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Separation anxiety in rescue dog - support/advice/experience sought!

(49 Posts)
Staffle Sun 09-Nov-14 20:39:22

Hello! First post here... I have been lurking in the Doghouse recently due to the brilliant advice posted here as myself and dh took on our first dog, a 2 yr old rescue staffy, 2 weeks ago and he has bad separation anxiety. He settles at night, downstairs, but in the day whines if myself or dh goes out (no children). We have a behaviourist on board and have been doing desensitisation/stuffed kongs/ leaving him for 5 seconds then 10 seconds etc. since we got him. We haven't got past a minute yet without pacing/whining and clear distress in the dog. Dh works in an office 8-6 in the week and I will work from home for the next 4 months, after that we will book him in for doggy daycare on the days I cannot work from home. The main problem is I feel trapped! Even me going to the toilet can set him off trying to find me, whining, and as for doing anything upstairs for more than a minute - not a chance without the whining starting. He whines even if just one of us leaves the room with the other sitting right next to him! He is a fabulous dog, we have grown very attached to him and we want to see this through. I have booked a dog walker once a week for a break but I'm too nervous about leaving him at doggy day care yet in case they leave him to whine and undo any work we have put in so far. I am getting anxious that he won't ever 'get over it' and we only want to leave him occasionally to go to the cinema or out for a meal but that seems so far away in the future at the moment!
Does anyone have any advice/support/experience about getting a dog through this roughly how long it can take?! Unfortunately I have no family or friends nearby that could help out. Many thanks smile

moosemama Sun 09-Nov-14 22:02:49

I feel your pain. My younger dog has SA and I am unable to go out at all during the week, except for 10-15 minute school runs, when I either leave him with a frozen kong and treat or pop him in the boot of the car with our other dog (for some reason he doesn't get upset when left in the car). It's taken a long time to get him to the point where I can do school runs without him crying and there's been a lot of two-steps forward, three steps back, for various reasons. He also used to cry whenever I left the room, but has finally got past that and this weekend I've been able to spend a few hours upstairs sorting out stuff to go to charity and he's been fine downstairs.

It's suffocating and not at all good for your mental health. Is there someone local that does dog-sitting? If so, you could arrange for them to come and sit with him for an hour or so while you get out for a bit.

Unfortunately there's no answer to how long it will take. It really does vary from dog to dog, based on lots of things from what caused the SA in the first place, the dog's personality etc. My older lad developed SA last year, when we lost our old girl to cancer. In his case it took 6 weeks of intensive work to get him to the point where we could leave him for an hour. We've now discovered he has something called Isolation Distress, which means he only gets upset when completely alone, as long as there's another body of some sort there with him, he's happy. (Hence us getting another dog, only to end up with one that has worse SA. hmm Older dog is now quite happy when left, but the pup - now 17 months - is ten times worse than he ever was. hmm)

Have you tried a thundershirt of a DAP diffuser or collar (dog appeasing pheromone)? Both/either would be worth giving a go.

I would also highly recommend reading the following two books, as they are really good for getting your head around SA, it's causes and treatments:

Don't Leave Me by Nicole Wilde

Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs by Malena DeMartini Price

crapcrapcrapcrap Sun 09-Nov-14 22:26:48

Just to add to the excellent advice above, stairgates are your friend. DDog can follow me upstairs, park up at the top step and watch me potter around. The first few days she was so attached to me she threw herself over it a few times, but she is much better now and lies down in the knowledge I'll lob a cat biscuit in her direction once in a while. She also knows I won't make eye contact or talk to her, and has started going back downstairs to find things to chew, like DH's watch, and the chairs, for example so it can get better smile

Staffle Mon 10-Nov-14 09:10:07

Thank you very much for your replies, very helpful smile

We have the Adaptil spray but I think I'll order a diffuser and put it near his bed. I'll try a Thundershirt as well and read the books. I'm not looking for a quick fix as it seems there isn't one but his whining cuts right through me so anything to lessen that even whilst I just go to the toilet would be great!

He was a stray prior to being in the rescue centre for 2 months so no idea if he had it before or it was a result of being kennelled and we knew very little about separation anxiety prior to bringing him home. It sounds awful but I'm not sure if we would have picked him knowing what lies ahead as I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed by how much my life has changed as a result of making the conscious decision to get a dog. We'll do our best and see what happens and I'll ask the dog walker to do 2 walks a week in order to reduce my feelings of being trapped. Even a trip to the supermarket in the evening felt like I had broken out of jail!

I'll keep this thread updated with our progress (fingers crossed!)

motmot Mon 10-Nov-14 09:41:54

I also feel your pain and similarly would have thought twice about our dog had I been able to foresee our separation anxiety issues. However here is nothing to say they won't develop it later on in life having been fine, I think moosemama had a dog that developed SA through the grief of another dog dying (correct me if I'm wrong moosemama!)

It has been a help to find people on this forum who see also battling doggy ishoos, as most people in real life look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them the lengths I go to for my dog!

Staffle Mon 10-Nov-14 09:53:41

True motmot! Perhaps it's the feeling of being thrown in at the deep end of doggy ownership from day one. Also, what's done is done and I need to focus on the positives of having him, such as doggy cuddles, lovely walks and every day he does something that makes us laugh (today - trying to jump up a tree to catch a squirrel on our walk this morning!). It's comforting to know I'm not alone.

CuddlesAndShit Mon 10-Nov-14 10:19:32

Oh gosh, I feel your pain! I think staffys can be quite notorious for this, because of their strong bond to their owners it can be quite bewildering for them to adjust to being left alone at times. It will get better.

Our rescue staffy is about 11 now, we got her when she was 2 or 3. That's a pretty challenging age in itself grin. She had terrible SA and would wee and poo everywhere, cry, bark....Our behaviouralist suggested the same things. It did take a while (a couple of years - sorry!) but she did calm down. I think it was a combination of age and becoming used to periods alone. Even now I do a Kong for her every time we go out, it's our routine and she now associates us going out with a treat. I put my coat on and she jumps into her basket with her tail wagging!

It's mainly perseverance and patience, I'm afraid. It is worth it though. Staffys are sensitive souls and natural worriers ime.

What do you feed him? A diet of hypoallergenic or decent food does make a difference to their demeanor. Someone said that feeding them crappy dog food is like giving your dc McDonald's and e-numbers every day grin We feed a mixture of James Wellbeloved with a tiny bit of chappie for texture, although there are other similar brands out there (there is a recent thread somewhere! ) You can also give dogs Rescue Remedy I believe, although I think there are some restrictions so it is best to do your research first. I'm pretty sure they even do a pet range,, although don't quote me on that.

Good luck, it is a long old road but in our case it got so much better with age and routine. Oh, and also, we were told to never make a fuss of her when we left, just a breezy 'see you soon'. And the same when we got home. Usually a pat on the head and a 'hello darling' and then act like nothings happened!

CuddlesAndShit Mon 10-Nov-14 10:23:17

It also might be worth buying him an antler or similar that you get out for him when he is getting under your feet or starting to fret. Take it to his bed and hopefully it might distract him for a while and get him used to amusing himself for two whole minutes

Staffle Mon 10-Nov-14 10:37:47

Well we did an epic 3.5 hours of walking off lead with him yesterday plus training in the house and he had an hour of playing ball and running in the woods this morning. As a result he currently can't keep his eyes open and I have been upstairs without him moving from his bed. Little victories each day I am guessing! The longest we have left him was 5 minutes and we filmed to see what happened - lots of whining and pacing and pogo-ing to look out of the window sad

He was on Pedigree at the rescue but we are slowly switching to Vets Kitchen kibble as I understood it was of better quality although I'll have a look into any 'calming' foods and rescue remedy. Cuddles - I'll keep your phrase "I put my coat on and she jumps into her basket with her tail wagging!" as my mantra!!

Firedemon Mon 10-Nov-14 10:39:35

I don't have advice but you should know that I've had my rescue dog for five months now and the issues she has are sloooowly getting better. It has taken a lot of had work to get here though. In time your pup will improve.
Especially because it sounds like you're so dedicated to the issue.
Hang in there!

CuddlesAndShit Mon 10-Nov-14 10:58:58

You will get there! I have just reread your op too, and noticed you've had him for 2 weeks. We were warned that the 2 week point was when the challenging behaviour would emerge and they were right! It's still such early days, you sound like you are doing great and he has landed on his feet with a lovely family smile

Another tip (which I still do), is leave the tv/radio on when we go out so there is still some background noise. Sometimes it takes the 'edge' off for them.
I'm sure once he settles and becomes secure that you aren't going to leave him he will calm down massively. Poor little thing.

Staffle Tue 11-Nov-14 09:59:14

Well last night I think we may have turned a bit of a corner. Dh and I were sneaking into the kitchen (Ddog not allowed in the kitchen) and waiting for 1 minute. We heard his collar jangle as he walked over to the kitchen door to wait for us, as usual, then we heard it jangle again as he walked away. Result we thought!

When we emerged we found him sprawled on the sofa looking very pleased with himself. He's not supposed to be on the sofa. So hmm but grin. So should we let him on the sofa if it's going to keep him quiet, or stick to our non-sofa guns?!

whatismyusername Tue 11-Nov-14 19:52:06

I have had my approx 2 year old Staffi cross for a week now. Ooooh how much you can love them in such a short time. From day 2 I did short spurts of leaving him and built it up. To start with DS said that when I went outside to the car/garage/laundry he would squeak and scratch the door sad so was really worried about it.

I brought this from Amazon and have had it plugged in for 3 days, all I can say is on Fireworks night last Weds our baby was mega stressed, yet this sunday he lay on the sofa and went to sleep with fireworks going off really outside (our off the sofa rule didn't last long though he does have to wait for an invite up!!!!).

The first few times went out he was stood at the glass window waiting for us to come back. He now happily eats pate (not peanut butter oh no!) out of his kong and is not stood waiting when I come in.

Of course I cannot be sure it is this product but I personally think it has helped.

www.amazon.co.uk/ADAPTIL-20061-Adaptil-Diffuser-48ml/dp/B0038XBOJC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415735453&sr=8-1&keywords=adaptil

Vets also recommend it.

Good luck with it and congrats on getting a rescue Staffi, its the best thing I did in a long while smile

whatismyusername Thu 13-Nov-14 09:07:59

Hows it going?

Staffle Thu 13-Nov-14 10:22:02

It's going slowly. Monday was a good day, I could go in the kitchen/upstairs for 3 minutes at a time without him moving from his bed. I even went outside with little reaction from him and Tuesday was ok but yesterday was bad!

He had a 1 hour walk first thing in the morning and another hour at lunch but by the afternoon he was pacing and barking at random things. He seems to miss my dh but only when he 'remembers' dh is not there, if that makes sense! If Ddog is tired it's not a problem and I can do lots of the desensitisation training without a reaction! We need to teach him how to play on his own I think as he seems to rely on us for entertainment. Reading the puppy threads he seems similar in terms of constantly wanting input.

One plus is he sleeps fine downstairs throughout the night!

I should be getting the Adaptil diffuser in the post today too, so looking forward to setting that up and seeing if it helps - thanks smile.

whatis - how is your staffy getting on?

Mrsjayy Thu 13-Nov-14 11:15:49

My dog used to lie at the front door and not let us leave when he first came to us. Took weeks to settle what I do now is dont have a going out routine I just leave put my jacket and bag in the hall and just go occasionally if he is anxious I give him a kong with treats in he gets cheese spread not a lot mind and some chicken or ham he loves it and isn't arsed if I go or not, takes time for them to build up trust

Mrsjayy Thu 13-Nov-14 11:21:32

The longer you have him the more you get to know him it can take months for your dog to bond our dogs trust behaviour ist was a godsend to us I was forever emailing for advice and reassurance,

moosemama Thu 13-Nov-14 11:54:57

If he needs to learn to entertain himself, what about trying a kong wobbler, treat dispensing ball or buster cube to give him something to focus on?

Also, if you play the hide-a-treat game with him, you can get to the point where you can hide kongs and other treats for him to find, which will also keep him busy when you're out of sight.

Staffle Thu 13-Nov-14 12:08:23

Hi Moosemama, he has a Kong wobbler - he's smart and worked out how to get the food out fast but it does keep him entertained for all of 5 mins hmm. Hide a treat he loves too, I'll make it harder, and try it whilst leaving - thanks for reminding me of that one!
We do 5-10 min training sessions in the day too to get his brain working. He's more relaxed today so I am too!
A trainer is coming over tomorrow to assess him to join a weekly training class so hopefully that'll give us more to work with. He learnt 'stay' in about 2 minutes and I can wander to the next room with him still in the stay position now, apparently that can help keep them calm as you prepare to leave the house. Been in and out of the house 5 times today, putting on my shoes and coat then coming back in after a minute. The neighbours must think I am bonkers!

Staffle Thu 13-Nov-14 12:12:18

Oh, and tried a thunder shirt yesterday. It worked at stopping his SA briefly but only because he was entertained trying to get the thing off and then running around with the slobbery garment in his chops.... confused. I'll try it again when he is a bit calmer?

Mrsjayy Thu 13-Nov-14 12:15:58

Jay dog rips his thunder shirt of to we gave up

moosemama Thu 13-Nov-14 13:53:50

Sounds like you are doing really well.

Thundershirt didn't work for either of my two, but it's always worth a try, because I do know of some dogs it's been almost miraculous for. I think it helps that my two are Lurchers and used to wearing coats, so at least they didn't try to remove it.

I spent this morning working in another room while my two slept in the kitchen. Would have been brilliant if my poorly ds1 hadn't kept coming downstairs and fussing them. hmm

We have had a small triumph in that he seem to have finally decided we don't need to start our day at 6.00 am. I assume this is because it's now cold and dark at that time and he would therefore prefer to spend another half an hour in bed than have his housecoat taken off and go outside for a wee. grin

Staffle Thu 13-Nov-14 15:21:47

Haha, moose, mine would rather not wee at all if it meant he could stay inside!!! Agree it's the small triumphs that keep me going!

whatismyusername Thu 13-Nov-14 19:06:00

Do hope the Adapta thingy works for you, I think it says a few days before it kicks in but I am certain it helped after 24 hours. They say to plug in at low level if you can. The space where our boy is left when we are out is really big - kitchen dining room and sun room and it seems to still be fine in such a large space.

I am certain it has helped our boy settle. You get a refill once a month and they recommend for 3-6 months. I will definitely keep it going for 6 months. Today my train was delayed and he was on his own for 5 hours which was the longest and more than I had wanted. He was sitting waiting by the window looking out but he wasn't distressed. I should say when I left this morning he had been a naughty boy and gone for a swim in the lake.... so was a bit cold after. I wrapped him up in fleeces and gave him his pate kong before I left... he was happy as anything.. not even a second glance at me leave!

Your boy is so lucky to have a nice new home that will work with him and his anxiety.

Staffle Fri 14-Nov-14 11:32:26

Got the Adaptil diffuser and plugged it in yesterday. I had a bit of a meltdown last night after spending the afternoon seeing Ddog pacing and whining occasionally and deciding to follow me bloody everywhere again or getting stressed if he is not allowed! I have no idea what set him off again but it is clear my mental health is taking a battering as his anxiety seems to rub off on me. Dh works in the forces and we recently moved somewhere new so I have no local friends/family and I don't know any of my neighbours yet either to help me out, bah.

Yesterday Ddog also scared the crap out of me by climbing a tree! I have never seen a dog climb a tree, he was after a squirrel and v nearly got it and he was screaming with excitement, I had to drag him out of the tree by his harness. Back on the lead now until I can guarantee his recall again as I don't fancy having to go up trees after him!

I am supposed to be working from home (own business) but it's going pear-shaped as my mind is always on the dog! Feeling very stressed by the long road of SA recovery that lies ahead. Fingers crossed my next post will be more positive.

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