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Please help me with my new shelter dog

January 11th, 2009, 10:38 PM
Two weeks ago we adopted Maya, a female dog from the local animal shelter. She is a border collie cross and is almost 3 years old. They don't know much about her history, because she was a stray. We have another dog, who we have had for almost 5 years (a female shih-tzu named Baby).

I am a strong believer in crate training. Baby used to have separation anxiety issues, which for the most part went away after crate training her. It was tough at first, but now she loves her crate.

The crate training with Maya is not going well. It seems that she has severe separation anxiety. I was able to stay home from work for the first week we had her, and I used that time to try to get her crate trained. The progress was slow. At first, she wouldn't go in at all. So I started with just the bottom half of the crate, which she was willing to sleep in. Then we added the top and she slept inside. Then we added the door, but left it open and she slept inside. The first time we tried shutting the door, she panicked. We tried to do everything right- we didn't let her out until the fuss stopped, etc. The behavior continued every time we closed her in.

Then the day came when I had to go back to work and we had to crate her. I've been back to work now for 5 days and I have crated her each of those days (only about 4 hrs a day).

These are the behaviors she displays:
-when we are home, she follows us room to room.
-she panics when we are getting ready. She whines and paces.
-she runs when it's time to get into the crate. The tastiest of treats won't get her in willingly. We end up having to use force to get her in.
-Once she's in, she whines, scratches and chews.
-A few times, we've come home to find that she has chewed on the crate's plastic to the point where her gums were bleeding.
-Oddly enough, she still willingly sleeps in there overnight when we leave the door open.

We have tried the following:
-Giving her treats, a stuffed Kong and a favorite toy in the crate.
-Feeding her meals in the crate.
-Crating her at home when we are at home (when we do this, she whines).
-Not making a fuss over her when we leave or when we get home.
-Giving her Rescue Remedy before crating her.

None of these things are working and it seems to me that the behavior is worsening. I love her and I want to get this problem straightened out. The reality is, she needs to be crate trained. Leaving her alone loose in the house is not an option. First of all, she and Baby sometimes fight and I do not want that to happen when I am not home to break it up. Secondly, she could be destructive toward the house and I am renting this house. I don't believe that the separation anxiety and destructiveness would get better without the crate- she would simply take it out on the door or furniture.

At the same time, I am scared that she will hurt herself or that I am putting her through too much stress.

Please help me!!!

January 11th, 2009, 11:02 PM
I don't believe that the separation anxiety and destructiveness would get better without the crate- she would simply take it out on the door or furniture.

At the same time, I am scared that she will hurt herself or that I am putting her through too much stress.

Please help me!!!

Welcome to raspberryrain :).

First, thank you for taking in a shelter dog :grouphug:. Second, I agree that crate training will eventually be most beneficial while addressing her separation anxiety. Our first shelter dog also had severe separation anxiety and leaving him loose in the house was not an option. The first time we did, he dug up ceramic tiles by the front door, ripped down all curtains, and dug a hole in our mattress :rolleyes:.

There's no easy solution, and I hate to say, it does take time...lots of it.

Here's some of what we did that helped him:

1. Started him on Clomicalm
2. Found him a babysitter where we could take him while I was at work (perhaps there's a doggie daycare near you?)
3. Began positive obedience training
4. Continued to de-sensitize him to his crate
5. Began re-conditioning his responses to us leaving ie. when we were home, we'd go through the process of leaving (getting dressed, putting on coat, picking up car keys), then we'd sit down and watch tv or read a book instead of leaving. Every 4 or 5 times, we'd actually leave the house for all of 3 seconds, or 10 seconds, and gradually increase and decrease the times.
6. Exercised him extremely well until he was pooped by the time we had to leave.
7. We didn't make a fuss when we left, never said anything other than, "I'll be back" without any eye or body contact.
8. We didn't make a fuss when we returned either. Actually, we totally ignored him for 10 minutes ie. washed our hands, put on a pot of coffee, checked our mail etc.
9. Left him with a yummy stuffed Kong and immediately removed it once we let him out of his crate. Even if he didnt' touch it, we didn't give it back to him until we had to leave again.

THis is not to say that it will take you as long, but it was about 5-6 months before he finally understood that we would always return home. It's been over 2 years now and I occasionally hear him cry for a few seconds when we leave but, we're at a point where he no longer has to be crated nor does he have full-blown panic attacks anymore.

I would also recommend you read, "I'll Be Home Soon" by Patricia McConnell

It takes lots of patience, understanding, determination, but most of all love to help you and your Maya to overcome this. But I promise you one thing, you'll never regret it.

January 12th, 2009, 04:22 AM

I had a pek/pug and got him when he was a year old. He had been put into a garbage can and the lid put on. The previous ownser told me after that he would absolutely got crazy if u tried to close the door on him. And he did!

Maybe your dog had a bad experience with being locked up and not being allowed out. Or abused when he was in the crate, so this might not be separation anxiety issues. He maybe freaking out cause he is scared something is going to happen to him......just a thought.


January 12th, 2009, 12:12 PM
My question is: how much exercise is Maya getting? With the Border Collie herding genes in her, she is a high-energy dog and needs a lot of exercise. I think she might be calmer in the crate if she were really tired out. If you can't give her a vigourous walk where you're running or jogging for at least an hour or a free run in dog park or open area where she retrieving a ball, you might train her to run on a treadmill an hour before you leave for work. If you don't have a treadmill, often there are used ones for a reasonable price. Might work for her, maybe worth a try.

January 12th, 2009, 01:56 PM

Thank you for the responses. :)

We do exercise Maya quite a bit. We walk or run her for a total of about an hour a day (divided between about 2 outings). We have tried doing the walk/runs right before being crated, to try to wear her out- doesn't seem to help. She also gets to run freely in the yard several times during the day and we play with her in the yard. We plan to get her into agility in the spring and take her to the off-leash once she's better trained to come when called.

I agree that she probably had bad crating experiences, but I do think that the problem is mostly related to the separation anxiety, because she exhibits so many of the behaviors. For example, when my boyfriend Eric goes outside to shovel walks, she cries at the door until he comes in. When he goes out and I stay home, she paces around the house whining. When we are getting ready to go out, she paces and whines. And she follows us room to room, right at the hip as we move about the house.

The shelter said that if it continues, we might have to try anxiety medication, but I'd hate to drug my dog. Does anyone know anything about anxiety drugs? Would it affect her personality?
What about DAP spraying the kennel? This was another thing the shelter suggested, that I don't know much about and I haven't been able to find as of yet.

I feel awful putting her through this. She's such a great dog otherwise. She was easy to housetrain, she doesn't bark much or jump up. She's very obedient and loves to snuggle. This is really the only problem we're having with her.

Any suggestions or personal experience stories help.


January 12th, 2009, 08:37 PM
You have a Velcro dog that constantly has to be close even touching you - a sign of insecurity.

One thing that can help a lot is to teach her to be away from you when you are in the house. Create an imaginary bubble around you and send your dog past that point, let them learn confidence, they will learn they are okay that far away. She needs to learn self confidence and how to be alone and self entertain. Right now she goes into right-brained fear based behavior everytime you are more than 2" from her and she needs practice being further from you. At first it will be because you said so and then it will evolve to her choosing it on her own.

Work on her 'stay' skills. Then have her stay frequently throughout the day in places where you can walk around her, leave the room, go up stairs, go outside and then return. You are desensitizing her to staying away from you and to your coming and going. Make some stays short and others longer - let her know that she is doing great and you are so proud of her when she does well. But be ready to correct her if she tries to break the stay. We don't care if she sits or lays down just so long as she doesn't leave the spot.

It would be really good if you had her stay until she shows a change of energy - a sigh, laying down, head on ground, anything that shows she is slightly bored and learning to relax. Good signs of inner change. This needs to be done frequently and for many days until you see a shift. Keep doing the good things you are doing as they will help too.

January 13th, 2009, 02:18 AM
I guess I'll be the respectful but blunt, dissenting voice.

These are living beings with their own minds and spirits ~ as such, crate-training is not for every dog. Every need to control and contain by force or coercion should always be questioned.

(Yup, that's harsh. I know. I've thought on it for many years and while I get it now, I too had blood in my eye at first)

Your 3 year old dog has her own history and a life full of lessons ~ a life which was fully-formed before you came into it and brought her into your house. And remember, to her, right now, it's a house, it's not her home yet and you are still "just another person", not a giver of care or someone worthy of her complete trust and unconditional love. She's survived this far, she has no reason to believe that you are smarter than she is. And, her history may be such that she will never completely trust you and that may be something you need to accept rather than trying to find new ways for her to "get over it".

Two weeks is such a very short time in "rehabilitation time". And honestly, you seem to have awfully large expectations of this dog and of your other dog, Baby for such a short period of time. Imagine for a moment what each could tell you about what they need of you ~ both to recover and for both to come together.

I agree that you have a dog with some separation anxiety ~ hardly surprizing with her history. And you've got great advice on that. But, if you are interested in making a home, I would be more concerned about the fighting between Baby and Maya. I would also use my teaching time to guide Maya to understand what is chewable and what is not and in finding a room that is non-chewable where she is comfortable (bathroom? laundry room ?), than I would be with an intellectual construct like crate training.

Home v. house I suppose. My :2cents:

January 13th, 2009, 04:38 PM
Thank you- we will try the strategies with the "stay" command - this is something I hadn't thought of.

To the one who advised against crate training- I know that my dog has come to me as an individual with her own unique experiences. I do not have high expectations for her- I simply don't want her to hurt herself or suffer in ways that I might be able to prevent. She and Baby have only been in a couple of scraps- both over a found food item. They do not fight when food is not involved. And since we have been more careful about keeping all feeding of both treats and food completely separate- there have been no fights. They have even started playing together in the last few days. I still don't feel comfortable leaving them alone together however- because I don't know how either would react without supervision or when under the stress of the separation anxiety.

Also- she does not chew when we are home- only when we leave the house. And when we tried separating her in a room on her own (while we were home), she did start to chew and/or scratch on the door (couldn't tell which). She has the same panic problems when left alone outside the crate than when in the crate, so abandoning the crate training wouldn't solve the problem- but it could damage the house.

Experts seem to agree that crate training- while difficult in the beginning- is ultimately a good thing for separation anxiety dogs. The shelter behaviorist and our vet have told me to stick with it, even knowing everything we've been through. And I have to agree, because I have been through crate training with Baby (who used to have separation anxiety) and now she loves her crate- but it took 2-3 months.

So while I respect that some people are against crate training, I have no plans to abandon it at this point. And I would appreciate getting advice only from those who are going to support me in this. Thanks.

January 13th, 2009, 05:04 PM
Another update:
Maya willingly goes into her open crate to sleep at night (the crate is on the bedroom floor). Last night, we closed the door to the crate when she was already in there. We expected a reaction- but nothing. Silence. Even in the morning when she woke up, she just lay quietly in the crate until we let her out. In my opinion, this is further evidence that the issue is separation from us- not being confined to a crate.