, practising your techniques, then when you come back you can praise her for a complete session of 'no barking'. ie. fill a cardboard box with scrunched up newspaper and throw a toy or a few treats in it. I like a stuffed kong as when they get it out they are occupied further! Seal it with tape and puncture a few holes in it. Put it in a wide space as you leave and let her play and use those natural instincts on sniffing and foraging. there are some ways to entertain dogs on my homepage that may be of use but this is a favourite. You should also only be leaving her for short periods and building up very slowly so she learns you come back. Walk to the end of the pavement just to the point where she usually barks and return and praise her for being quiet. Build this up to walking further, getting in the car etc. Always going back to praise. She just needs to know you are always coming back and there is nothing to worry about. You can also buy a DAP plug in diffuser from your vet (dog appeasing pheromone). This is a synthetic chemical replicar of the pheromone a lactating bitch produces when having puppies and the pheromone relaxes both pup's and older dogs. It really helped my dog, when my older one passed away.
 

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I would play around with both. Keep her guessing.
In that case, should I continue to build up to walking away, or just do it at random (sometimes walk out and come right back, other times walk away and then come back)?

This is a really, really, tough call. A dog with "true" separation anxiety - and I am pretty sure Patricia covers all of the nuances of that in the book - probably shouldn't be crated. She can hurt herself trying to get out.
It's hard to say what it is, exactly, with Jackie. Is there such a thing as "mild" separation anxiety? She barks like crazy when we leave, she'll ignore treats/food in her crate (I'm still finding the best stuffing for the kong that will completely distract her, as peanut butter, regular treats, and rawhides aren't good enough), but she doesn't struggle in the crate hard enough that I think she'll hurt herself. She did destroy a metal crate when we first got her because she was freaked out being left alone, but she has come a very long way since then. Now she just whimpers and yelps.

If i was you i would use boredom busters so she doesn't even know are gone! This means you can leave her, practising your techniques, then when you come back you can praise her for a complete session of 'no barking'. ie. fill a cardboard box with scrunched up newspaper and throw a toy or a few treats in it. I like a stuffed kong as when they get it out they are occupied further! Seal it with tape and puncture a few holes in it. Put it in a wide space as you leave and let her play and use those natural instincts on sniffing and foraging.
Hmm. My only concern with this is that she doesn't seem to pay much attention to treats when we're gone. We've crated her with a bowl of food before we leave, and it's still full when we come home (as soon as she's finished greeting us, though, she'll stick her head back in the crate and eat it). I've had some success with the kong so far, but I'm concerned that hiding it will break her focus on it. I'll definitely try this technique, though!

You can also buy a DAP plug in diffuser from your vet (dog appeasing pheromone). This is a synthetic chemical replicar of the pheromone a lactating bitch produces when having puppies and the pheromone relaxes both pup's and older dogs.
Interesting! I've been using Rescue Remedy -- sometimes I'll spritz some in the kong with the wet food, other times I'll spray a bit on her head and rub it in before we leave -- to try and take the edge off. I'm not sure how effective it's been so far, though.
 

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I tried the rescue remedy first with my flatcoat too and it didn't have much effect but there was a definite improvement with the DAP although it is pricey.

You could rub the outside of the kong with brine so it has a high scent for her?
 

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Cracker has pretty severe SA, though we have made great progress. She had the gamut of symptoms, barking, howling, drooling, pacing, inappetance, urination and sometimes defecation, she would also chew and scratch at the area around the front door..she's never been much of a chewer thank dog, just my front door mat.

I had to finally put her on meds, but that is only after desens. etc ALONE did not work. She's on clomicalm but really, the biggest difference I've seen with her is with the DAP diffuser. She's been on meds for 4 months..we do another two then wean her off but I think I will continue with the DAP indefinitely if I have to. It doesn't work with every dog but there is an obvious difference between a new bottle and the end of the previous one.

The foodstuffed kong etc did not help in the beginning as she was simply too stressed out to eat (and she's a lab/hound..food is HIGH on her list of good things). If your guy doesn't eat when you leave him that's a big hint there is a lot of stress happening there.

Work on the crating or using baby gates (where he can see out) to crate him in the kitchen (dogproofed) or another smallish room. Check out the dvd "Crate Games" by Susan Garrett for help with working on crate happiness if that is the way you want to go. If he's never been a chewer in a big way I would use a room rather than a crate.

Do remember that SA never goes away totally and the dog can easily be thrown off track after progress, changes in environment or slipping of your protocols can set you back. So be patient and consistent. Cracker can now be left for several (4 or more hours) without too much trouble but if I spend too much time with her on a weekend or don't do our daily "quiet and ignore time" she can start to get anxious again.

She's happier, I"m happier and all the work and stress was worth it. Good luck.
 

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You're doing all the right things....good for you! There is one other very important element to separation....giving her the confidence to be alone. That happens with age and experience but, you can help in small ways. Leaving her with a huge soup bone....giving her a 'Thanksgiving' dinner as you go out (make sure she's gone potty before you leave).

Ideally, you want to leave when she's really tired and she would just sack out somewhere.....not always possible but, that's another device that you can try to work into the program especially after a long run, walk or intense game of fetch.

This last tactic is one that I used on a GSD of mine. I took him to the mall and left him tied to a (heavy) table while I went in for coffee....I could see him but, he couldn't see me. The distractions proved to be so interesting that he never seemed to miss me.

Through a combination of everything, he learned that being on his own was OK and that's the whole point....do whatever you can to build that confidence.
 

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Hello,

Have you done any basic obedience with Jackie? One theory on separation anxiety, that I haven't seen mentioned, is that, if the dog is not sure of it's proper place in it's pack or that the humans are the alphas, it panics when it's 'humans' leave the house. It is compared to a baby leaving the house without the mother knowing where it's going or when it is coming back. Daily practice of obedience and making sure the dog knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that it is a follower and not a leader can sometimes cause them to be able to relax, thus alleviating separation anxiety issues. Just a thought in case you haven't tried it or heard of it already. You are on the right track and getting lots of good suggestions. Hope they help and good luck!
 

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We haven't done any obedience classes *cringe*. It's been on our "list" of things to do but haven't gotten around to. I do work with Jackie on some basic things, and have been worked into our routine. When feeding, for instance, I make her sit, then put her in a "stay", take several steps back and set her food down. She then watches me and waits until I say "OK" and point to the food before she goes to it. We have different exercises like that, which we go through daily.

Currently I'm also working with her on developing a strong recall and loose leash walking, both of which she has been picking up amazingly quickly.

Work on the crating or using baby gates (where he can see out) to crate him in the kitchen (dogproofed) or another smallish room. Check out the dvd "Crate Games" by Susan Garrett for help with working on crate happiness if that is the way you want to go. If he's never been a chewer in a big way I would use a room rather than a crate.
Baby gates have never really worked with Jackie. Either she'll just jump over them or she'll push them over. That's why I've been thinking about the bathroom rather than a crate, but so far it seems she gets more anxious if she's left in the bathroom -- at least she's used to going in the crate before we leave at this point.

That's the second recommendation I've gotten for that DVD though -- I'll have to check it out.

Do remember that SA never goes away totally and the dog can easily be thrown off track after progress, changes in environment or slipping of your protocols can set you back. So be patient and consistent. Cracker can now be left for several (4 or more hours) without too much trouble but if I spend too much time with her on a weekend or don't do our daily "quiet and ignore time" she can start to get anxious again.
Do you have any tips on helping to ease the transition stress? Our lease is up at the house we're currently renting and we're probably going to have to move into an apartment -- one reason why I'm working with her now.

Also -- and this is for anyone to answer -- does the DAP diffuser have a strong scent (for humans)? The "dog room" is also my office.
 

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The baby gates my client purchased when she got her golden puppy (for kitchen free time) actually attached to the door frame and swung and locked, so no "knocking down". It looks like a little garden gate.

I am scent sensitive so I also worried about the DAP, but there is no discernible odour.

As for when you get the SA under control..when I go housesitting and Cracker comes with me, I start back with shorter periods and take the DAP diffuser with me. As long as the routine stays the same and you give her time to adjust to the new environment you shouldn't experience a full relapse. Exercise and lots of positive reinforcement help..also setting it up so she has a bedroom or space AWAY from the front hallway/apt door to reduce her reacting to sounds in the hall AND some white noise of some sort (even a radio or tv left on) to muffle the "building" sounds will make a big difference.

As for obedience training, classes really help but you can do a lot on your own. Check out the book "The Idiot's Guide to Positive Training" by Pamela Dennison. It's awesome and easy to understand. Working your dog's brain and helping her feel like she's working for her room and board go a long way to tiring her out, increasing her confidence and building a true relationship of communication with your dog.
 

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Thank you! Fortunately I work from home so it'll be easy to help "re-train" her.

I've seen those gates, I'd LOVE to get some, except we rent and the ones I saw screwed into the walls. Are there any that don't?
 

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The ones that don't are "knock downable" unless you train her not to..lol. Personally I would screw the darn things in anyway and fill, sand and paint them when I leave. Easy peasy.
 

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In that case, should I continue to build up to walking away, or just do it at random (sometimes walk out and come right back, other times walk away and then come back)?
Random. That should help break the chain.


It's hard to say what it is, exactly, with Jackie. Is there such a thing as "mild" separation anxiety? She barks like crazy when we leave, she'll ignore treats/food in her crate (I'm still finding the best stuffing for the kong that will completely distract her, as peanut butter, regular treats, and rawhides aren't good enough), but she doesn't struggle in the crate hard enough that I think she'll hurt herself. She did destroy a metal crate when we first got her because she was freaked out being left alone, but she has come a very long way since then. Now she just whimpers and yelps.
I've seen at least one vet behaviorist refer to separation "distress" rather than anxiety.

If she can stay in a crate and will not hurt herself, than that's an option. Maybe you can play around with that and get her acclimated while you are home and then gradually phase it in to trips out of the house.

The fact that she won't look at a treat or food toy isn't a huge surprise for a dog that gets anxious, but it may just be a matter of finding those things that are so awesome she can't resist, or breaking up the behavior chain so that you can get out of the house while she is still eating/playing with the toy.
 

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When working on the desensitization, the most important part is to not push them past the point of comfort. So if your dog seems to start barking when you start walking on the path I would take one step on the path and then turn around and come back in. Then work up to a few steps, and all the way down the path. Mix it up with short departures - just out the door and back in - too to keep her guessing, like the other posters said. I use the same method with my SA dog and it's a lot of work... but we're getting there.

Also I will caution you about the move - it may set you back a lot. When I moved my dog this summer I stayed home with him for a week, had a babysitter for a week, and thought by the third week he'd be ready for half days. It was pretty bad - the worst chewing/howling/defacating that I've seen since I brought him home from the shelter. It took him 5 months to settle down in my first home, so I know it's going to be a looong process. I would recommend doggie daycare or enlisting a neighbors help for a little while while he adjusts to the new place. And try to stay positive - even if it gets worse you've seen it can be manageable, it's just a matter of time.
 

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i was going to answer your question but i have just read bigblackdog gals answer which perfectly illustrates it (still haven't figured out how to quote:( ). Look up successive approximation and you will gain a more in depth knowledge of this :)
 
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