Anxiety and Destructive Behavior?
I have sort of an interesting problem with my dog, and would love to hear what everyone else thinks.
I have 2 small dogs, the problem dog being Cleo, the older one (8 years old, beagle x poodle). Since she was a puppy she's been left alone at home for several hours at a time with free run of the house and has never had any problems at all (aside from a few chewed shoes when she was a puppy).
However, it's a different story when she is left alone at our cabin. My family and I went out to a friends for dinner and left the 2 dogs alone in the cabin. We came home a few hours later to absolute destruction; all the jackets were ripped down, chewed table legs, shredded papers and boxes. Basically anything that was within her reach that could be destroyed was destroyed.
The next time we went out we put her in the screened front porch, which was ineffective; she shredded all the screens she could reach and ripped holes in the couch.
Finally we decided we needed to kennel her and got one of those wire kennels with the plastic bottom so she can see all around. This time, she shredded the towel we gave her, attempted to chew on the bars, and started going at the plastic bottom until she ripped half of it up and made herself bleed.
I figure that because she's used to being outside all the time at the cabin that she doesn't want to be locked up, but the destructive behavior and anxiety is very out of character. I don't want her to give herself a heart attack or something, but I am at a loss as to what I should do.
Is this a repeated pattern when you are at the cabin, or did it just happen this time? If it's just this time, I woudl have a vet see her-major changes in behaviour can indicate pain or illness. Bladder infections are a common cause of behavioural changes.
If she is not used to being crated, you might have to do crate training with her. Has she been to the cabin before? What is she like at other people's houses? Are there mice or bugs at the cabin that might be driving her crazy?
Things like Rescue Remedy or something else might help ease her anxiety, but definitely look deeper and see if there is something else going on.
If she's chewing on the bars of her crate, then she's obviously associating it as a negative place I would refrain from putting her in there. The metal bars can cause serious damage to her teeth in a very short amount of time (spoken from experience, it's about $2k for canine root cannals, ouch!)
Do you have a smaller, completely doggy-proof room that you could put her in? If she's a small breed, perhaps the bathroom? (just lift up the rugs and shower curtain).
I would treat her exactly as a small puppy, and start with leaving her alone at the cabin for small periods of time (maybe 10-15 minutes to start), and slowly increase the amount of time you're gone.
Start by leaving her in there when you go for a walk, or a swim, whatever.
Don't make a big deal about leaving, and don't make a big deal about coming home. Give her some stuffed kongs or other toys to keep her occupied and mentally stimulated while you're gone - just something else to focus her energy on, other than the fact that you're not there.
Over time, she'll start to view the cabin as a second home, and learn that's ok to spend time there alone.
That makes sense, as she's never had to be crated for any length of time before. It was a last resort sort of thing, but I will definitely not be using it again! We do have a few small rooms, but I don't want to risk more destruction.
As of her last vet visit in February, she's healthy, and has been at the cabin a lot, since she was a puppy, so I don't think it has anything to do with her being uncomfortable there. The strange thing is is that the other dog is completely fine being left alone.
Thank you for the advice! I'll definitely try leaving her alone for small increments of time (and listening closely for the sounds of things being destroyed :P)
If you're only occasionally at the cabin, can you just take her along with you when you leave? She can seriously injure herself if she's experiencing severe separation anxiety.
Two books I'd recommend you read in order to understand SA better, and to learn how to treat it, are [B]Don't Leave Me[/B] by [I]Nicole Wilde[/I] and [B]I'll Be Home Soon[/B] by [I]Patricia McConnell[/I].
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