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Separation Anxiety

January 21st, 2008, 09:53 AM
I've had my puppy (Nikki) for almost 4 years now and it's getting to the point where my wife and I can take much more :(. She's a super good dog, loving, fun, playful, but she has an extreme case of separation anxiety. If we're home she's as happy as can be, lays on her mat or plays with her pal (our other puppy Kessa, she's 2), no complaints from her, but as soon as we leave, the nightmare begins.

Originally we started with crate training, but she would attack the cage continuously until she got out, so violently that she self mutilates herself until she gets out or we get home (whichever comes first). She's done everything from having a swollen face/eye, to cut gums, cut paws and even broken teeth (she's had to have her two K9 fangs surgically removed cause she broke them off at the root).

When this all happened, we tried leaving her out, but that just made her rip all the blinds down, destroy the front door and poop and pee all over the house even though we would only go out for an hour (and he had been walked and gone to the bathroom before we left).

After this went on for a while we got a second puppy in hopes that having a friend with her all day would help her, they've since become inseprable best pals :). Although she had a new found friend with her all the time, it only helped with the crate issue for a while (they were in the same crate together), but after a couple of months she started playing the self mutilation and escape game again.

For the past year they've been in separate crates, first just in the same room, then in the same room but next to one another, then finally in the same room directly in front of one another so they can see each other all day, but it doesn't matter what we do she does the same thing. We've struggled to find ways to modify her crate to both stop her from escaping (and destroying the house) and prevent her from hurting herself, all of which repeatedly end in the same result... a bruised and battered pup that gets out and destroys our house.

We've tried the medication rout, but took her off it after a couple of weeks cause it completely altered her personality... she became dopey and had no energy, we just didn't like seeing her like that.

So with one final attempt to save our pup I've installed a metal cable as a leash in the dog room (right next to the other dog who is in her crate). Now she has a leash hanging from the ceiling that basically lets her stand, turn in a small circle (about 5 foot radius) and then lay back down on her bed (basically a small blanket). It's only been a couple of days and we've yet to have any issues with her getting off the leash or destroying herself or the room, but with one problem solved comes another :(... she's starting to go to the bathroom (pee) on her bed or just next to it.

I love my dog beyond belief but these past 4 years have been pushing me to my breaking point (both emotionally and financially). If anyone can help or make suggestions I'd really appreciate it cause I don't' want to have to give up one of my best friends. Since she seems to be much more comfortable out of her cage and on a lease (at least for the past 3-4 days), I guess I'm looking to see how I can get her to stop peeing even though she's 4 years old, has nothing physically wrong with her (says the vet) and she is always let out and pees right before we leave.

Many thanks in advance

January 21st, 2008, 10:51 AM
I don't have any personal experience with separation anxiety but though you might be interested in a podcast I heard recently on the topic: (click on the Dec. 18th 2007 episode)

Have you talked to a behaviourist at all? What about trying doggy day-care? Other than that, I wish you luck and hope you work something out soon.

January 21st, 2008, 11:19 AM
I don't know I you already tried this but what I do with my foster great dane (who has anxiety too , and believe me , great dane ; big dog ; big damages :eek:) I always feed her in her crate , I leave the door open. Every night I fill her (medium) Kong with peanut butter (you can use plain yogourt) and I put it in the freezer. When I leave in the morning , she runs to her crate (now :D) because she knows she will have her stuffed Kong , I leave 2 treats and a toy , but it has to be something they can't destroy (Cuz or Kong)

If you're afraid your dog will eat the blancket in his crate , just don't put any.

Nelly was deadly afraid of the crate at first , but she loves it now ! :thumbs up

January 21st, 2008, 03:07 PM
Just wanted to thank you all for the replies. Sugarcatmom, the reference you gave was very very informative. Trish King (the speaker in the podcast), described our dog to a tee, so I've since sent her an email looking for more information and support, hopefully she hears my please and gets back to me :). Once again thank you all, nice to know there are others out there who have either experienced this or who care to help others in need... thanks

January 21st, 2008, 07:47 PM
Good luck to you :thumbs up

I did forget one thing ... the more exercise he will get before getting into his crate for the day , the more tired he will be , more sleeping , less damage to do.

January 21st, 2008, 08:03 PM
OttawaDog12, have you ever consulted with a qualified behaviorist? I've heard that in your area, there's a wonderful dog training school called Forever Friends ( (613) 727-4335) Unit 6, 17 Grenfell Crescent
Ottawa, ON K2G 0G3. An internationally recognized behaviorist, Cheryl Smith, founded this school if I'm not mistaken. Perhaps it would be beneficial to you and your dog to consult with someone personally?

January 22nd, 2008, 08:56 AM
Oh boy do I know what you are going through. I don't have a whole lot of time right now but I would love to be able to compare stories with you and maybe we can learn from eachother. I will send you my dog's story, I have been dealing with his SA for 3 years now.

Have you read the book "I'll Be Home Soon" by Patricia B McConnell? If not, it is worth the read. When I have more time, I will post my story (could take me all day to write LOL)

January 22nd, 2008, 01:09 PM
Thanks for the referral, a friend of ours had used the Forever Friends Dog Training Center (their dog barked and growled at people when they came into the house), never thought of looking to them for separation anxiety (SA) help... will definitely give them a call.

Been doing some research myself, both with our vet and over the net, found some interesting articles and studies pertaining to SA, why the dog behaves this way, the causes and what the owner is doing to cause this (why didn't I research this 3 years ago :wall:. I don't have time to write my findings here, but I'll try and share some with everyone tonight. The good news is that we're not alone in this situation (others are experiencing this), there are a lot of studies and research out there and the best part... IT IS CURABLE :thumbs up. The bad news is that although treatable, it takes time and a lot of dedication from the owner.

Stay tuned for some more info that I've found on what works and what doesn't work :)

January 23rd, 2008, 02:20 PM
Ok, so it's now day 6 of our new strategy to over come my dog's extreme case of separation anxiety (SA) and I have to say I'm blown away by the changes. There's no more fighting with her to get her down stairs, there's no more destruction of the house and most of all, there's no more self inflicted harm :thumbs up. To be quite honest, when I tell the pups it's time to go to their room, there hasn't been a peep from her and I even got a tail wag from her this morning on the way down (oh my gosh!!!). I know it's only 6 days and I shouldn't consider the issue gone for life just yet, but from where we started and what we've been dealing with for the past 3+ years, this is something to celebrate and share with everyone.

So seeing as there are a good number of you out there fighting this same horrible condition (SA), hopefully our experiences and trials can help you see improvements like we have.

A great starting point would be the link that "sugarcatmom" was so kind to provide: (click on the Dec. 18th 2007 episode). Very helpful in explaining the condition and some good points for treatment.

In addition to that, here's some of the findings I've come across:
Things that DON'T work

Getting a pet for your pet (the second dog)... been there, tried that, didn't change a thing. Explanation: the excessively tight bonding is between you and your dog, not between your dog and the new puppy

Punishment does not work, they cannot reason that if they don't make a mess in the future they won't get punished. Even though they may look 'guilty' when you come home, they've only learned that when you are present and a mess exists, they are in trouble

Things that DO work

Give the dog an acceptable item to chew, only when you go out and give it to them about 15 minutes before you go out (before you give off any signs/cues that you are about to leave)

Everybody in the house should totally ignore the dog for 15-20 minutes before leaving (after you've given them their bone) and for at least 20 minutes on returning home. This helps reduce the dog's excitement level before you leave, which reduces the tension he feels when you are gone

The person who the dog is most attached to should totally ignore the dog for a minimum of 3 weeks. This is the hardest thing you'll have to stick with, but it's probably the most important part of the treatment because it is what reduces the dog's dependence on you. This includes not allowing the dog to follow you around the house, not looking at or touching the dog. If you do this conscientiously, it will work quickly and effectively to solve your problem (you can relate to your dog in a more normal way once the dog's dependence on you has been reduced)

Make a list of things you do before you leave for the day (and destruction occurs), and the things you do before you go out for a short period of time (and no destruction occurs). Then mix up the cues...

Drugs may help eliminate the results of SA, but they don't actually cure the problem, only prolong it (do you really want to keep them on the drugs for life?)

Well, to date we've been following the above mentioned steps in addition to no longer crating her, instead we have her on a leash in the dog room. Speaking with the vet they suggested this, saying that the crate could possibly be instilling panic in her... not only are the people she depends on the most leaving her, they are sticking her in a confined space, in which she'll do anything she has to (including self mutilation) to get out. Now when it's time to leave, our routine is: she is left alone in another room to chew on her bone, then we say go to your room and she grabs her bone and heads downstairs and lays on her little bed waiting for use to put the leash on her... that's it :). Well that and I've been 100% ignoring her for the past 6 days (cause I'm the one she is most dependent on) which is killing me to do and stick with, but as the suggestion states, it's working. Now I'm just counting the days for another two weeks so I can start to interact with her again!

Well I hope some of you out there can benefit from the three years of pain and now new found hope that I've shared. If there are any lapses or new things we try, I'll for sure add to this posting. Best of luck and thank you to all who have shared their thoughts and comments.

January 23rd, 2008, 04:28 PM
Great post, OttawaDog12! And I'm glad to hear things are looking up for you and your pup. :thumbs up