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Guest T_Rexa

Different Experience With Separation Anxiety

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Guest T_Rexa

Hi All!

 

I haven't posted here too much but I wanted to give a brief overview of our experience with SA, because it seems a little different and I wish I had found a post like this back when we first started having issues.

 

We've had our girl, Goose, for about a year. She's about to turn 5, and came to us with a broken leg from the track. I work from home, and having never had a Grey before, I stupidly didn't take the necessary precautions right away when it came to prepping her for being on her own. Part of this was because she didn't seem to care too much about us for the first several weeks. She would intentionally spend time away from us every day (rude, lol). Also, we have a cat, so leaving her alone was slightly complicated by wanting to monitor them together at all times. Her SA manifests basically only as whining/howling. There is some panting and occasional pacing, but that's about it. I felt pretty lucky that we weren't dealing with accidents or destructive behavior. However, the howling was a big problem since we live in an apartment and this became incredibly difficult over time as my fiance and I struggled to go out together. She loved her crate, but it seemed to make zero difference with her SA. We eventually got rid of it because she never wanted to come out, it was huge, and didn't really seem to help her at all.

 

We read everything on SA and tried music, collars, plugins, clicker training, thundershirts, just waiting it out... everything. Our in/out/ignore routines that everyone recommends would work, and then very suddenly she'd be back to square one. It seemed completely random; sometimes she'd ignore us leaving, and other times she'd lose it immediately. We walk her, but were limited in our ability to wear her out completely due to her bad leg (she still can't handle super long walks). We were feeling incredibly lost until a few weeks ago when I came across a reddit comment from someone who had a similar situation (just howling while alone). This person described a routine of coming/going but reinforcing the good (quiet) behavior with pets/rewards, and coming back with a firm "no" if their Grey started to pitch a fit. This seems obvious now, but it goes against absolutely all SA advice I've read in the last year, so it kinda blew my mind. Sure enough, we've done only a small amount of training in this fashion (I'm talking only minutes at a time), and she's responding SO WELL. I just left her for an hour and a half with a recording device, and came home to find that she had only howled for about 10 seconds the entire time (she used to lose it roughly every 5 minutes). I feel like a ginormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I'm so excited that I just had to come here and share it with you guys.

 

I don't want to seem preachy, because I know this doesn't apply to most people. I also don't know what it means for my dog. She's very smart so she seemed to understand right away what this training meant. Maybe this isn't true SA. She's very vocal in general, so maybe she's just been being a brat this whole time. It's hard to say for sure, but I really hope this can help someone else.

 

Cheers

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Thanks for the tip! My new girl, Lola, has a bit of S.A. This sounds like it might work for her.


Irene ~ Owned and Operated by Jenny (Jenny Rocks ~ 11/24/17) ~ JRo, Jenny from the Track

Lola (AMF Won't Forget ~ 04/29/15 -07/22/19) - My girl. I'll always love you.

Wendy (Lost Footing ~ 12/11/05 - 08/18/17) ~ Forever in our hearts. "I am yours, you are mine".

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Please, to anyone who thinks their dog may have separation anxiety, do not punish the symptoms. A dog with true separation anxiety is in a state of panic. It's a physiological and emotional response - they cannot control what's happening! Adding punishment to the equation is only likely to increase the dog's distress. If you suspect your dog has SA, seek the help of a professional to create a behavior modification plan and discuss whether the use of neutriceuticals and/or pharmaceuticals may help.

 

To the OP, I suspect your dog is bored or mildly distressed due to her lack of exercise. Rather than punishing her for something she has no control over, you can tire her out by increasing her mental stimulation in place of the physical exercise she can't have right now. Food dispensing toys, stuffed frozen kings, interactive food puzzles, trick training, nosework, car rides, chew items like bully sticks or Himalayan chews...there are plenty of ways to tire her out without long walks or running. Depending on which leg she might even be able to engage in some tug.

 

And keep in mind that even if you see an immediate change in behavior if you try this method, you are only suppressing the *symptom* you are punishing, you are not addressing the underlying issue. If that underlying issue is anxiety you may end up with a dog who no longer barks or howls when in distress, but for instance urinates or defecates or becomes destructive instead.

Edited by NeylasMom

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Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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"This seems obvious now, but it goes against absolutely all SA advice I've read in the last year, so it kinda blew my mind."

 

It goes against all advice because it's highly unlikely to work in the long term. The Alone Training was working fine as you were initially doing it. Just because *you* couldn't see a cause for the breakdowns doesn't mean there wasn't a cause for her. There could have been street noise or truck going by, a neighbor coming home or kids playing, even the furnace cycling off and on can set some dogs off. Many people use a white noise machine or leave the TV and/or radio on to drown out these kinds of random interruptions.

 

She sounds bored to me, and is probably trying to let everyone know about it! She needs some sort of distraction when you leave - a Kong stuffed with frozen peanut butter or other stuffing, a rolling kibble ball, a food puzzle - especially if she's food motivated - can all help a lot.

 

I second Jen's advice to get her more exercise before you leave, and more exercise in general. She's and adult but still needs to have some physical exertion in her day. Unless your vet has specifically limited her walks - and after a year she should be fully healed unless there were/are complications - she should be perfectly fine to go. She'll need to rebuild the muscle in the broken leg slowly and walking can be very helpful with that.


Chris - Mom to: Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Lilly, and Felicity ( DeLand )

35764734494_93de5b5963_b.jpg

Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), and Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby),

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Guest T_Rexa

Wow, guys. That was shockingly condescending. As I said in my post, we DID try all of these things. Of course she has Kongs (too many!), puzzle toys, collars, and as much exercise as she can handle, and so on. We even tried fostering another Grey. I've spent countless hours researching and reading these forums, books, and other websites looking for help. Her SA simply didn't follow the same patterns that everyone else described (which is why I explicitly mentioned that this may not have actually been SA). Yet everyone still thought that's what it was. We have been working on this with her for a year, and care very much about the experience she is having when she's alone. We've consistently monitored her with video/audio whenever training or leaving her. I'm certainly not suggesting that everyone start punishing their dog for having anxiety. But months of alone training simply did not work in our situation. I also think it's worth mentioning that, during this process, I've maybe told her "no" three times (very gently, NEVER raising my voice). The biggest change was praising her when she'd been quiet as opposed to ignoring her on our return, which goes against normal SA advice. It's like it clicked for her, and she just suddenly got it. It seems likely that the root of our problem wasn't what we thought, so the way we were treating it wasn't working. I had long suspected this because I know she eats while we're gone, which made me think she wasn't actually that upset. I genuinely don't see this as punishing anxiety, but rather gently training her that whining/howling for long periods of time isn't appropriate.

 

We've continued to monitor her since starting this and guess what? She's relaxed and napping like never before. She's calm and confident when we come home (whereas before she would have worked herself up into a frenzy). I just came home from the store and she barely even bothered getting up from her couch nap. This has been incredibly positive for both us and our dog, so please don't come here and act like I'm a bad dog owner who just doesn't understand her pet. She's an quirky, lazy, perfect little sock-thief, and we (her owners who have spent a long time loving and learning about her) can very easily see how much better she is doing. I absolutely do not expect this to be a solution for everyone, and I think that alone training is an amazing tool that unfortunately didn't work for Goose. I think this likely means that her reason for howling was trying to get us to come back, rather than an expression of panic. I think she is the exception and not the rule, but I wanted to post my experience on the off chance it might someday help someone else who can't figure out why nothing is helping (my bad I guess?). This isn't a first resort, and understanding the problem is always the key to solving it. I'm posting because while Greys do have similar tendencies, they are not all the same and the same solutions may not always work for every dog, no matter how many commenters say otherwise.

 

Additionally, she is not "distressed due to her lack of exercise". She gets plenty. I was saying that we can't just run her until she's exhausted or push her too much because she does start limping and her leg tires easily. She wasn't allowed to have walks for the first month or two we had her, as her leg was in a cast and hadn't healed yet. That very definitely contributed to the problem at the time and is why I brought it up. Luckily, she ended up not needing surgery as her leg was able to heal on its own. However, that meant she would never quite be at 100%. We made the decision with our adoption group and keeping in mind that she's very low-energy to begin with. She now gets long walks everyday, but the common advice of "just walk her way more to tire her out" isn't an option for us. We tried building her up to more/longer walks despite this but it had zero impact on her alone training. We see her vet regularly and everything is fine there.

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Sorry you feel the need to be so defensive. I mainly wanted to comment for fear that others struggling with SA with their pup wouldn't come in here and take your advice to heart. I'm glad something is working for you, but what you are saying doesn't make much sense and is contradictory at times, and it my opinion could be harmful if someone whose pup has SA tried to apply it. What you've said has also only reinforced that I don't believe your dog has or ever had separation anxiety. Frankly, even someone whose dog is vocalizing for attention and not because of anxiety is likely to see poor results and a worsening of the behavior with your suggestion. Basic learning theory dictates it. Dog is howling because she wants you to return - you return and "gently" say no. You've just reinforced the howling with your return and basic learning theory dictates - behaviors that get reinforced get stronger.

 

Alternatively if your no is firm enough that your dog finds it aversive and it does punish the behavior, consider what they might do to your relationship with your dog? Now mom or dad coming home predicts scary stuff happening. Not what we want for our dogs.

 

And I'm not sure where you got the idea that quiet, calm behavior during SA training isn't reinforced. That's why the dog gets something like a stuffed frozen kong to keep her occupied during your short departures. Our goal with SA training is to teach the dog how to be comfortable when we're absent. A high value food item rewards the calm relaxed behavior throughout the departure and creates a positive association with us being gone. You praising upon your return rewards primarily what the dog was doing at the moment you walk back in.

 

Anywho, good luck to you. I hope you continue to have a quiet, relaxed dog when you're gone.

Edited by NeylasMom

gallery_12662_3351_862.jpg

Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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