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Long-Term Separation Anxiety & "accidents"

Guest dme

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Hi all --I've been reading this forum for a long time but this is my first post. Thanks for all your wisdom so far and for reading my long story!


My wife and I adopted a grey in January of this year. We got a sweet 6-year old female, who had been racing up until October last year. She loves people and is generally very mellow and quiet. In the months after bringing her home we experienced the usual greyhound separation anxiety. She would follow us from room to room, and when we left her alone she'd cry and pee on the floor. But we worked trough it with alone training, and after about two months month got her comfortable enough to leave alone for the day; usually from 10 am to 6pm, with a 2:00 visit from a dog walker. She hated being crated while alone, but she was ok if we left her on her bed in our living room: I leave a web cam running while we're gone, so I could see that most of the time she slept all day, and never seemed particularly anxious. But about once a week she'd get anxious late in the afternoon (after her walk) and would pee on the floor.


After we'd had her about 6 months, she settled into the daily routine, and only had "accidents" maybe once every two weeks, usually only when we came home from work a little late. The web cam showed her sleeping and relaxed the rest of the time.


We were happy with the progress, but still had a problem: She got very upset if there was a deviation in her schedule and we tried to do something like leave her home alone at night; she was fine being alone for 8 hours during the day, but if we left her for even an hour after dark, she'd spend much of the time pacing and staring at the door --and inevitably, peeing on the floor.


Then, four weeks ago, I changed jobs and started working from home. I'm not home every day, but the change in routine seems to have wrecked her progress; now, when I do leave her during normal work hours, she gets upset and pees on the floor. Before I go, I give her a kong full of peanut butter; she quietly eats it, and then about ten minutes later, she gets up, walks around the room, and pees on the floor, usually in the same space. Then she spends the rest of the day taking short naps, pacing, and staring at the door.


Finally, last week I went out of town, and while my wife was still home and we still had the dog walker, my absence seems to have really upset our girl; on Friday, she took a poop in her usual pee spot. She's never pooped in the house before. I got home on Monday, spent Tuesday working from home, and then left her alone again today; once again, she took a poop right in the same spot. I watched the web cam video, and it wasn't an "accident" -- she did it right after I left for the day, after finished her kong. We've taken her to the vet, and she has no medical problems that might be causing her to go.

We plan to keep working on alone training, and I'm trying to keep to a schedule where she's alone for the same hours every day. But in the meantime, I don't know what to do about her going to the bathroom in the house. I live in a rental unit with hardwood tile floors, and the tiles are turning black and curling up on the edges in the spot where she always goes. They've gotten soaked so often over the last six months, I'm sure my regular dosing with Nature's Miracle doesn't really work; her urine has likely seeped down in the cracks between tiles and collected on the concrete underneath. I can't always smell it, but I'm sure she can.


I'm telling you all this, because I'd like to know:


Has anyone else dealt with this kind of long-term SA, and things getting worse after they'd been looking much better? What did you do?


Until her behavior changes, what can I do to keep her destroying our floor? Would it hurt her progress if I put down a puppy pad?


Any other advice you have is welcome!







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I don't have a lot of experience dealing with a dog that has established SA. We rent so it's important to us that the dogs are okay being left alone. We work really hard in the initial few weeks to establish that trust that we'll be back. We've been lucky so far that we haven't had a dog that couldn't make that leap of faith.


While routine is helpful, I also think it can do a disservice. Sure, the dog becomes an angel during that scheduled time. She knows when to expect you back. But it doesn't clearly establish to her that you will always come back... only that you will come back at 6pm if it is a weekday. Personally my approach was to not give the dogs TOO much routine. You obviously cannot always help the fact that your will have a fairly strict routine during the week (though sounds like not so much anymore for you) but we've always tried to leave randomly as well. In the evening, all different times on weekends, etc. it can be helpful to get up early on a weekend and go through your work routine... then just sit on the couch and watch cartoons. Or take a day off work or go in late one day. Leave and come back many, many times in an hour then watch t.v. for an hour. You want you leaving to be boring.


Also, for working at home... is she with you all day? I found it helpful to separate myself from the dog when I was home studying. I would crate the dog and then go to a different room to study for 2 hours. Then we'd have a snack together, go for a walk, and I'd let the dog lay on the floor at my feet while I worked for an hour. Then back in the crate for an hour. This way I find the dog gets the idea that even if I'm home doesn't mean they get to be with me. You don't crate but you could use a baby gate or something.

Kristie and the Apex Agility Greyhounds: Kili (ATChC AgMCh Lakilanni Where Eagles Fly RN IP MSCDC MTRDC ExS Bronze ExJ Bronze ) and Kenna (Lakilanni Kiss The Sky RN MADC MJDC AGDC AGEx AGExJ). Waiting at the Bridge: Retired racer Summit (Bbf Dropout) May 5, 2005-Jan 30, 2019

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It's important to start small when doing alone training, and not inadvertently train in a schedule.


Start again. Throughout the day, pick up your keys (or whatever is the first thing you pick up when leaving) and put them down at random times. Sometimes right away, sometimes wait awhile. Vary the duration you carry them. Until she is totally immune to any excitement with that act. Then move on to the second thing - maybe it's move to the door. Pick up keys and walk towards the door. Reach the door and put the keys down, walk back to the livng room and sit down - random events accompanying picking up the keys and moving to the door. Until she does not react to either stimulus. The add the third thing - walk out the door. Come right back in. Walk out and come back in again. Go sit down for a while or do something else.


The key is to make her so immune to all of the small pieces that she becomes less anxious about the whole process. If she shows anxiety at any one point, go back a step and repeat.


Also, it may be time to talk with your vet about some prescription help for her anxiety. Meds don't cure the problem, it just puts her brain in a state where it can accept desensitization training. It doesn't mean she'll need to be on them for life, but they could help you bridge this part of her re-training. Most vets will begin with Clomicalm, which is a drug specifically marketed for veterinary use, but there are several other human drugs that can also be used for dogs.

Just as with people, dogs respond differently to different classes of anti-anxiety drugs - tri-cyclic anti-depressants vs benzodiazapines vs SSRIs (selective seretonin re-uptake inhibitors). You may need to try a couple different ones to find the one that works the best for your dog.

Also, make sure she is getting good long walk in the morning - not a sniff-and-pee walk, but an exercise walk. A tired dog will automaticallywant to sleep more.

Putting down pee pads where she's going won't make any difference because this isn't a problem with her house training. There are hospital grade pads that you can rewash that might be more cost effective for you.

Chris - Mom to: Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

52592535884_69debcd9b4.jpgsiggy by Chris Harper, on Flickr

Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom, Lilly

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During your alone training and times when you must leave her alone: As best you can, plan to spend 40-60 minutes before you leave getting her 1. tired and 2. totally empty. Good practice to take the dog out and make sure she "goes" before you leave, every time.


ETA: If she's finishing the Kong that fast, it could be contributing to her accidents -- isn't keeping her busy very long AND gets peristalsis going, which means she'll have to potty soon. Others can suggest ways to slow down Kong consumption. As she gets used to you leaving, the peristalsis part shouldn't matter as much ... as long as she is good and empty before you leave.

Edited by Batmom

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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Sounds a lot like my dog in the past, even now sometimes, so I completely know what you're going through. We too have gotten him to the point where he knows and accepts my leaving for work in the morning, since it's always EXACTLY the same. But in the evenings, if have to leave, it is much more of an ordeal since it's not always the same. My best advice would be:


-Don't come home and then leave again...they seem to hate that since it's not typical. If I can help it, I have someone else take the hounds out (yes, we have two now because my male's SA was so bad! It did help some, for the record), and then come home later. This may or may not work; my male hound is much more attached to me than others, so someone else leaving him isn't nearly as big of a deal. Maybe this is the case for you.


-Exercise, exercise, exercise!!!! I can't emphasize enough how much better my guy does when he's tuckered out. Granted, I feel like this only works when the dog has already learned to be comfortably alone at home with you gone (which yours seems to), but it does wonders. If I know in advance we're going out, I plan everything around ensuring the dog gets the exercise he needs. I'll take him to the fenced-in dog hiking park a few miles up the road and let him RUN RUN RUN. We'll walk for an hour. Anything I can do as much as possible to tire him. I then try to imitate my morning schedule as best as I can. So in this regard, when we return from his exercise, I'll offer him water, feed him, shower, then quickly head out the door without a single peep or goodbye to him, except for a "stay." I never let him walk around or follow me to the door; he needs to be laying down on a bed, and is told to "stay" so he knows I don't intend on him going with me. Other than this one word, I say nothing at all to him and don't react. *This is also the case when I come home, even if he's done something wrong or had an accident.


-As you were, offer her something fun to chew on or work out. I've had good luck with bully sticks and pigs ears, as well as some frozen stuffed kong recipes to last for a while. I understand what you mean when you say she gives it up after a few minutes...my male did this too. Heck, he got to the point where he wouldn't even touch them if he thought I was leaving. I found it worked better to give them like 3-5 minutes BEFORE I plan on leaving (like when I'm getting changed) so they already get into it and are focused on it ahead of time. I know this is atypical of the book (I'll be Home Soon is a lifesaver, if you haven't read it!), but I unfortunately, am the owner of a very atypical hound. Something else my guy liked was being given a bunch of "new" toys before I'd leave. We have a toy basket, but I switch out the toys on occasion, and this would distract him from whatever I was doing while he went busy playing with all the stuffies he hadn't seen for a while. This might not work though, if your hound isn't as stuffy crazy as my guy is.


-Don't leave out a ton of water. When my male is stressed, he drinks up every single drop out of his anxiety, and that's when he has accidents. I leave them about a cup when I plan to be gone for over an hour. Enough to quench thirst, but not for them to go overboard and not be able to hold it. Again, this might just be my guy; for the record, they have free access to water at all other times of the day (and even now when I go to work, since it doesn't cause him stress anymore).


-My guy used to be on fluoxetine for almost two years for his anxiety; he has since been weaned off, and we not use these "Canine Composure" treats that you can get over the counter via amazon.com. They don't solve the problem, but I do think it helps take the edge off, and does as much as the fluoxetine ever did. They're about $15 a bag for a month's supply. They have no known side effects, and they seem to really like the flavor. It can't hurt, anyway. Something else to look into during this transition period is Xanax. It works as needed and can just help condition them to be more relaxed. You would need a prescription from your vet, but I did have some success with it, especially when I first moved into a new place or got a new job.


Have faith though! Once you have a stable schedule, I'm sure she will adapt again. Just have patience and keep working with her. Accidents are INSANELY frustrating...I unfortunately had carpet at every place I've moved to in the last year!!! Hang in there, I know all to well what a headache it is.

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I think it's time you seek a veterinary behaviorist. Specifically, find a vet behaviorist. "Regular" veterinarians have virtually ZERO training in animal behavior, and they're just using what they've heard can help. They won't know the intimate nuances of different medications the way a veterinary behaviorist would. Medication can be an extraordinarily helpful tool, and us random folks on the Internet cannot help you with a problem that is so prolonged and getting increasingly worse. Good luck! I understand the frustration, so I hope you can get help soon and quick! Oops, almost forgot the resources:




Edited by Giselle
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