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Dog Advice: separation anxiety

Old 08-16-07, 11:06 AM
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Dog Advice: separation anxiety

Got a golden retriever from a dog rescue group a couple of months ago. Norman is ~ 1 1/2 years old, he is great, he's such a sweetheart. He is crate trained, so for now he spends all day in the crate and is just fine with it, gets in there no problem and is just mildly hyper when I let him out (and settles down quickly). But I don't want to leave him in the crate, I have a doggie door and a fenced yard, and having to rush home from work to let him out is a PITA. But the only thing that I am having trouble with -- indeed am at a loss with -- is his apparent separation anxiety. I can totally trust him when I am in the house, even if I am doing something like taking a nap. But as soon as I try to leave him home alone (and not in the crate) he starts shredding stuff in minutes. Any suggestions?

As an aside (and perhaps it will help some dog whisperer) it's also really interesting how different he is -- and how he needs totally different guidance -- from last dog, Codi. When Codi acted up, strong discipline always worked. And if she really acted up, stronger discipline was the (or at least an) answer. With Norman, I have learned that only so much discipline is useful, and that sometimes more discipline just freaks him out, such that soothing him and calming him -- not scolding him -- is the only way to stop the bad behavior. That's been an ongoing learning process for me.

Any advice is appreciated.

Here's a picture of Norman the day that I got him.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:13 AM
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Leave him outside?
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Old 08-16-07, 11:14 AM
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Well this is a tough one and I can say I have been through it.

If he is crate trained don't feel bad about keeping him in there, part of the appeal of the crate for a dog is the den instinct. The crate makes them feel safe.

Second, we started leaving a radio on near my dog's crate, keeping the volume low.

Third, you could try leaving an old tshirt in the crate. That may calm the dog if he has something with your scent on it near.

Golden's are a bit nervous anyway (comes with the breed). Try to desensitize him a bit. Leave the house for a few minutes where he cannot see you and then return. When you return DO NOT make a big deal over greeting him, DO NOT give him treats. When you do this he is learning that you will return after being gone. By NOT greeting or giving treats you are NOT reinforcing the fact that you were gone, which only increases the anxiety.

Finally if it is really bad, speak to your vet about some medication that may help. It is going to take time to work through, good luck.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Leave him outside?
Well this may not be a good idea either. A dog with severe anxiety may try to escape or tunnel out. If they do then you have a bigger problem.

What I really hate is when an owner reaches this point and chains a dog outside. That is just wrong and the person does not deserve to be a pet owner.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:17 AM
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So being on a chain for 8 hours is worse that being in a small crate for 8 hours?

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Old 08-16-07, 11:19 AM
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My experience and it's results may not be possible in your case, but here it is anyway: My dog has seperation anxiety really bad, but messes in the house rather than tears things up. It got to the point where I cannot leave her alone at home while I'm at work anymore. My grandpa dogsits her (at his house) Monday and Friday, my mom comes to my house Thursday, and I take her to doggie daycare Tuesday and Wednesday.

The dog interaction at daycare and all-day play both tire her out and calm her anxiety down so I don't fear leaving her alone anymore when I'm gone for a couple hours.

She hasn't messed at all in the house ever since I started this 5 day a week care a couple years back.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Brian Shannon
Well this is a tough one and I can say I have been through it.

If he is crate trained don't feel bad about keeping him in there, part of the appeal of the crate for a dog is the den instinct. The crate makes them feel safe.

Second, we started leaving a radio on near my dog's crate, keeping the volume low.

Third, you could try leaving an old tshirt in the crate. That may calm the dog if he has something with your scent on it near.

Golden's are a bit nervous anyway (comes with the breed). Try to desensitize him a bit. Leave the house for a few minutes where he cannot see you and then return. When you return DO NOT make a big deal over greeting him, DO NOT give him treats. When you do this he is learning that you will return after being gone. By NOT greeting or giving treats you are NOT reinforcing the fact that you were gone, which only increases the anxiety.

Finally if it is really bad, speak to your vet about some medication that may help. It is going to take time to work through, good luck.
these are great starting points. The whole idea is that the dog should be calm when you leave and you shouldn't greet him an excessive manner when you return.

how often do you walk him?
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Old 08-16-07, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
So being on a chain for 8 hours is worse that being in a small crate for 8 hours?

Many people, including me would say yes. Being chained outside in all kinds of weather is likely not very comfortable. Having no shade, biting insects, bare ground . . . really no comparison.

Dogs who are crate trained learn to feel safe in their crate. Our dog will frequently sleep in his crate with the door open while we are home. It is his personal space.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:24 AM
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There are some really great meds out there that you might want to try. Also, maybe try leaving the TV on and getting your dog a larger crate? I'm a cat person so I really don't have anything useful here...sorry. Good luck.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Chew
My experience and it's results may not be possible in your case, but here it is anyway: My dog has seperation anxiety really bad, but messes in the house rather than tears things up. It got to the point where I cannot leave her alone at home while I'm at work anymore. My grandpa dogsits her (at his house) Monday and Friday, my mom comes to my house Thursday, and I take her to doggie daycare Tuesday and Wednesday.

The dog interaction at daycare and all-day play both tire her out and calm her anxiety down so I don't fear leaving her alone anymore when I'm gone for a couple hours.

She hasn't messed at all in the house ever since I started this 5 day a week care a couple years back.

Egads. That sounds like more trouble than my kids.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Egads. That sounds like more trouble than my kids.
Frankly, dogs are alot like kids. Many people are totally unprepared for what dog will mean in their house and sadly, because it is an animal, it is sometimes treated as such and abused and/or neglected.

Part of the seperation anxiety issue is the fact that dogs are pack animals. They very much want and need contact. When deprived of contact and exercise they will take out their frustrations on things in the home. Until they learn control and the fact that you will return. When you do, pay attention to them for even a brief period of time.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:34 AM
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He doesn't need meds, he's pretty calm when I leave him in the crate. As for leaving him outside, no way am I trying that. So far, he hasn't tried to break out of my yard (but I'm home), but given the way he shreds the house when I have left him alone, I suspect that he'd shred my fence in a matter or minutes.

Brian Shannon, thanks for the tips. Will start working on that. and Birrman54, I am sure I could walk him more, but he gets fairly regular walks (usually once a day, occasionally none or twice) and 2-3 hikes a week.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:36 AM
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I saw some kind of plug-in thing (like a Glade Plug-in) at PetSmart that, if I remember right, claims to help with this. No idea if it actually works or is just a gimmick, but might be worth trying.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:38 AM
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such that soothing him and calming him -- not scolding him -- is the only way to stop the bad behavior.
you probably already know this, but make sure you aren't reinforcing the bad behavior with your calm voice. tone can make a dog think you're telling him 'good job!'.

and yeah...kvrdave....dogs are work. thats why only certain people should own them. people who are willing to put in the time like dan does. they're not for people who think they're only good for target practice.

with our first dog....we used to 'set her up' to train her. when she would attempt to counter surf...you could yell at her and she'd stop and 'go on'. but she would return. so i would put some food on the edge and make sure that she knew it was there. as she started to approach it, not when she was actually up there, i'd reprimand her. so that the thought....before became action is what got reprimanded.

in your particular case, i'd suggest making sure norman gets a lot of exercise. 8 hours is a good long time in the crate (btw, i'd leave him in the crate the entire time you're gone) and if he is tired, he won't have the energy to be destructive. so i'd recommend a doggie day care. maybe 2 days a week or so???? and of course, leash walk him as much as possible. good for bonding. good exercise. excellent training time.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Brian Shannon
Frankly, dogs are alot like kids. Many people are totally unprepared for what dog will mean in their house and sadly, because it is an animal, it is sometimes treated as such and abused and/or neglected.
That wasn't a mistake, was it?
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Old 08-16-07, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by LurkerDan
He doesn't need meds, he's pretty calm when I leave him in the crate. As for leaving him outside, no way am I trying that. So far, he hasn't tried to break out of my yard (but I'm home), but given the way he shreds the house when I have left him alone, I suspect that he'd shred my fence in a matter or minutes.

Brian Shannon, thanks for the tips. Will start working on that. and Birrman54, I am sure I could walk him more, but he gets fairly regular walks (usually once a day, occasionally none or twice) and 2-3 hikes a week.
Sounds good, it may just take some time to get into a routine. He is still a young dog and to be from a rescue group may mean that he was shuttled around from place to place, you would be anxious too.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
That wasn't a mistake, was it?
I'm not sure I understand.

Dogs are animals, yes. How they are treated by people really defines a person. You do not need to be cruel to an animal just because he is one. Dogs are wonderful pets, full of unconditional love. They live to do nothing more than become part of your pack.

Where people go wrong with dogs is when they allow their pet to become tha "alpha" of the pack. Then they have lost the respect of the dog.
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Old 08-16-07, 11:46 AM
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I gotta' leave this thread.

I think it is okay to treat a dog like a dog.

Thanks for the time, Brian.
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Old 08-16-07, 12:04 PM
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Old 08-16-07, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
I gotta' leave this thread.

I think it is okay to treat a dog like a dog.

Thanks for the time, Brian.
oh...go put on your dalmation coat and eat some pie.
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Old 08-16-07, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Maxflier
I saw some kind of plug-in thing (like a Glade Plug-in) at PetSmart that, if I remember right, claims to help with this. No idea if it actually works or is just a gimmick, but might be worth trying.
The pheromone you are referring to works only as a foolmoneyparter. I know from personal experience.

LD, as our self-proclaimed resident dog expert and sports statistician, your problem is a common one with a solution. Your dog, not being a rational creature, has no idea if you are ever coming back. So you need to take advantage of the fact your dog has no sense of time to your advantage. Spend a few weeks purposely leaving for a few minutes and then coming back. The key is not to make a big deal about your coming or going. Just leave the room for a few minutes, make sure he doesn't follow, then come back. Do this often. Eventually he will figure out that just because you leave doesn't mean you aren't coming back.

Also, it's a good idea to leave the crate open during the time you are home so he can enter and leave as he pleases. That way, he won't associate being in the crate with you leaving, which will also help.

Dogs are fairly simple creatures once you figure them out. Rules, boundaries, limitations.
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Old 08-16-07, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Charlie Goose
Shame on you.
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Old 08-16-07, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Josh
Dogs are fairly simple creatures once you figure them out. Rules, boundaries, limitations.
Not mine.

Here's my dogs reaction to crates: I used a hard-plastic crate (like this one) from 8 weeks until she was nearly two years old. She never like it: both kinds of messes every single freaking time I came home from work (I even came home at lunch, she never went 4 hours alone). After a while, cleaning both the crate and her twice per day got pretty annoying.

She also banged around in it so much that completely tightened screws were loosened and I came home to the top being off one day.

She really didn't like being crated.

She likes Bitter Apple, doesn't react to shock collars, runs through invisible fencing, pays no attention to loud noises to get her to stop barking, and the pack mentality really doesn't work on her.
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Old 08-16-07, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Chew
Not mine.

Here's my dogs reaction to crates: I used a hard-plastic crate (like this one) from 8 weeks until she was nearly two years old. She never like it: both kinds of messes every single freaking time I came home from work (I even came home at lunch, she never went 4 hours alone). After a while, cleaning both the crate and her twice per day got pretty annoying.

She also banged around in it so much that completely tightened screws were loosened and I came home to the top being off one day.

She really didn't like being crated.

She likes Bitter Apple, doesn't react to shock collars, runs through invisible fencing, pays no attention to loud noises to get her to stop barking, and the pack mentality really doesn't work on her.
"Well, animals are not like people, Mrs. Simpson. Some of them act badly because they've had a hard life, or have been mistreated...but, like people, some of them are just jerks."
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Old 08-16-07, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian Shannon
If he is crate trained don't feel bad about keeping him in there, part of the appeal of the crate for a dog is the den instinct. The crate makes them feel safe.

Second, we started leaving a radio on near my dog's crate, keeping the volume low.

Third, you could try leaving an old tshirt in the crate. That may calm the dog if he has something with your scent on it near.

Golden's are a bit nervous anyway (comes with the breed). Try to desensitize him a bit. Leave the house for a few minutes where he cannot see you and then return. When you return DO NOT make a big deal over greeting him, DO NOT give him treats. When you do this he is learning that you will return after being gone. By NOT greeting or giving treats you are NOT reinforcing the fact that you were gone, which only increases the anxiety.

Finally if it is really bad, speak to your vet about some medication that may help. It is going to take time to work through, good luck.
Listen to this guy. Just to add to his suggestions....put a cover over the crate, cutting down on stimuli can help, and it offers more "cover" (no pun intended). DON'T make the crate any place but a good place, never "punish" him in there. You WANT him to go in there freely, etc.

Get him some chew toys (he may get bored/nervous without something). Do some behavior mod with the chew toys...encourage him to use them, praise him, etc.

-p
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