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So, we've had my tibetan spaniel mix for about 2 years now, she's now at age 4. When we got her in 2008, she showed signs of severe separation anxiety right off the bat. Unfortunately, we didn't do much to correct it at the time, as we both worked night shift and had to leave her alone in the apartment. Our elderly neighbor let us know that she cried most of the night.

When my fiance and I took a break in the relationship, Sydney went to our good friend who took her in when she traveled to california on military duty. We've since then taken her back for good and are trying to address the anxiety. It has gotten worse, I think. (When she was with our friend, she had a playmate, so they didn't have a problem) I'm not in the situation where we can get another dog just yet, so we're trying to figure out how to make it so we can leave her alone without having to worry about her stressing out too badly.

Here's some things she does that we'd like to correct!

If we leave her in the bedroom for a short while (we live with my fiance's parents at the moment and she is not allowed to roam the house without a leash due to cats), she will sit by the door and scratch at it, and sometimes cry, constantly until we return.

When she is put in the crate, she's quiet for maybe a few minutes before she starts crying.

She also does this thing (I don't know if it's related) where she will grab an object, be it a toy, a sock, or even a piece of paper, and pace the floor with it in her mouth when we return after being gone for awhile. She'll grab the closest thing to her, it's hilarious, but I don't think it's normal?

Here's what we've been doing:

We will put her in the sun room and walk away to watch tv or something. She can't see us unless we walk around the corner (the sun room has a glass slide door) she will whine and cry and scratch for quite awhile. Every time she goes quiet, and by quiet I mean, lay down and take her attention off of the door, we will get up and bring her a treat, praise her, and then walk away.

We've also been doing this thing where we will ignore her whenever we first come home until she's calmed her excitement.

Those are just a few techniques we've found online, but are they legit? Does anyone know of anything else we could try? I know it's not going to be cured over night, and I know it will take constant consistency and dedication.
 
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I completely agree with rewarding quiet and calm, non chalant homecomings. Also no long, sad goodbyes. Just walk out the house like you are going to check the mail.

The other things to work on are increasing the times she can be alone. Leave her alone for 1 second, come back and treat. Leave her alone for 2 seconds, come back and treat. You have to keep her below threshold. Come back before she starts crying. While you are working on this you might have to look into pet sitters, friends who can keep her while you are at work, doggie play and stays, day boarding etc.. (be sure to thororoughly check out any agencies - you don't want someone making your dog worse)

Exercise is good. Long walks, etc..
Peanut butter kongs and other things to keep her busy is good. (see some food puzzle videos below)
The hard part is going to be finding triggers that get her upset and change those. Do you have a routine before you go to work. If you put on lipstick, grab your keys, grab your purse every time, then your dog might start getting anxious when you grab your keys. So you have to work in changing your routine and turning bad things into good things with desensitization and counter conditioning.
Patricia McConnell explains this in great detail in her pamphlet, I'll be Home Soon. It can be easily read in one setting. And can be downloaded to an e-reader.
Separation Anxiety often happens in dogs who change homes. It can take some

Nina Ottason food puzzles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR48K0Oin5o
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hFaKAHB8jo

dog tornado: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONB9WzQ4cns
peek-a- treat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgnXuYPrtFA

Twist-a-treat http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zilcZMZQiDY

Oh. The toy thing. In her book on Barking, Turid Rugaas says that when dogs are excited, they want to have something in their mouths. I've seen some dogs eat when they are excited.

7 layer pupsicles
 

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It sounds like the techniques you're using so far are pretty good - Personally, when I was breaking Barsky of his anxiety, i'd also play the 'lock up until you're calm,' game. But instead of giving a treat and walking away leaving him again, the reward was that i'd open the kennel and give him some calm attention, and I'd wait at least 20 or 30 minutes before we kenneled him again. Luckily, his anxiety was not deeply engrained, and we were able to alleviate it within two weeks of adoption. You may require a lot more patience than I have :)

The ignoring-while-excited thing actually helped Barsky a ton. For the first few days, whenever I stepped outside (mail, check garden, trash,) barsky would start screaming, and I'd come back in and comfort him. Then, I decided it'd be much more productive to not humor him and ignore him until relaxed. It completely broke the door-screaming habit in about two days.
 

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I'd say you're getting some pretty good advice, but I'd just reiterate....I think by leaving her in the sunroom and going to watch tv, then treating her for being quiet, you might be starting with periods of time that are too long.
Puddin has it right, start with very short periods of time, and work up gradually, always staying below her threshold. And, don't add time to quickly. Of course, these are just exercises to do when you ARE home, and can work with her.

As for leaving her in the bedroom, instead of shutting the door, you could try getting a baby gate to block off the room. Some dogs that have separation issues get even more anxious when shut in somewhere and can't see out. That's why some dogs do better in wire crates they can see out of.

Good luck!
 

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Yes to all of the above. And, in regards to her grabbing a toy or something when you get home, Gracie does that, too. I don't know if it is a sign of anything (she has SA, too), but she grabs her treat ball out of her crate and walks around with it for a while after she gets out of there. Once I didn't have a treat ball in there and she didn't know what to do with herself...she had nothing to take out with her!

You are on the right track. You can also try supplements that have tryptophan in them OR you can try L-theanine. I have Gracie on 50 mg of Clomipramine a day for her anxiety in addition to ongoing behavior modification.

If you can't get it under control with behavior modification, don't be afraid to call your vet or a behaviorist about medication or natural supplements. I didn't want to, but it has been the best thing for her. She will not be on them forever, but they have calmed her down enough that she is more receptive to training and the behavior modification.

Good luck and keep us posted!
 

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I have found that in the case of separation anxiety there is often a deeper cause the they simply miss you. There are techniques to help manage the problem but rarely solve it. Leaving the radio or tv on, putting a blanket over their kennel, a kong toy filled with peanut butter (frozen so it lasts longer) ect. These manage it but do not address the real cause behind the anxiety. Dogs are by nature pack animals. This means someone has to be the leader. Whoever is the leader is responsible for keeping the rest of the pack safe. If the dog thinks he is the leader of your pack, then whenever you leave he feels out of control. He doesn't know if you have been hurt, attacked, lost whatever he thinks. It's his job to protect you and locked in a kennel he can not do that. Hence the destruction and anxiety. Now if we take a look at our everyday life. And try to make a effort to be the leader of your pack in the little ways. The perhaps he will feel that he is safe in his kennel and you have everything under control and can finally relax and just enjoy being a dog. Little things we don't think about that a dog values as pack order are, being up on furniture ( the lower pack members should always be lower) eating with you or first, walking through doors first, disobeying commands, being possessive over toys, walking ahead of you, there are probably many more but those are the big ones that come to mind. Some dogs NEED structure and absolutes to feel calm, you have to be absolutely in control no questions asked or they will do it for you. Just some food for thought. Http://www.therefinedk9.com
 

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Uh oh.
Ok, well, dogs don't think of us as part of their "pack" (and I only use that term because you did), because they KNOW we are not dogs. We can be their "leaders" or teachers or whatever. But, all that stuff about pack order and being up on the furniture, eating first, going through doors first, walking ahead of you, all that is silly. The dominance or alpha type theories have been debunked. Being higher on furniture doesn't mean a dog considers himself the alpha over a person. Going through the door first or walking ahead doesn't mean the dog thinks he is alpha over the person. Silly.
Now, some of us DO teach our dogs to wait for us to go out the door first, but, for me anyway, that's a safety issue because my dogs are small and they tend to trip me up.
Eating first, walking ahead, all that doesn't matter if you have trained and taught manners to your dog, all the rest is the owner's personal preference.

I do agree that dogs need structure to feel safe and calm. But, structure doesn't mean you have to be ahead of them through doors and on walks, or eat first or any of that.
My dogs are well behaved. They follow commands, don't beg, and, generally, are very biddable. But, we feed them first, so then we can sit down to eat and take our time. Our dogs are allowed to walk ahead of us, but they may not pull on the leash, it has to be slack. Our dogs will come when called, do commands, stop barking when we ask, they have manners. We don't have to be the alpha over them for that.
 

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Woah! I completely forgot about this thread! Ahh... Syd's SA... it's still pretty bad. We can't even leave her home in the town house when we go out so my in laws have to dog sit her all the time. The chews, kongs, tv/radio, all haven't had much progress. We're managing it though. Our hope is once we have our new puppy that she'll mellow out a bit. When she lived with our friend for a few months, she had another dog to keep her company and she -never- had an SA problem with her.

As for the.. pack mentality... yeah, I'm not buying that. Sorry! Sydney climbs up so she can be high up... but I secretly think she's part cat. LOL
 

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How does she react when she sees you coming with the treat? Treating for calm silence is a good idea but it only works if at the moment you give the treat, she actually is silent. I found with Pete that even when he would quiet (for only a few moments) the second he heard me moving or saw me he would get worked up, start whining or screaming and scratching again. Giving him a treat in that moment would have been inadvertently rewarding the desperate greeting behaviour. So I decided to let the calm be its own reward and not get him worked up again by showing up and kicking him into anxiety mode again.

Where is she left when you leave? Pete has some pretty serious confinement issues so even a room is too small to leave him in when we are gone. He improved tenfold when he was housetrained and able to have the run of the house. I often come home to some small thing chewed but I consider it a quality of life and safety tradeoff. Its possible he will one day chew something dangerous, but its certain that when I leave him confined I come home to a dog who is panicked and sometimes injured through desperate escape attempts. So the options are crate, dog-safe room or larger portion of the house.

The desensitization to distance is really good. Here is a list of things we tried in various combinations with various levels of success. Teach a down/stay or a go to mat and practice distance and time elapsed. Eventually work up to putting on your coat and boots and going outside... while the dog holds the stay (will take quite a while). Limit contact: closed myself in my room with Pete outside. First for 10 minutes, then longer and longer.

Medication. I resisted, for a long time but we needed it at first. Nowadays I've weaned him off it and only pull it out in extremely stressful situations (car trips or really long absences).

I really recommend Patricia McConnell's I'll be Home Soon ebook. It requires a lot of commitment, but it really helps.

SA sucks. A LOT. Good luck!
 

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How does she react when she sees you coming with the treat? Treating for calm silence is a good idea but it only works if at the moment you give the treat, she actually is silent. I found with Pete that even when he would quiet (for only a few moments) the second he heard me moving or saw me he would get worked up, start whining or screaming and scratching again. Giving him a treat in that moment would have been inadvertently rewarding the desperate greeting behaviour. So I decided to let the calm be its own reward and not get him worked up again by showing up and kicking him into anxiety mode again.

Where is she left when you leave? Pete has some pretty serious confinement issues so even a room is too small to leave him in when we are gone. He improved tenfold when he was housetrained and able to have the run of the house. I often come home to some small thing chewed but I consider it a quality of life and safety tradeoff. Its possible he will one day chew something dangerous, but its certain that when I leave him confined I come home to a dog who is panicked and sometimes injured through desperate escape attempts. So the options are crate, dog-safe room or larger portion of the house.

The desensitization to distance is really good. Here is a list of things we tried in various combinations with various levels of success. Teach a down/stay or a go to mat and practice distance and time elapsed. Eventually work up to putting on your coat and boots and going outside... while the dog holds the stay (will take quite a while). Limit contact: closed myself in my room with Pete outside. First for 10 minutes, then longer and longer.

Medication. I resisted, for a long time but we needed it at first. Nowadays I've weaned him off it and only pull it out in extremely stressful situations (car trips or really long absences).

I really recommend Patricia McConnell's I'll be Home Soon ebook. It requires a lot of commitment, but it really helps.

SA sucks. A LOT. Good luck!
Unfortunately we haven't left her alone in a long time. When we want to go out together, we take her to my in laws house. She does very well there because there's usually someone home. Though one thing I found odd is when we used to live there, I put a webcam up in the living room and recorded her while we were gone and no one else was home. When I watched it, she was incredibly quiet. She sat by the window a lot, or would lay down on the couch, then go back to the window. But she didn't bark. Not once. Yet when we left her alone in our town home, she (according to our neighbor) barked and cried the entire time we were gone. (About 20 minutes). When she IS alone at the in laws house, she has the whole house. She's never destroyed anything and she's never had any accidents in the house aside from very rare occurrances. (Probably from my own doing of not making sure she went before we left.)

As for how she reacts with treats... wow, she is so extremely food motivated that she gets really worked up when she knows there will be treats.

She also does two things that I think might have to do with this issue. When we come home, or go pick her up from the in laws - she grabs whatever object is closest for her to grab and carries it around in her mouth until someone takes it or she calms down enough to drop it. She also urinates if someone pets her right after coming home, or visiting. She gets very excited, and just can't control her bladder. BUT it only happens when she's touched.

I think that's everything.. if I missed one of your questions, let me know. It's comforting to know someone else is going through the same thing, and I agree, it does suck. I admit I need to step up on the training with her, but it's one of those things that just takes such a long time to work on.
 

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I think you should start trying again, especially after such encouraging progress at your in-laws house! From your last post it sounds like she might have a pretty mild case (keeps control of bladder, doesn't destroy things (esp door frames or windows) or hurt herself). 20 minutes is really no time at all, especially if its the first or second time she has been left alone, many dogs would bark or cry that whole time at first. Maybe start small, leave her with a treat in the other room (or put yourself in a room and give her free roam). Eventually work up to short departures and the increase the length. The recording is really useful since it lets you know exactly what behaviours are occurring when and with what severity.

When you record look out for shaking, sweating from paw pads (often actually leave wet pawprints behind), extreme drooling (puddles), pacing, screaming, losing control of bowels/bladder, destruction (esp at doors and windows), and any signs of self-injury. I wouldn't worry much about some whining and barking especially at first. At least thats what the reading I did all suggested. Pete had all of those problems for the first 7 months or so at home. It was awful, I couldn't even leave to go to the grocery store without feeling guilty. But after a lot of diligence with training and some meds he can be left alone for pretty much any length of time. I'm still greeted by a dog who's happy to see me, but I no longer come home to panic. Pretty freeing. Good luck and keep us updated!
 

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Yeah... the only problem with trying to stay consistent.. is our neighbors REALLY hate when she barks On one side, this woman was incredibly nasty to us when we came home the first time. 20 minutes was all, and she told us Syd barked the entire time. I live on a night schedule, but I might have to just go to a day schedule so we can work on it while our neighbors are at work. It makes it difficult when we live in a complex setting. We are hoping that our new puppy coming this weekend might help her as well and we are going to test it with a webcam once she is used to the puppy being here and the puppy is house trained. It would be great if all she needs is a buddy to keep her company.
 
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