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Crating for separation anxiety?

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#1 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 14 January 2013 - 09:35 PM

I had to leave Bickie alone for about 3 hours today. I left her outside with a pig ear, a rawhide chew and her breakfast kibble scattered over the lawn. When I returned, she was hysterical. I waited 10 minutes or so until she had calmed down and stopped barking etc before I acknowledged her and let her in for a pat. After 15 minutes of her still being a loon, I sat down and patted her and it took another 15-20 minutes to calm her down properly and stop her heart racing. The biggest problem is she hurt her hind leg while I was out. sad.gif

I have to leave her for about 2 hours on Wednesday morning and about an hour on Thursday. Next week, she'll need to be on her own for 2-3 hours 3 times. Once school is back, i will need to leave her for 1 hour twice a day at the bare minimum. I'm worried she'll hurt herself again. Should I try to crate her with a treat (pig ear or similar) while I'm out? She sleeps in the crate no dramas overnight, but only if I'm there (it's in our bedroom). If I walk out of the room while she's awake, she starts barking and digging at the door. If I sneak out while she's asleep, she wakes up and stands and whimpers quietly until I return and then settles down and goes back to sleep straight away.  

Do I keep leaving her outside or should I start trying to crate her during the day? When I'm home and she's outside, she will now happily to and explore the yard while I'm inside, so she is comfortable out there.

#2 Feral*Spikey*

Posted 15 January 2013 - 05:56 PM

The standard training method for reducing anxiety when you leave involves practicing leaving for very short periods, and rewarding her when you return for good behaviour.

For example, you start by exiting the door, and then immediately returning. When she's quiet and relaxed, she gets a treat.

Little by little, you extend the amount of time you spend on the other side of the door, until she no longer shows concern about you leaving.

I'd start doing this, and leave her outside. Its not for long, and hopefully she'll have enough to occupy her.

Unless you have another reason to crate her, I'd try this method first.

My only concern is that she may try to bust out of her crate, and injure herself in the process. I also think its time to move the crate out of your bedroom and into another part of the house. You need to be able to get up and down without her chucking tanties, and that isn't going to happen if she can watch your every move. Although you've gotten some peace, it is still reinforcing her issues about you to some extent, because you are right there.

#3 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 15 January 2013 - 09:09 PM

Thanks Spikey. original.gif

I've been trying with the short fake leavings, but it's hard with all 4 kids home. Only 2 more weeks and the big 3 are back at school 5 days/kindy 4 days. It will be easier to practice more dry runs then. She's figured out that if I pretend to leave but the kids are still inside, I'm not really going. rolleyes.gif she's way too smart for only 4 months!

I have a random little alcove where the linen cupboard is where I'd like to put her crate. It's kind of on the other side of the lounge room from my bedroom, but the couch blocks all visual. Should I just try moving it there cold turkey or should I move it over gradually?

(oh, and I'll put her kong in the freezer tonight, all loaded up for the morning. Plus a pig ear and a chicken wing and hopefully she'll be ok.)

#4 Feral*Spikey*

Posted 15 January 2013 - 09:16 PM

Just go cold turkey.

Do you have a cover for her crate? My three have covers that block the view from all but the front. Very swish and den like. It also might provide some reassurance, as she's not just 'out there', IYKWIM? Pics of mine are in the crate training thread.

Giggling at her working out you're not really leaving. laughing2.gif

Sounds like she will have some food time to occupy her for your brief foray out into the world. Mine would like to be invited around thanks....

(Wednesday is bone day at our house - each dog gets a smoked bone and they cart them around for a few more days before junior wolf destroys/eats them all)

#5 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 16 January 2013 - 12:22 PM

Thanks Spikey!

I've moved her crate into the dining room today, as she spends most of her time inside in there. She seems quite happy and spent about an hour in there chewing on treats and toys with the door open. I didn't buy the proper cover because I suspected she would eat it, but I have a giant bath sheet/towel over it. It's in a corner now too, so nice and cosy for her.

This morning went quite well. She was getting all anxious and barking as I was getting the kids ready to go, but my mum was here this morning so I got her to put them in the car while I fed Bickie. I scattered a handful of kibble over the backyard, gave her a chicken wing and left a pig ear on her outside bed. There was no barking when we actually left and she didn't run to the side gate to watch us leave (and bark like crazy) like usual. After I dropped the little one at daycare, I drove down the street behind our house with the windows down to see if she was barking but I couldn't hear a thing. original.gif That was about 10-15 minutes after we left, so I think that's a good sign. When we got home, she was quiet but started barking at the back door as soon as she realized it was me that had pulled into the driveway. She settled down much quicker today (I ignore her until she stops barking and sits quietly outside the back door) and she came in for a cuddle and to explore her new crate location. So, all in all, I think it was fairly successful. original.gif

It's strange, she shows no other anxious behaviours at all. Loud/strange noises don't bother her (if she even notices, she just goes into "gun dog stance" while she tries to figure out what it was), strange sights (like umbrellas opening suddenly right in front of her) don't bother her etc. She just doesn't like to be on her own.

#6 Feral*Spikey*

Posted 16 January 2013 - 04:50 PM

I suspect from what you've been telling me, that the real source of her anxiety is that she's been used to having her mum and litter mates around, so being 'on her own' is new and a bit scary.

Over time, and will rewarding the good behaviour, it should pretty much disappear. original.gif

#7 Guest_~Karla~_*

Posted 16 January 2013 - 05:07 PM

I hope so Spikey. If she was anxious in other scenarios, it would be different, but she's a very confident puppy - as long as her people are with her. She got all barky when I was getting reasy to take the kids to go and pick the little one up from daycare. I gave her some kibble in a milk bottle (she loves this) and again, she happily stayed on the deck playing with it rather than barking when we actually left. When we got back, she was quiet again until she realized we were home. So I think she's going to be ok too. original.gif

I've got a few appointments coming up for the boys over the next few weeks that will mean she'll be alone for 3-5 hours at a time. I'm a little bit nervous about she'll cope with them, but hopefully with lots of toys and bones/chews etc, she'll be ok.

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