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Separation Anxiety...thought we'd cracked it :(

(12 Posts)
TooMuchJD Fri 31-Jan-14 22:39:48

We had our rescue dog at 16 weeks old back in August and had huge problems from day 1 whenever we left the room, went to bed, left the house, put the bin out. He would hurl himself at the door if it was closed, attack the architrave and skirting (not just chew, he would be manic). We were completely overwhelmed but did some research and started to try and desensitise him whilst I was off during the holidays and slowly he began to get better (after 4 weeks of disturbed sleep). Eventually could leave him for several hours in time for me going back to work (only 2 days a week). On the days that I work he has a kong, chews, bone thing, toys and although he is in the kitchen only the door is open but the gate is shut.
Since Christmas he has started chewing again, his chews are left untouched and he's chewing the skirting, worktops, bottom of cupboards and the radiator (has destroyed the thermostatic control and moved onto the copper piping). He has started getting anxious every time me & DC get coats on to do school run, go shopping etc. pacing and panting, chewing tea towels or anything he can reach on the worktops. The anxiety seems to be increasing rather than decreasing again.
He's 10 mths old, GSD/Pointer/Lurcher cross and we know nothing of his history other than he has only been in kennels a week before we had him and imo had never seen the inside of a house until he arrived at ours. He is walked twice a day and has lots of access to the garden.

Does anyone have any advice as to how we can tackle this again?????

cashewfrenzy Fri 31-Jan-14 22:58:22

First thing to do is try and get hold of an Adaptil collar for him. It won't fix the problem but it might well help.

I'd also look at starting the process of crate training.

And finally but most importantly I think you should consider getting a good behaviourist in to support you. He's obviously a big, intelligent working-breed type dog and his needs in terms of stimulation and exercise are likely to be very high. It's also sounding like there is true separation anxiety too from your description of his behaviour before you leave.

This isn't insurmountable but will take a big effort to tackle and that's why I think it's one to get outside help with. Good luck.

TooMuchJD Fri 31-Jan-14 23:15:17

Sadly we don't have the floor space for a crate (he is enormous so crate would need be the size of the kitchen anyway). Will look at adaptil collars, not heard of them.

We have been having informal chats with a behaviourist whilst out walking but may have to bring him in on a professional level to see him at home. He has a lot of pointer traits when out (likes to "work away" from us, off in the trees, chasing birds, squirrels - recall is very sporadic on these occasions so is only let off now in an enclosed field that we know is safe with minimum distractions). Slowly starting to enjoy chasing a ball to get some of his energy out.

DC3 goes to school in Sept & I have been offered another 2 days at work but don't think the dog will cope with being left for 4 days & feel it would be unfair to force him too when he isn't happy being left. Currently looking at the cost of doggy day care or a walker to break the day up to see if that helps. Would let him have run of the ground floor in the house but can't trust his chewing at the moment sad

moosemama Sat 01-Feb-14 13:47:41

I also think you need help from a professionally qualified behaviourist. Try The APBC and/or COAPE to see if you can get one in your area.

If your dog is insured, check as a certain amount of behaviourist support (if referred by a vet) may be covered.

I feel for you. I have been pretty much trapped at home with first my older Lurcher, who developed SA when we lost our elderly bitch and now because the rescue pup we took on in August also came to us with similar issues, having never been left alone in his foster home. (We had the first dog sorted by the time the pup came along and he's fine to be left for a couple of hours now. Couldn't believe it when we ended up with another dog with the same problem though.) Neither of mine were/are severe enough to be destructive though, they just howl continuously and I live in a semi with retired neighbours who are always home.

Daycare might be the solution if you can afford it, as an SA programme is lengthy and intensive, so whilst I still think you should do it, the daycare would be a way of avoiding pushing him past his limits while you help him get over the problem.

In the meantime you can do simple things like desensitising him to your exit routine, by putting on coats etc, then sitting down and watching tv or having a cuppa. If you do this repeatedly, enough times, those exit cues will become less significant and eventually it will help to reprogramme his conditioned response to them.

There's a really good book on Amazon about Separation Anxiety, it's causes, different types and how to help your dog get over it. (It turns out my older boy actually had Isolation Distress, rather than true SA, which is why he is ok now he has another dog for company - but that isn't always the case and the book helps you work out which type they have, which obviously affects the method you use to help them.) here.

TooMuchJD Tue 18-Feb-14 15:11:08

Had a very emotive weekend which has resulted in me contacting the Dogs Trust to see if they have any suggestions and possibly deciding that we are not the right home for our lovely dog as we are not able to give him the life that he deserves.

We consulted a behaviourist and have been following her recommendations regarding his sensitivity to cues that he is going to be left and the results have been mixed. Sometimes there has been no reaction but more often he has just carried on as before. He has started to cry when I go upstairs, to the loo or just into another room, even if there are other family members still with him. He has also started to cry at night when he is put in the kitchen at bedtime, he hasn't done this since September 2013!! He ran off again yesterday after 2 weeks of more reliable recall, not good when its raining & you have a 3 & 5 yr old waiting too. Eventually managed to catch hold of him after 20 mins but does nothing for the stress levels. He was very sulky for the rest of the afternoon, not even getting off his bed when the DH came home. He hadn't been told off, just got treat as normal when lead went on but he simply did not want to go back (had been out nearly an hour).

We have looked at doggy day care but it would be £30 for the two days which makes it nearly as expensive as our childcare sadly so not an option. He is a really handsome looking dog and has a lovely nature apart from the anxiety, is mainly good with the cats and kids and is very intelligent but I feel he needs a home where he can just follow his owner about all day and spend a large portion of time outdoors sad

moosemama Tue 18-Feb-14 15:56:39

Sorry to hear you are still struggling with your boy.

If his anxiety is increasing and he's generalising it to you even leaving the room it might be time to have a chat with your vet about pharmaceutical treatments. There are specific drugs they can try to reduce anxiety while you do a Separation Anxiety programme.

Don't Leave Me, by Nicole Wilde is an excellent book for helping you to work out what type of SA he has, what his triggers are and what to do about trying to help him.

As for the recall, recall issues aren't unusual in dogs with Lurcher/sighthound of some sort in them and he has Pointer as well - so a double whammy really. I would invest in a longline and keep him on that, until you feel he's reliable enough to let off, as it really reduces the stress around worrying if he's going to come back or not. You don't need to hold the line, just let it trail and then you can stand on it from 30ft away if necessary if he decides to do a bunk.

Having said all that, if you are really struggling and the rescue centre is in agreement that he needs a completely different environment, having had dogs with SA myself, I can understand you feeling he might need a different home. Sadly the sort of home where dogs can have the freedom to run around a large outdoor area and have someone home all day are few and far between, which is why so many dogs with these issues end up in rescue for prolonged periods.

I do totally understand how you feel though. I adore my pup and wouldn't part with him for the world, but I have had days where I have been in tears because of the restrictions he's placed on my life and freedom and at one point did actually say to my dh that much as I love the pup I sometimes wish we'd never rescued him. I feel terrible for even thinking it and as I said, would never part with him, but some days it just really gets on top of you and you can't help how you feel.

I console myself with the fact that he is still so young and I know from past experience he will settle down a lot when he reaches maturity. This adolescent stage is the worst when you have a dog with any issues, but it does pass eventually. The girl we lost last spring was a nightmare from pup through adolescence. She was by far the most difficult dog I've ever had, but turned out to be an awesome family pet once she matured. I have stood on the edge of a flood plain for over an hour while she and another adolescent taunted myself and the other owner just out of reach and up to their elbows in stinky water, spent over a year working on getting her walking on a loose lead, even longer training a reliable recall, dealt with the SA she developed when we moved house and despaired of her constant barking, but she turned out to be the dog that I would trust the most out of all the dogs I've ever had and I miss her sooo much. If you'd told me 14 years ago I'd have felt like that about her, I'd have said you were barking!

Owllady Tue 18-Feb-14 15:58:24

Have you been training him?
It sounds like you have advice 're the seoeration anxiety. But with basic training? If recall is haphazard long line him to play ball etc. Don't chase a dog that is on the run from you either, let them chase you.
He is 10 months though, real pita age anyway.
I know you want people to post it's ok to rehome him, but you have taken on a dog without thinking it through and if you give him up I really think unless your expectations or circumstances change, you should not get any more.
I am sorry if that is harsh sad

Owllady Tue 18-Feb-14 16:01:02

I agree 're southbound, I had a collie lurched cross and she was an absolute devil for chasing/running and becoming selectively deaf. It meant I had to long line her always.
She always came back after her adventure (she could remember where she lived) but it was stressful. I remember it well!

Owllady Tue 18-Feb-14 16:01:35

Sighthound! I hate this kindle

moosemama Tue 18-Feb-14 16:12:10

To be honest Owllady, I think the rescue didn't do a great job of matching this dog to it's new home. It does sound like he needed an experienced home with lots of time for training and rehabilitation. (His SA was severe from day 1 and the OP said he'd never been inside a home before they had him.)

Hopefully the OP's discussions with the Dog's Trust will help them decide between them what is best for both dog and owner.

I agree, people should really think things through before taking on a dog, but if both family and dog and miserable after months of putting in the work it's not always as clear cut as sticking with it and doing more training. I have known people whose mental health and/or relationships are at breaking point due to dog behaviour issues and that's not good for anyone involved, human or dog.

As I said, I have an 8 month rescue myself and when you have a dog with SA, some days can really get you down. I've been through similar twice in less than twelve months and being trapped in the house makes you depressed and resentful, not to mention makes you doubt your ability to ever help your dog past their issues, it really takes it's toll on your confidence.

For me there is no question about whether or not my pup will stay, he's my boy, I adore the very bones of him and his home here is for life, whatever it takes, but I am an experienced trainer and can see light at the end of the tunnel - even if the tunnel can see blooming long sometimes. If I was inexperienced, felt like I was making no progress, was trapped in the house as the dog couldn't be left and couldn't relax and enjoy dog walking either, I might feel very differently.

I agree that good solid basic training is at the root of a lot of his issues - joining a local dog training club and giving him something to think about would be a great first step towards rehabilitation.

Owllady Tue 18-Feb-14 18:14:26

I agree with all that moosemama smile I just think people think well if we had got a pup from a breeder it would be ok and then go ahead straight after without thinking it through because they are sad about dog a, then the same thing(s) May happen. I am not saying the op is like this.

I also agree the rescue should shoulder some of the responsibility. Have you spoken to them op? Or was it the dogs trust?

TooMuchJD Tue 18-Feb-14 18:48:50

Thanks moosemama & Owlady for your feedback.

We thought long and hard about a dog & wanted to rescue one rather than pay a breeder (not interested in pedigree etc.) so had talked about it for 6 years before finally deciding that DS2 was old enough at 3. We have both had dogs before and have been doing a lot of basic training alongside the SA issues. In fact he has bonded too closely with me in some ways as the more training we have done the greater his anxiety has been if I leave the house or he thinks I am. We have been out this evening & his recall has been 100% so I know some of those issues are just his age but the anxiety has been there from day 1. We thought he was more laid back than his litter mates as he was quieter but we now know it was because he was terrified.

He had only been with the kennels a week before he came to our house, only 2 days before we saw him in the kennels, so the staff really had no idea what kind of temperament he had and they could give us no history at all. We were mainly told he was a young dog and should forget any traumas from his early life. More interested that we knew he was going to be a big dog, which we already knew from his paws (enormous).

We have no intentions of rushing to get another dog and we will both be really upset and feel we have failed him if its decided he will be better off in a home where he can get more attention than we can offer. (husband is currently having to work 12 hour shifts 5 days a week so I am working p/time, full time parent and domestic goddess (not) as well as trying to deal with the dogs traumas too.

Also, the Dogs Trust have not returned our calls today despite leaving messages on their answerphone, had same response when we called them back in August when the SA first manifested.

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