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Discussion Starter #1
I'm new to this forum and loving it. I've had dogs most of my life, but find there's always more to learn.

I've recently adopted a 15-month old German Shepherd Pup from a rescue. She's had two previous owners who both wanted her destroyed because she was too timid.

Yes, she's shy. (BTW- She demonstrates absolutely NO hostility.) Every one falls in love with her! I've found that with work and socialization, she's making great strides. She's showing great improvement. Yes, she may always be shy, but she's already come a long way. We train daily.

She's gone through stages in her growth, but I'm not sure what to do with the latest. I was told she was crate-trained. She goes into her crate with no problem. For a while she suffered separation anxiety, but I thought we had worked through it.

It seems however, that her coping mechanism now is to release her anal glands. This isn't new in general. She's done it all along, but it is happening less and less in other circumstances. The vet's nurse a while back said she would "outgrow" it.

The crate situation however, seems to be getting worse now. It makes a mess of the crate, the mats, and then she lays in it.

I admit her crate is probably one size too large for her. At her age, could that really make the difference?

Any suggestions? Is there anything I can do?
 

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What does the dog's diet consist of? What behaviors are you contributing to separation anxiety? How are you dealing with the separation anxiety?
 

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Thanks for asking / helping.

She gets what I consider to be a healthy food. It's still a puppy food, as she's underweight. The vet and I agreed we wanted to go with a higher fat / protein for a while yet. It's a natural kibble, rice based. (I did do research with my other dog.) She just has never been a big eater. (She got LOTS of human / unhealthy food at her foster home. IMO I have been wondering about the food issue. I was going to call the vet tomorrow.)

I think I know what you are saying about my behaviors. I read up a lot on sep. anx. and so I try to "do things right." Above all else, I remain neutral and unemotional. If at all possible, in the time leading up to a departure, I try to get her out and either walk her or play some tag. I also encourage her to relieve herself. She doesn't always.

Then we come back in and I will do a few things to putter and distract her. (Although sometimes she then goes directly into the crate.) I keep things very neutral. (It won't alway be possible, so ultimately I need her to learn to just get in. So I try to throw it in occasionally. Winter mornings when it's sub-zero she won't get a walk in the AM for example. It will have to be later.)

When I walk to her crate, she goes directly in. I close the crate, tell her she's a good dog, give her a treat (didn't always), I say a goodbye statement (neutral voice) and turn and leave. When I leave she is usually laying down, munching her treat. (She seems fine!)

I do believe she needed to see a routine, in order to learn that I was coming back and that she would be ok. So I used relatively the same one I used for my old dog. Modifying for her needs. I know some people say not to use statements, etc. I found it successful before and I say the same thing each time.

For a few days, she did whine, but it only lasted a few days. It did take about 4-5 days to calm her down enough to release her. I accomplished this by simply teaching her she had to be seated and relatively calm (subtle tail wags were ok) before I would open the crate. I did this by approaching the kennel, telling her to sit and leaving if she didn't. Each day, it took less time.

Did this give any inspiring thoughts? I'm wondering if I need to leave the kennel open and put up a baby gate to keep her in the room. (There's not much there she could destroy...) Could she have developed a fear of the crate?
 

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She gets what I consider to be a healthy food. It's still a puppy food, as she's underweight. The vet and I agreed we wanted to go with a higher fat / protein for a while yet. It's a natural kibble, rice based. (I did do research with my other dog.) She just has never been a big eater. (She got LOTS of human / unhealthy food at her foster home. IMO I have been wondering about the food issue. I was going to call the vet tomorrow.)
I had/have similar anal gland issues with my dog. I'm not exactly sure how you're correlating the anal gland issue with the separation anxiety. So if you can go a bit more into that for information sake, or if you're assuming this by the simple fact that your dog expresses her glands while you're gone.

My circumstance were obvious, she would express her anal glands in two different instances...when she was super relaxed - like if I was stroking her on my lap. And when we traveled by car - panting, avoiding eye contact with semis, the works. So I was getting the extreme at both ends...no pun intended.

Anecdotally, the three things that seem to have helped the most...changing her diet (home-cooked), time, and relieving her stress when traveling. What was once a weekly, sometimes daily event is now rare.

The limiting factor with the diet will be your vet. How much nutritional knowledge do they have, and if they advise alternate diets beyond kibble. Most do not. My fortune was in finding a vet who advised all diets from raw to kibble.

I think I know what you are saying about my behaviors.
I was actually asking about your dog's behavior. Is she whining, self mutilating in the crate, baying or barking, panting, whale eyes, stuff like that, which would indicate separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is typically diagnosed by a behaviorist and is a serious emotional problem that often requires medical treatment. Many behaviors associated with separation anxiety are learned and thus, not classified as separation anxiety.

What you described in how you approach the problem is excellent, and I would have suggested the same. Except maybe I would replace the treat with a frozen stuffed Kong so it lasts longer, and since it is much more energy taxing. Will your dog enjoy a Kong?

And I too believe their is some utility in conditioning a departure cue. I like the idea of using classical music with a tempo similar to a slow heartbeat as a departure cue, and keeping it on repeat. And if the dog is expressing her anal gland because of some auditory stressor, the music could help drown out that stressor.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Fascinating suggestions...

I will still mention this to the vet. He's pretty open minded. I will see what he says, but I think you may be right. I'll be exploring some dietary options.

ALSO, it just occured to me that in the first weeks, the dehumidifier was running in the same room, BUT it hasn't run for the past few days. That hum might be helping her. I will experiment with some music. (As I don't run the dehumidifier year round.) Her kennel is in the basement, as I assumed the quiet location would be calming for her, BUT she might need some level of noise.

THANK YOU SO MUCH for the suggestions!

Can you tell me more about a Frozen kong? I've heard of Peanut butter in a kong, but never frozen... not sure what that's all about. Thanks (forgot to ask!)
 

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Can you tell me more about a Frozen kong? I've heard of Peanut butter in a kong, but never frozen... not sure what that's all about. Thanks (forgot to ask!)
Oh, certainly. A frozen stuffed Kong is just your simple Kong toy stuffed with whatever goodies the dog may enjoy, moistened, and frozen over night. I like to stuff the Kong mostly with a portion or her daily ration of food. If that's kibble you just moisten it so it will freeze, and cap it off with yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, or whatever enticing ingredients the dog may like. It certainly could be all kibble if she has a sensitive stomach or if her prescribed diet requires it. Of course you have to prepare these in advance. I usually keep 3 or 4 Kongs in my freezer as special rewards or when a training opportunity presents itself.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Awesome... thank you SO much.
I've already moved a small stereo into the room for her!
Can't wait to try it out tomorrow.
 

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Awesome... thank you SO much.
I've already moved a small stereo into the room for her!
Can't wait to try it out tomorrow.
Start at a low volume, and practice short interval comings and goings, building up duration and volume. You want to ease into it and provide a lot of opportunity for reward initially. You certainly don't want to flood her with music if music is stressful to her. I don't suspect that will happen but I've seen dogs stress over less intrusive things.
 
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