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Separation Anxiety/isolation Distress Training


Daks
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Hi,

 

Let me start off by saying I don't think my newly adopted greyhound has full blown separation anxiety, but he does seem to have isolation distress. At the foster's he broke out of a crate twice resulting in injury to himself (also at the vet they found metal deposits in his teeth, so he wasn't doing well crated at the track either), so the foster was leaving him loose where he would chew up pillow's, papers etc when she left. Her solution was to leave him with his e-collar on while she had to leave so he couldn't get into things. He wasn't chewing doors/windows and is perfectly content being left with any random person- thus why I don't think it's separation anxiety.

 

I just finished reading "I'll be home soon" and it definitely has some good advice about building up time gone/taking away the high value treat when you return. I can put down a kong/bully type chew and "leave" (I pretend to leave the house but really sneak upstairs to listen to how he's doing. The bully stick he'll be content to chew until it's almost gone, but the kong he'll finish about half, I'm assuming because it gets to hard to get the food out, and will then start pacing/whining.

 

Basically my question is- I don't have issues leaving as long as he's occupied with some sort of tasty high value food/chew, the problem arises when he finishes it, he'll start pacing the house and whining and then resort to chewing other things.

 

How do I move past this so that he'll be comfortable being left alone for longer periods of time after his treat is gone?

 

I'll also add that my partner and I work from home, but there are going to be times when we both need to be gone at the same time. But we also have the ability to do things gradually and set him up for success.

 

Any advice is appreciated.


I'll also add that we practice leaving the room several times a day- so that when he's relaxed and in bed, we'll leave for a few seconds to minute (depending on how tired he is- the more tired he is, the longer he'll stay in bed before getting up to look for us). We're up to about a 1:30 of being able to be out of the room as long as he's tired.

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You can't just leave the room and go upstairs. He's a dog and he knows exactly where you are! :lol

 

Follow the steps in Patricia McConnell's book for alone training. Do them assiduously, several times a day. They key is to leave - and return!! - BEFORE he becomes anxious. Practice picking up your keys/coats/purse/bags all day, every day, until he doesn't react to the steps of tour leaving.

 

You've already discovered that a tired dog sleeps more. A good long walk or play session prior to leaving will help. Leave a tv or radio on. Dog proof an area or room where he can have a comfy bed and still be confined with a baby gate. Don't shut him behind a closed door like into a bedroom, many dogs freak out at that. If he's chewing and getting into things you can leave him with his muzzle on. He may need an additional stool guard if he's particularly diligent about chewing.

 

If you have security cameras or a Skype account, set them up to watch him. Even if he paces for a while, will he eventually tire himself out and lay down? Does he whine and/or bark? Chew the walls or moulding?

 

As a last resort, if you're not making any progress at all, talk with your vet about a short course of anti anxiety medication. This is NOT a quick fix. The meds only help put his brain in a state where he can more easily accept your continuing reconditioning training (start over with your Alone Training once the meds have kicked in).

 

Patience and repetition are the keys. Good luck.

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

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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

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Yes...you have to actually leave the house !

 

A muzzle is your friend!

 

Nancy...Mom to Sid (Peteles Tiger), Kibo (112 Carlota Galgos).   Missing Casey, Gomer, Mona, Penelope, BillieJean, Bandit, Nixon (Starz Sammie),  Ruby (Watch Me Dash) Nigel (Nigel), and especially little Mario, waiting at the Bridge.

 

 

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You can't just leave the room and go upstairs. He's a dog and he knows exactly where you are! :lol

 

Follow the steps in Patricia McConnell's book for alone training. Do them assiduously, several times a day. They key is to leave - and return!! - BEFORE he becomes anxious. Practice picking up your keys/coats/purse/bags all day, every day, until he doesn't react to the steps of tour leaving.

 

You've already discovered that a tired dog sleeps more. A good long walk or play session prior to leaving will help. Leave a tv or radio on. Dog proof an area or room where he can have a comfy bed and still be confined with a baby gate. Don't shut him behind a closed door like into a bedroom, many dogs freak out at that. If he's chewing and getting into things you can leave him with his muzzle on. He may need an additional stool guard if he's particularly diligent about chewing.

 

I get the same reaction whether I leave 20 minutes for a shower or to go to the grocery store- whining, pacing and eventually chewing.

 

He's fine if he has a bully stick or kong. I can leave with no issues, doesn't react to me picking up keys/ putting on shoes, walking out the door. It's only a problem after he finishes the treat that he starts getting anxious. Patricia McConnells book doesn't really go into what you do when you're at the point that you can leave them for the duration of the treat, but them they get anxious after that.

 

I've thought about the muzzle, but then he won't get the "reward" of the high value treat when I leave. I think I'm going to baby gate off a section of the living room and see how he does with that.

 

Just seeing if anyone had any ideas of what to do post-treat finishing.

Also if any one has any links to a good muzzle it'd be much appreciated, I got a plastic basket muzzle off amazon (I think it was called bidwell- said suitable for greyhounds). But the basket portion seems too short and when the strap is tight enough that he won't be able to paw it off, his nose is pressed up against the cage.

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Hi, we’ve also got a new hound. Ours also would pace and cry going from room to room “looking” for us. We used a camera to monitor is how we knew. We found, and please note this is only our experience, that he was more comfortable gated into the utility room where his food and water dish lives. The gate is a low baby gate which he can nearly step over if he wanted. We leave a Kong, which he loves, a bed and toy. We leave country music on, which he was use to at the track. It has been a process, we also give our boy melatonin daily and compose treats when we’re getting ready to leave. He is much better now, I tell him it’s time for work and he goes to the utility and anticipates his Kong. I try to make our leaving a non-event for him. Pat on the head and tell him to have a “good day at work”. They are very sensitive to their humans emotions, if I’m stressed and anxious so is he. Good luck it will work out with patience.

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The trick I learned from my father was to go out of the door, grab your keys and open and shut the outside door but don't go through it, to give the impression you've gone and left them. Then stand very, very quietly outside the door to where your hound is. When they start to whine, bark or misbehave open the door quickly and say NO in a loud firm voice. After they've got over the shock of you suddenly appearing and showing your displeasure make a fuss of them.

 

It might not work if they have separation anxiety but if it is attention seeking it should work. It cured my Grace immediately who would whine and pull the throw off the sofa when left alone.

Grace (Ardera Coleen) b. 18 June 2014 - Gotcha Day 10 June 2018 - Going grey gracefully
Guinness (Antigua Rum) b. 3 September 2017 - Gotcha Day 18 March 2022 - A gentleman most of the time

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

To update,

 

We've been making good progress, he's finally gotten the hang of the Kongs and realized he actually has to put in some effort to get the food out. We're up to 23 minutes where he's been fine left alone and hasn't chewed anything, and seems to be relatively calm when we return. We practice different time intervals a couple times a day. We're working up slowly and don't want to push him past his anxiety threshold, but at this rate hopefully we'll be up to 45minutes/an hour by next month.

 

As a side note- the suggestion from HeyRunDog has worked in other situations- Like when we're in the bathroom and he starts whining a firm "Hey" or "Eh" has worked to quiet him down and he'll find a place to lay down while we're behind a closed door.

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As a side note- the suggestion from HeyRunDog has worked in other situations- Like when we're in the bathroom and he starts whining a firm "Hey" or "Eh" has worked to quiet him down and he'll find a place to lay down while we're behind a closed door.

When I'm in the bathroom, our boy either busts the door open if it's not completely latched, or starts barking in his big boy voice. LOL My wife always tells me to just say something to let him know I haven't escaped through the window or been kidnapped. That always works, but he's always standing guard at the door when I open it.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Things have been going well with the alone training (I think), we've worked up to 3 hours alone with the only "incident" being that he got into a bag of cookies that I had accidentally left on the counter (completely my fault, I would have eaten them too ;) ).

 

We keep leaving very calm, put down a kong and quietly exit and he seems to be doing well with it but definitely knows we're leaving.

 

My question is, is a little bit of anxiety around leaving normal and ok? He seems to whine a little bit after we leave (when I quietly stand outside the door). But then goes back to his kong and doesn't appear to go into a full blown panic- am I expecting too much of a dog to be completely calm when we leave? I worry about pushing him too long and having him regress. We have a camera on the way so that we can check in on him and see how he's doing.

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Are you watching him on a webcam so you know he isn't getting stressed after he finishes the treat? The treat is a distraction. Dogs with SA will often work on the item until it's gone, and then stress out so him working on the kong doesn't mean he doesn't have anxiety, though it does indicate it's likely not severe (other info corroborates this as well).

 

It's also common for dogs to do their SA behaviors for a set amount of time and then give up. So while he may have a milder case, there's no way to know whether he's doing well or not without watching him after you leave. You want calm and relaxed the while time, including when you leave without giving him something.

 

FYI, being able to be left with someone else doesn't mean he doesn't have anxiety. Technically in that case it's called isolation distress/anxiety rather than separation anxiety because the issue isn't being separated from you, but being alone. But we tend to use the term separation anxiety as a catch all because it's more common.

 

You may want to get a copy of Malena deMartini-Price's book on separation anxiety. I used to recommend the McConnell booklet a lot and it gives a nice overview and some good information, but I find it a bit anemic for anyone who has to go through a real training plan for SA.

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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Are you watching him on a webcam so you know he isn't getting stressed after he finishes the treat? The treat is a distraction. Dogs with SA will often work on the item until it's gone, and then stress out so him working on the kong doesn't mean he doesn't have anxiety, though it does indicate it's likely not severe (other info corroborates this as well).

 

It's also common for dogs to do their SA behaviors for a set amount of time and then give up. So while he may have a milder case, there's no way to know whether he's doing well or not without watching him after you leave. You want calm and relaxed the while time, including when you leave without giving him something.

 

FYI, being able to be left with someone else doesn't mean he doesn't have anxiety. Technically in that case it's called isolation distress/anxiety rather than separation anxiety because the issue isn't being separated from you, but being alone. But we tend to use the term separation anxiety as a catch all because it's more common.

 

You may want to get a copy of Malena deMartini-Price's book on separation anxiety. I used to recommend the McConnell booklet a lot and it gives a nice overview and some good information, but I find it a bit anemic for anyone who has to go through a real training plan for SA.

 

We just got the camera yesterday and are going to set it up today. In the past I've snuck up to the window by parking down the street (we have loud cars that he can hear pull into the driveway) and he's been sprawled out on the couch. I've read McConnells book, and was disappointed that it didn't talk about what to do after the treat was gone, I'll look at getting the Malena deMartini.

 

I don't think he has true separation anxiety, that's just what the rescue group labeled him as.

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So we got the camera all set up and were out for about two hours last night. After he ate his kong he seemed to lay around for most of the time, however each time we checked back, there would be a new "item" in the middle of the family room, which grew from one placemat, to two placemats, to the plastic coffee filter to our coffee pot. He didn't destroy any of the items, it just looked like he was collecting them? (some tassels on the placemat were matted down, so he was either chewing or licking them)

Occasionally when we're home he'll try and take inappropriate items (socks/paper items etc) but we put a stop to it when we see it. But last night when were gone was the most "collecting" that we've seen.

 

Obviously this means we're going to have to do a better job of dog proofing/making his area smaller- But does anyone have any thoughts on why he's doing it? Bored? Anxious? Needing more exercise? Nobody around to stop him-so why not take advantage?

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Grace went through a phase of collecting things, mobile phone (I had to ring it to find out where it was :D) , TV remote control, camera etc, and hiding them in her bed without damaging any of them. Soon after she then started to take an interest in her toys which she had ignored up to that point and collecting them up. I think it's as they settle in to their new home. Try substituting them with soft toys and if Grace is anything to go by, preferably with fur and a squeak.

Grace (Ardera Coleen) b. 18 June 2014 - Gotcha Day 10 June 2018 - Going grey gracefully
Guinness (Antigua Rum) b. 3 September 2017 - Gotcha Day 18 March 2022 - A gentleman most of the time

 

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Grace went through a phase of collecting things, mobile phone (I had to ring it to find out where it was :D) , TV remote control, camera etc, and hiding them in her bed without damaging any of them. Soon after she then started to take an interest in her toys which she had ignored up to that point and collecting them up. I think it's as they settle in to their new home. Try substituting them with soft toys and if Grace is anything to go by, preferably with fur and a squeak.

He has an assortment of soft stuffies available, though he is more interested in "other" items when we're gone.

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