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Abnormal Separation Anxiety- Please Help

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Hi all, I adopted my sweet girl Ellie in late November of last year (2018). Since she’s been with me she's had trouble being alone. I’ve tried everything I can think of and that has been suggested to me. Here is a list:


  • Consistent alone training; 30 seconds, 5 min, 2 min, etc, working up the time
  • Calming chews
  • Exercise (long walks, 1hr + brisk walk or until she didn’t want to walk anymore)
  • Adaptil collar
  • Special toy for absences
  • Kong with peanut butter (only when she’s alone)
  • A mirror and window near her crate
  • Rescue remedy
  • Melatonin
  • A mannequin that I pretend is real to keep her company
  • Leaving tv on, npr, country music, classical music, “dog separation anxiety calming music”
  • A recording of my voice (only worked the first time I tried it)
  • Techniques from “I’ll be home soon”
  • Leaving her loose (she runs and paces)
  • Babygating her to the kitchen/ bedroom area; she tried to break the gate down
  • No dramatic goodbyes or hellos
  • Obedience training with body blocks (wait, sit, stay, shake, down, spin etc)
  • Crating while home
  • Leaving my worn clothing w/ her
  • Working with two behaviorists



I’ve been very fortunate to have a great adoption group that has put me in contact with someone who is able to watch her during the day while I’m at work while we continue to work through this, but I feel like we have stopped making progress with the alone training.


The weird part of the whole thing is that she appears to be fine for 10-15 minutes after I have left. She does not exhibit any symptoms of anxiety before or after I leave until that point. Then she will start what I call whistling and escalate to crying, then howling (you can hear it on the street), and then becoming more frantic (biting at the crate, trying to bust down the baby gate, running through the house, etc.) She does not seem particularly anxious about anything else. She also hangs out in her crate during the day and sleeps in there with the door open at night. I will also add she does not get particularly excited when I return, she just lays there quietly.


My landlords will not allow me to get another dog, so that is not an option until at least August. I also live above them and one of them stays home all day.


She is also in the middle of treatment for hookworms :-( so daycare is not an option right now either


My current plan is to work on leaving her muzzled and loose with a ton of treats and puzzle toys throughout the house to keep her busy. Today it went alright, but she still periodically cried loudly by the door and then on her bed after she was done messing with the treats.


I'm a bit homebound since she can't be left alone. I plan my grocery trips around the weather when she can be left in the car for short periods of time.


Please if anyone has any methods or ideas for me to try, let me know. Thank you!

Edited by elliesmom
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Please read this pamphlet by Patricia McConnell https://www.patriciamcconnell.com/store/I-ll-Be-Home-Soon.html. It's the only method that worked for my Lola.

Edited by LaFlaca

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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Hi, Thank you for your reply! I have followed the steps from I'll be home soon. Unfortunately, Ellie does not become upset until after she has been alone for 10-15 minutes, and the pamplet doesn't say what to do if that's the case. She doesn't care if I grab my keys, or put my coat on at all. It only has the paragraph at the end that says extend the time which I've been trying to do :(

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You say you worked with two behaviorists, what was their advice? Btw, I'm not sure if that term is yours or theirs, but true certified behaviorists are quite rare, and expensive. I am guessing you working with trainers who work with behavioral issues. I bring this up only because it's a red flag to me if a trainer is calling him or herself a behaviorist.


Anyway, that's a digression. Honestly, it sounds like you probably need medication. I would seek the help of a veterinary behaviorist. Your vet may be able to to consult with one free of charge if you don't want to pay for another consult at this point.

Edited by NeylasMom


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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Thanks for your response! I have an appointment set up to talk to her vet about her anxiety. I'm hoping some medication may her establish a routine. I will also ask about a veterinary behaviorist consultation.


As for the behaviorist/trainers, the first person I consulted claimed to be a behaviorist but was pretty unhelpful. She pretty much said she needs companionship and some dogs can't be alone, and that's about it. I was skeptical.


The second was a trainer who deals with behavior problems, who suggested that it could be a learned behavior for her to howl. She suggested I work on body blocks and training her to wait, stay, etc. because it could be related to impulse control. I've since taught her those things, but she still cries and howls. She also suggested I crate her and if she starts to cry while I'm home I correct her with a verbal reprimand and praise her while she's quiet. She doesn't typically cry while she's crated and I'm home anymore, she only did that during the first week or two I had her.

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The trick with alone training is to return *before* your dog becomes upset. So if shes quiet for 15 minutes, you need to leave and then come home in 14 minutes. Over and over and over again.



Once she is consistent at that, very slowly extend the time - even by 30 seconds - until she just is quiet the whole time. You need to do this over and over and it can take a LOT of repetitions to extend her. If she begins to pace and howl, go back a step and begin again.


If she's unable to go beyond 15 minutes, then it's time to talk with you vet about a course of anti anxiety medication. This is NOT a miracle cure!! The purpose of the meds is to help her brain chemistry change so she can accept your desensitization training. So you do have to continue alone training once she's on the medication.


Most vets start with Clomicalm since that's the drug specifically made for pets and SA. Other drugs like Prozac, Xanax, and others are off-label uses of human medications. We don't really understand how or why they help dogs, so it can take a while to find the right drug and the right dosage for your dog. Many of us have had good luck with a drug called Trazadone, but talk with your vet.


Ultimately, you should also keep in mind that what your second trainer said is true - there are simp,y dogs that cannot ever be comfortable living by themselves. You have some things left to try before you reach the point where you need to consider returning her, but it is something to understand.

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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I'm sorry, it doesn't sound like you got people who were particularly well equipped to help you with this issue. If you are interested, if you tell me where you live I can ask for a referral on my force free trainer listserves for someone who is comfortable and experienced working with a dog with SA.


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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Hi all, thank you for your responses. Today we started over again with the alone training with her being free, starting with me just walking to the door.


Our vet appointment is in a week, where I will ask her about those medications and about the vet behaviorist.


There is no way I can give Ellie up, she is my best friend and my baby. I am open to getting another hound, I just have to wait until at least August when I can move into a place that will accept that.


Im lucky to have a place where she can go at the moment while Im at work, and can send her to daycare once she is clear of her hookworms until I can get her a companion. I want to try everything though before getting another dog.


Neylasmom, I am in the St.Louis, MO area.

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