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Tullamore

Isolation Distress (Sa) And Transition For Tully

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New first-time grey owner and previous lurker on the forums (lots of great info from you folks!) I have been struggling with our new boy Tully having isolation distress/separation anxiety.

 

Background:

Tully came off a farm in TX as a failed racer, not quite 2 yrs old. Sweet disposition, the calmest 2 year old dog I've ever had. Big issues arose when I tried to leave him alone during the first week. Lot's of gentle, slow attempts at crate training. When I was able to get him crated, shut the door and leave the condo, Tully bent the steel crate bars with his teeth, destroyed an "indestructible" crate bed, and dragged a rug into the crate and tore it to pieces--all within 15 minutes. (I'd previously left him alone for just 5 minutes.) He shrieked the entire time, swayed, drooled, looked wild-eyed. I was actually just running to the library to p/u 2 books on Sep. Anxiety (McConnell's and Malena DeMartini-Price's.) I had a camera on him so was watching the video in the car. It was just awful to see and hear. I raced home quickly.

 

Next step: I abandoned the crate in favor of a 4'x4' x-pen with his comfy bed placed inside. He took to that immediately and would come and go frequently. After speaking with our vet, Tully began taking Clomicalm (40 mg/ twice a day.) I also immediately started on a very conservative training protocol using the two books. I never left him alone aside from brief training sessions, and he was fine if a neighbor or friend stayed with him while I went shopping, etc. Any attempt at leaving the condo without him was a failure, though. Crying, pawing at the pen. I also tried leaving him with the pen door open and he would cry and paw at the exit door. During all of this I was also helping Tully to transition to life as a pet, thanks to the wonderful advice I read on this forum (let him take his time, don't push too hard, let him sleep, etc.)

 

Next step: During week 7 of training (8 weeks with us) we got up to 11 minutes outside the house with Tully in his pen which felt like a huge step. I always started each session with a food-filled kong, always filmed the sessions. He would often cry or get frustrated when his kong finished but settle down afterward. Occasionally though, he would vocalize LOUDLY and bite at the pen for at least one minute. With condo neighbors, that was obviously a problem, but the bigger issue was seeing him be anxious. Lots of small steps forward and then back. Last week I really lost my confidence in my ability to help Tully through his isolation distress/SA on my own. I contacted Malena DeMartini-Price who phoned me to speak about Tully. She asked questions about what that morning's training session had been like and gave me some suggestions. I decided to take her SA online training course, Mission: Possible. (I'm not plugging for her, just telling you my process.) I've spent several days going through the materials and basically dialed way back on any training for Tully while I studied.

 

Two things jumped out at me: Malena D-P no longer recommends using a kong or other food treats for SA training (different from her book.) She also suggested that I abandon the pen to see how Tully would do w/o it. My long-term plan was to allow Tully the run of the condo, so I could save a step of training him out of the pen by just starting SA training over with him out of it. (I'd only wanted the pen to prevent him from randomly chewing stuff, which he would try when we first got him home.)

 

This morning I did Tully's first assessment (as part of the class.) His first time not being in a pen while I exited and first time without a kong. I sat on a bench outside the condo where he couldn't see or hear me (except when I dropped a book.) Tully was a champion! He came to the door twice (once when I dropped the book) and cried briefly and softly twice, but mostly he just relaxed in his bed and snoozed. I stayed outside for 60 minutes, all the while wondering, "Who is this dog and where is my fearful, anxious boy?" When I came back inside, he was happy but not clingy or needy.

 

I can't begin to describe the rush of relief I feel. I know he will need to continue training to get to 4 hours alone (my goal) and that there will be regressions but I just want to celebrate this victory. For those of you struggling with a similar problem, I'd say get help sooner than later, keep a journal (to remind you how far you and your pup have come) and keep going. Thanks for listening!


Barbara with Tully/Tullamore (CTW Brain Game)

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Congrats on the breakthrough! That is awesome!

 

I wanted to second the recommendation to keep a journal, not only for progress on your efforts, but really for anyone who's still getting settled with a new dog. We've dealt with some weird maybe-behavior/maybe-medical things with our guy that popped up a couple months after getting him and trying to remember everything little thing that might be important six months later gets to be really overwhelming. Being a random note-taker on everything from poop quality to food transition timing, quickly moving to a more traditional journal has helped us a lot in trying to figure out what's going on with him.

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Congrats on the breakthrough! That is awesome!

 

I wanted to second the recommendation to keep a journal, not only for progress on your efforts, but really for anyone who's still getting settled with a new dog. We've dealt with some weird maybe-behavior/maybe-medical things with our guy that popped up a couple months after getting him and trying to remember everything little thing that might be important six months later gets to be really overwhelming. Being a random note-taker on everything from poop quality to food transition timing, quickly moving to a more traditional journal has helped us a lot in trying to figure out what's going on with him.

.

 

I’m a random note-taker, too, so the journal has a lot of “Poop” entries.


Barbara with Tully/Tullamore (CTW Brain Game)

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Well done to both you and Tully.


Grace (Ardera Coleen) born 18 June 2014
Raced at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton UK - 68 Races, 9 wins, 5 second places
Gotcha Day 10 June 2018 

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