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Separation Anxiety (pet section)
How do I make it better?

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#1 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 02 January 2013 - 10:33 AM

Bickie is very much "my" dog, despite the fact we bought her for the kids. She clearly sees me as pack leader, and that's fine because I pretty much am.

But her separation anxiety if i leave is getting worse. I'm making sure to change the routine around, give her kongs/toys/chews to play with when I go, don't make a fuss of leaving, ignore her when I get home until she settles down etc. The longest she's been left on her own is about an hour to an hour and a half, but that's only been a few times. When I took DS4 up to daycare this morning (leaving DH and the other 3 boys here) she apparently freaked. DH spent the whole time sitting in the dining room with her (despite me telling him not to) because he was worried she was going to hurt herself otherwise. She was too manic to go into the lounge with the other kids (so far she's only allowed in there to sleep at night and when she's calm during the day) and went berserk if he walked out of the room, even though she could see him through the baby gate.

When I'm home, she'll happily hang out and sleep outside the back door during the day or in the dining room while the kids and I are in the lounge room and doing something that we can't do with her in the room or eating etc. But if she sees me pick up a bag or hears keys clink, she flips. Anyone else does it, and she doesn't care. It's only me she's over-attached to.

I'm buying her a crate next week, but I'm not sure what to do about the fixation with me. Any ideas?

#2 ChexMix

Posted 02 January 2013 - 12:33 PM

If Bickie is at risk of hurting herself or others, a good trainer or veterinary behaviourist (especially if medication is indicated) is the best option.

In the mean time, you could work on breaking the association between keys/bag and going out. Pick up the keys everytime you walk past them, jingle them, then put them back without going out. If you wanted to speed up the process, throw her a treat when you pick up the keys too, to short-circuit that immediate panic response that keys = bad thing is about to happen.

You can also start to build up very short absences and associate them with good things. Give her a kong with peanut butter, a bone or a pig's ear then walk out the front door for a couple of seconds, then come back in. Slowly build up the time you are out and try not to let her practice the panic behaviour - even if you can only touch the door handle to start then work up from there.

Licking and sucking release serotonin in the brain, so kongs or frozen treats are perfect for SA dogs. Also, corn in the diet can affect serotonin processing in some dogs so eliminating that from her diet is a good precaution.

Best of luck with your girl original.gif

#3 ChexMix

Posted 02 January 2013 - 12:41 PM

Dr Karen Overall's relaxation protocol can also help with general anxiety including separation distress, it's a 14-day program to teach a dog to chill out where it's been placed, which someone has kindly put into mp3 format - http://championofmyheart.com/relaxation-protocol-mp3-files/

(there are more good tips at the bottom of this article - http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/11...ty_16044-1.html )

Edited by kiddies-n-kelpies, 02 January 2013 - 12:46 PM.

#4 Feral*Spikey*

Posted 02 January 2013 - 12:42 PM

Hi Karla,

I will come back later with more detailed suggestions, but can I suggest that the very first thing you work on is developing some attachment to other members of the household? First, have everyone else pick up feeding and treat duties, and get them to take Bickie for a walk without you.

How far have you progressed with her obedience work so far? (it will help me work out some things the family can do to ease her stress)

#5 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 02 January 2013 - 01:50 PM

Thanks girls original.gif

K'n'K - your first post is pretty much what I've been doing. I'm even leaving handbags and shopping bags around and just moving them to different rooms, putting them in cupboards etc just to break the association with bag = leaving, but it's not working. She starts getting anxious as soon as I touch one, even if we're in different rooms! I'll check out that link though. Thanks!

Spikey - her obedience is great, with me. Not so good with anyone else. She sits, stays, comes, drops, doesn't eat from her bowl until I tell her, gives (not so good on this, even with treats) and fetches. She really doesn't get the lead yet - it doesn't bother her, but she hasn't figured she needs to walk next to me. She hasn't had her third puppy vx yet ( due next week) so can't go out for walks until then.  The kids are too young to be with her unsupervised and DH goes back to work full-time in the office next week (he's only been working part time from home while the office is closed for Xmas). We've only made 1 puppy preschool class so far as she got kennel cough from it. sad.gif So she's not feeling 100% at the moment, but the SA is extreme this week (since I left her with DH overnight on NYE).

I've ordered the crate, but won't have it for at least a week or two.

Edited because I had too many "yet"s in there.

Edited by ~Karla~, 02 January 2013 - 01:52 PM.

#6 Feral*Spikey*

Posted 02 January 2013 - 03:26 PM

Taa Karla,

I will have a think about it and get back to you - I have some major work to do, so it may be later tonight or tomorrow.

#7 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 02 January 2013 - 03:30 PM

Thanks Spikey. original.gif I appreciate it.

#8 madmother

Posted 02 January 2013 - 03:38 PM

Hah - do you have my dog?

Elvis is a houdini and totally freaks if left alone. We HAVE had the behavioural specialist out already ($150 but she was/is great - and the fee includes follow ups) as he has totally bonded to me  - so much so that I call him my Aspie dog - he is as obsessed with me as Boy 1 was during his younger years, lol. But he is 6 and has been abused so we are trying to remove the bad habits (he has been trained in many ways, just the recent life undid a bit).

It is improving but we are on holidays with the dogs atm and all 3 dogs are a bit antsy.

How old is he? We are giving all 3 Rescue Remedy which helps a lot. We also do reward training - food based mainly.

I think we need to look at a crate - where did you get yours from, may I ask?

#9 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 02 January 2013 - 04:30 PM

Ha ha, it is very similar to that autistic fixation my boys had with me too!

She's only a baby still - about 15 weeks. She's a rescue, but she was never shown any unkindness - her mum was picked up by the pound heavily pregnant and the pups were whelped and raised in a foster carers home. Her mum had such a sweet, gentle nature that I contemplated taking her instead, but she was a bit too old for what we wanted and had a few health issues.

I bought the crate online and am getting it shipped up from Sydney - I wanted one with a metal tray as she chews EVERYTHING and I don't want to have to keep buying new plastic trays. It was cheaper for me to get one couriered up here than buy one locally.

#10 madmother

Posted 02 January 2013 - 07:08 PM

Link? We are in the same state...

Oh, and this dog has torn all the metal sheets off the dog run, then ripped the dog wire off the gate (which had heavy galvanised nails into a heavy timber frame) to escape to get to me. Not mentioning the damage to the western red cedar front door he gouged a couple of centimetres into...  huh.gif

#11 Jellyblush

Posted 02 January 2013 - 07:22 PM

Hi Karla. This very tough, luckily there's some great advice to be found in this section from Spikey and others.

Here's a link to a couple of threads I've posted on exactly this in case you find them useful for answers:


I have done all the de-coupling things you are doing and they had little effect on Roo. Things that did help were: switching to high quality raw diet, I freeze all her food and feed on departure (the behaviourist I saw told me that anxiety sets in within the first 30 minutes from departure so if you can postpone it this long you're in a good position as it may not set in - trying to get into the frozen meat can take this long), also I switched her exercise up so we now run for an hour before I go anywhere, plus she is taking Trazodone for her anxiety as needed. We did try reconcile and it did have an effect but left her zonked all the time which for me ultimately wasn't worth it.  Toys like tug-a-jug etc are great too. I also moved house to one that was more secure.

If you are in Victoria pm me for the name of an excellent behaviourist.

#12 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 02 January 2013 - 07:26 PM

Sorry - http://petandgarden.com.au/bono-fido-dog-c...etal-trays.html

That was the cheapest I found one with a metal tray that didn't have a heap of negative reviews.

I ordered the biggest one and it cost me $160 including shipping. From memory, your boy is smaller than a lab though isn't he? So you'd probably be able to get away with the smaller one.

Bickie hasn't got to the same extreme as your dog yet, but I am nervous about what she will do when shes bigger if I don't fix this behaviour now (not that she'll be alone much, given that we want to train her to have public access).

#13 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 02 January 2013 - 07:44 PM

Sorry jellyblush, we were posting at the same time.

Sadly, raw meat is out for now as my twins keep putting her toys in their mouth and I'm worried they'll get sick while she's eating raw. Once they stop doing it (they are both autistic), I'll switch her back over to high quality raw diet. I'm thinking I could freeze cooked meat though and give that to her though for a similar effect?

We have some kongs etc and I've looked at the tug-a-jug, but haven't got one yet. Once she has her next vx, we can start taking her for walks and I plan on a walk and swim in the morning (we live right near the beach) and another walk at night. Given her age and breed and the fact that her parents' orthopaedic history is unknown, we won't be running her for at least a year. But I hope the swimming will wear out as much as a run would.

Our yard is pretty secure and DH and DS1 are going to build her a dog house to use as her den for outside (so I don't have to keep moving the crate in and out every day once we get it). I'm in QLD, not Vic, but thank you for the offer. We're not at the point of needing medication, but I can see this is going to become a huge problem if we don't sort it now.

#14 madmother

Posted 02 January 2013 - 08:20 PM


Sandy is great should it come to needing an expert.  original.gif

#15 Feral*Spikey*

Posted 03 January 2013 - 06:41 PM

Hi Karla,

Sorry for the delay. I've been in and out a gazillion times. I think that some of the advice I gave to jellyblush is very applicable to your circumstance. It seems to me that this could be part of her age related development, along with some anxiety.

If you're still up for some more work on training, the next logical step for you to take is to practice 'leaving', and rewarding her for good behaviour when you return. Similar to what you did with the bathroom, just through the front door instead.

A baby monitor or something similar would let you know what level of noise was going on, so you could 'spy' on her actual behaviour.

I'd start literally with telling her to down/stay, walking out the door, closing it, then straight back in. Do it a dozen times, so she knows what's coming. Once she's 'got it', she'll be waiting for you - and hopefully there will be a quiet moment in there. If she's quiet, reward her. The extend the time you spend outside, 30 seconds, then 1 minute, and so on. If she breaks, drop the time down a notch, and keep repeating.

I also think you need to get into socialising her and training her in a group session - so have a look at when your nearest obedience club starts up again. It will build her confidence, and you can use other people to help with that process, and also get her used to the idea that is required to behave all of the time.

Back after dinner with stage 2!

#16 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 04 January 2013 - 06:37 AM

Thanks Spikey! I will definitely start doing that. As for the socialization, the poor little girl has kennel cough and is getting sicker, not better. sad.gif We're back at the vets today for a change of meds, but she won't be able to socialize until she's all better (I'm very frustrated, watching this precious imprinting time slipping away, but what can I do?). The ironic thing is the only place I have taken her is puppy preschool (she's not fully vx'd yet so no walks around the block or anything), so she must have caught it from there. sad.gif

Jellyblush, how is Roo going now?

#17 Feral*Spikey*

Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:15 AM

Now that is annoying! Hope she recovers soon.

Don't worry too much about 'imprinting' time. It may be the easiest time, but dogs can successfully learn to socialise at any age - I've had a lot of dogs come through my classes that haven't been socialised, who 'learn' to play and behave with good doggy manners over a month or two. The ones with severe issues (often rescues) take longer, but we've had success with those as well.

I'll have a bit of a think about stage 2 in light of her KC problem. Shouldn't be too difficult to work around. biggrin.gif

#18 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:27 AM

Thanks Spikey, that makes me feel much better. She loves other dogs and all people, she's just too boisterous with them - which will take lots of time to settle down given her age and breed, I suspect.

#19 Feral*Spikey*

Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:38 AM

Which reminds me of a game you can play with her. I used this on my Lab, to teach her to be less um, excitable.

Its based on the human game of statues. Basically, the owner jumps around and acts all silly, and encourages dog to be silly too. Then you use a word, such as "freeze!" and then go still and calm. When she goes still and calm too, she gets a treat. At first, it might take a while (and you can assist by suggesting "sit"). After a while, she'll stop quite quickly. Then you can ramp up how 'still', you want her to be.

Don't forget the dying doggy squeal can be used if she's bouncing on or at people. Labs hate it - they have sensitive ears. Mine gives me the "did you have to do that" look whenever I use it on another dog - after checking out to see if they've injured me (not usually, I detest dogs jumping on me, mouthing me, licking me excessively, etc, and the squeal is great for all of those things).

Also, if she's uncontrollable on the lead, consider using a head collar - the Infin8 ones from Black Dog are excellent - or a check chain. As Buttercup can get out of head collars (too smart by half), I use a check chain if necessary. Not that its necessary these days, she shadows me unless told otherwise.

Keep in mind that she's not going to be anything but a big puppy until she's about 2yo, so it will be a slower process at first. Once you're at that stage, she'll have a much better attention span, and you can really push her training. Mind you, Buttercup still thinks she's a puppy - she's the one who rolls around with our youngest dog, pretend fighting and being silly. At a mere 12yo. rolleyes.gif

#20 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 04 January 2013 - 09:28 AM

Ooh, that game sounds good for her. I'll definitely start playing that with her, and then get the kids to join in.

Regarding the dying doggy squeal, I'm hopeless at it. I'm way too self concious to do it loudly enough (my neighbours already think I'm nuts!). I suspect I have to learn to suck it up and do it anyway though because the "bah!" isn't cutting it.

#21 Feral*Spikey*

Posted 04 January 2013 - 09:53 AM

If its any consolation, I don't have to do it loudly once a dog has worked it out - just the merest hint of a squeal has them covering their ears with their paws. wink.gif

#22 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:51 PM

I guess I'll just have to put my big girl pants on and start practicing then. I'll admit I have saved your You Tube video on my phone and played it several times when she's being jumpy and bitey with the kids. blush.gif

#23 Feral*Spikey*

Posted 04 January 2013 - 02:54 PM

roll2.gif  roll2.gif  roll2.gif

Glad I could help. laughing2.gif

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