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Thread: Help Please!

  1. #1

    Unhappy Help Please!

    Hi, I have a 17month old ridgeback cross (staghound). His separation anxiety is not getting better even with all the behavioural training we have been doing. Front door(s), windows, curtains are favourite targets, coupled with excessive barking. I am at my wits end what to do . Not only did the repair costs run into $000, but relationships with neighbours and local council are getting very strained... I do not want to give him up, but it is getting impossible to lead a normal life and or leave the house. When we are in he is usually well behaved. I also can't afford $200 a pop visits from specialists. I know there's medication and I am willing to try that. Any experiences? Tips? Any thoughts will be gratefully received.
    Last edited by zaar; 04-21-2011 at 04:15 PM.

  2. #2

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    What exactly have you been doing? What does your training involve?

    Do you practice NILIF? (Nothing In Life Is Free) Read up on this first and start implementing it immediately. If you can go into more detail on what you're already doing I might be able to suggest some other things.

    Nothing in Life is Free

  3. #3
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    you don't really mention what methods you have already tried but his still a young dog, with a lot of energy, if his not desexed... he could also be sexually frustrated which just adds to the tension of this situation.

    from the sounds of it you leave your dog in the house while your gone....if you have an appropriate yard.. why not in the yard??
    I'm a vet nurse trainee, not a dog trainer but these are my suggestions

    first of all i would suggest starting him with some basic training. it would be good to get your dog to learn to focus and be clam. teach things like sit, stay and come so you can have him follow you when you want and not follow you when you don't want. this will set you up for 'outside time' sitting at the backdoor before being let in means there's no shoving, pushing or panic attack at the door instead you can ask for a nice calm sit until you say its okay to enter. teaching tricks and manners is a good way of mentally exercising your dog and believe it or not it does tire them out :P


    *Crate training teaches calm quiet time, builds up to periods of separation

    *boredom busters "give the dog something to do while your gone, hide food, leave out puzzles, chew toys, stuffed kongs"

    * teaching stay, a small exercise to encourage separation. once you get it to the point where you can have your dog voluntarily stand in the middle of a football field and

    *scatter feeding

    * long walk before you leave him at home all day

    * i know time for training can be an issue, but try leaving him isolated for small periods of time put him in a separate room blocked by a bay gate, gradually get further and further away from him treating him every time his clam and quiet gradually get to the point where he can't see you at all. completely ignore him once he stops crying reward him by showing him your still there.

    *isolate the areas of the house his aloud in while your gone and make sure there nothing he can destroy (when i leave my dog inside and i'm not home, which is almost never, i leave her in an empty hall way with only her bed water and a chew toy)

    * do not let your dog 'demand attention' ei. let him walk up to you and nudge or mouth or nip or bark until you pat him, this encourages him to gt what he wants when he wants. instead ignore him until he walks away and then you can call him over for a pat...

    * teach to bark/speak on command, so then you can also ask him for quiet when you want him to stop

    I also heard from a dog trainer once, that when dogs have separation anxiety majority of the time its because the dog is actually afraid something is going to happen to you, because they are not there to protect you. Meaning that the dog doesn't trust that you can protect yourself. practicing trust exercises to build the dogs trust in you could also help.

    There are also drugs for sever cases, you would have to take him to a vet. but if i where you, I'd try some of these cheaper methods first, unless your dog is actually declared by a trainer that he cannot be trained out of this behavior, its not really fair to force feed him drugs to be calm. Its much better and more rewarding for your dog and your relationship with your dog to work through this issue by giving him what he needs
    remember the old saying "a tired dog is a good dog"

    hope this helps

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  5. #5

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    A few ideas
    1. Exercise - double it! Healthy stimulated bodies help minds
    2. Nutrition - tryptophan can help anxious pets as it produces the 'happy hormone' serotonin to make your pet more positive. PAW make one as a chew
    3. Entertainment- quality rewarding toys like kings with food inside (freeze it to make it harder for them to get it out)
    4. Don't give repeated signals of leaving eg picking up keys and saying goodbye
    5. Don't give attention when you return- it will reward the last behaviour (in your absence) which may have been bad!
    6. Is there a neighbours pet that might give a 'buddy' while you're out
    I hope a couple help.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by clawsjaws View Post
    you don't really mention what methods you have already tried but his still a young dog, with a lot of energy, if his not desexed... he could also be sexually frustrated which just adds to the tension of this situation.

    from the sounds of it you leave your dog in the house while your gone....if you have an appropriate yard.. why not in the yard??
    I'm a vet nurse trainee, not a dog trainer but these are my suggestions
    I know that I'm not the OP but something to consider - I have had a 1.8m brown snake come through my backyard, my dog never stays unsupervised in the yard. I have had some bad neighbours who threatened to bait my dog - again I won't risk leaving him in the yard because of that danger. Not to mention the risk of him getting out and getting lost. For a dog with seperation anxiety it's safer inside the house. I've seen fences that dogs have chewed through. It's not worth the risk IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by clawsjaws View Post
    first of all i would suggest starting him with some basic training. it would be good to get your dog to learn to focus and be clam. teach things like sit, stay and come so you can have him follow you when you want and not follow you when you don't want. this will set you up for 'outside time' sitting at the backdoor before being let in means there's no shoving, pushing or panic attack at the door instead you can ask for a nice calm sit until you say its okay to enter. teaching tricks and manners is a good way of mentally exercising your dog and believe it or not it does tire them out :P
    General training I agree with. Take the dog for a long walk and do some training when you get back to both mentally and physically tire him. Wait until he sleeps and off you go.


    Quote Originally Posted by clawsjaws View Post
    *Crate training teaches calm quiet time, builds up to periods of separation

    *boredom busters "give the dog something to do while your gone, hide food, leave out puzzles, chew toys, stuffed kongs"

    * teaching stay, a small exercise to encourage separation. once you get it to the point where you can have your dog voluntarily stand in the middle of a football field and

    *scatter feeding

    * long walk before you leave him at home all day

    * i know time for training can be an issue, but try leaving him isolated for small periods of time put him in a separate room blocked by a bay gate, gradually get further and further away from him treating him every time his clam and quiet gradually get to the point where he can't see you at all. completely ignore him once he stops crying reward him by showing him your still there.

    *isolate the areas of the house his aloud in while your gone and make sure there nothing he can destroy (when i leave my dog inside and i'm not home, which is almost never, i leave her in an empty hall way with only her bed water and a chew toy)

    * do not let your dog 'demand attention' ei. let him walk up to you and nudge or mouth or nip or bark until you pat him, this encourages him to gt what he wants when he wants. instead ignore him until he walks away and then you can call him over for a pat...

    * teach to bark/speak on command, so then you can also ask him for quiet when you want him to stop
    *Crate training can do those things, but only if introduced correctly. Some dogs' anxiety gets worse being crated if they have bad anxiety to start with.

    *Boredom busters are great but not all should be given without supervision - My dog can destroy kongs in 5 minutes flat (yes including the black ones) they're dangerous to give him without supervision. A frozen ice cream container filled with meat, treats and kibble (then covered over with water) in it works far better and is far less dangerous but it can be messy if you don't have a tray for it! Make sure you tip the frozen stuff out of the container.

    *I wouldn't use stay as a seperation exercise. The last thing you need is a dog that associates 'stay' as you leaving - I've been there and it's horrible! Instead grab everything as though you're going outside, walk out your front door, down to the letterbox making sure you're out of sight of the dog and wait 5 minutes or until the dog is quiet. Say NOTHING to the dog at all. Once the 5 minutes has passed go back inside. Sit down, ignore the dog until he or she lays down and is calm. When the dog is calm, call him or her to you and give some attention (don't go overboard!). Repeat until the dog is laying down and relaxing almost immediately. Extend the time to 15 minutes, then to 30 minutes. If the dog gets stressed, back up a bit and try again.

    *Scatter feeding is great but remember to take the same amount out of the dogs meal! A lot of people forget to do this & their dog gets fat!

    *Leaving seperated in another region of the house is good and bad. But again if you're using treats (and lots of them in this case) reduce the amount of food your dog gets in his or her main meal.

    *House restriction can be good and bad - be aware that some dogs will destroy walls and doors if they don't have anything else to chew. Give a nice big meaty marrow bone before you leave - give it 10 minutes prior, wait for the dog to be really enjoying it and quietly slip out. If you're confining the dog, make sure it's an area that's easily cleaned!

    *This theory is NILIF :-)

    *Bark/Speak can backfire - some dogs will bark more not less because you're not there to tell them quiet :-) If you want your dog still alerting you when someone's at the door or when there's something wrong simply say "Thank you, that's enough" in a quiet calm voice after 1 or 2 barks and praise the dog when he or she is quiet.

    Quote Originally Posted by clawsjaws View Post
    I also heard from a dog trainer once, that when dogs have separation anxiety majority of the time its because the dog is actually afraid something is going to happen to you, because they are not there to protect you. Meaning that the dog doesn't trust that you can protect yourself. practicing trust exercises to build the dogs trust in you could also help.
    It doesn't actually have much to do with trust. The dog believes you need him or her to look after you (not so much protect). The way I've had it described to me is imagine you have a 3 year old that takes himself out for a walk, you are locked in the house and can't get out to supervise. Of course you panic. This is what your dog is going through.

    Quote Originally Posted by clawsjaws View Post
    There are also drugs for sever cases, you would have to take him to a vet. but if i where you, I'd try some of these cheaper methods first, unless your dog is actually declared by a trainer that he cannot be trained out of this behavior, its not really fair to force feed him drugs to be calm. Its much better and more rewarding for your dog and your relationship with your dog to work through this issue by giving him what he needs
    remember the old saying "a tired dog is a good dog"

    hope this helps
    Try a DAP diffuser if you want to try something like the drugs - without having to force feed the dog anything. The DAP diffuser you can buy at most vets or online and emits a pheromone to calm the dog down. In saying that some dogs do need the drugs and live happily on them.

    Join up to an obedience club or start doing more training with your dog in a public place - don't just exercise the dog physically, tire out his mind too!

  7. #7

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    Hi and thank you guys for such a great feedback. I will try to be a bit more detailed this time.

    The training we have done so far with ' Pete' far includes basic training -to sit, wait (for example when being fed or going out of the door) come over, don’t pull on lead, etc. He actually responds pretty well to all of these now and people in a park we frequent often comment on what a good recall he has got.

    He has been desexed, we did that at 7 months (and for a while it seemed to us like it made a difference). He’s vaccinated and in great health (other than this).

    As far as separation thing goes we do ‘the ignoring routine’ before we leave and when we get back, plenty of toys and feeding before we leave. We tried background noise radio and tv and for a while thought golf commentary is actually working being as sedate as it is. We also practiced leaving for 5, 10, 15 minutes and would camp on the footpath for hours at the time. We try to actively discourage ‘shadowing’ (he still likes to follow us around the house).

    A behavioural specialist from rspca advised against crate. She said Pete’s symptoms are too severe and would distress him further.

    The one time I left him out in the backyard he stripped the door frames bare (usually we leave the door open so he has the free run of the house/backyard. Only the bedrooms are closed). By the neighbours reactions sounds like he did not stop barking for few hours straight. The thing is he is too anxious to play with toys and bones (that I buy from butcher hoping he won’t be able to resist) and does not touch them unless we are around. The house is an open plan pretty much and it is hard to prevent him damaging things.

    As far as his walk routine goes we stick to at least 1hr daily. He’s very athletic and loves to run, so any time we can stay longer or give him another shorter walk on top of the regular one we try to do so (it’s not a regular thing).

    So it seems to me that obedience training is not actually doing anything for his anxiety. It sounded logical that if he stops thinking he’s alpha in the house it will reduce his anxiety re us , but it doesn’t. The treats don’t work either.

    Another peculiar thing is that as worried as he obviously is about us, when we leave him with friends or with another dog (few times we left him with a friend’s dog, but he has moved house and is too far) he is absolutely fine.

    I am happy to give DAP diffuser a go and see what happens, thanks

    If you can think of anything else now I described the situation a bit better….Thank you!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by zaar View Post
    As far as separation thing goes we do ‘the ignoring routine’ before we leave and when we get back
    The routine needs to be changed constantly so the dog does not get used to it. Have you read the links I gave few posts earlier?

    plenty of toys and feeding before we leave.
    Try not feeding before you leave. Limit his space to one room or hallway or whatever is suitable for you in your house. In the room leave his bed and give him toys stuffed with food such as kong, various rubber or plastic cubes that you can stuff with food. Make sure he gets good walk before you leave, but walk should include some basic obedience with lots of positive experiences. It builds dog's confidence.

    We tried background noise radio and tv and for a while thought golf commentary is actually working being as sedate as it is.
    Radio and TV could be triggers as well. Switching a radio or TV on when you are about to leave anounces to a dog that you are about to live. It becomes a cue.

    We try to actively discourage ‘shadowing’ (he still likes to follow us around the house).
    How do you do it? I would suggest what someone else suggested before - NILIF. Do not have any interaction with a dog unless it's on your terms only. Meaning no patting, no talking, nothing unless the dog does what you ask him for. For instance, dog gets petted only when he's on his mat. You can try this by showing a dog to his mat, petting him for a while, then leaving. If necessary tether him then come back, praise him and pat him. No sleeping in your bedroom, especially not in your bed. It teaches the dog to be by himself.

    A behavioural specialist from rspca advised against crate. She said Pete’s symptoms are too severe and would distress him further.
    Correct. Crated dog with severe sep. anxiety can seriously injure itself when crated.

    The thing is he is too anxious to play with toys and bones (that I buy from butcher hoping he won’t be able to resist) and does not touch them unless we are around.
    Just as TV and radio bones became a cue. They announce to him that you are about to leave. Try not feeding him from bowls at all only from toys. It will mean his daily portion of food will be portioned in several meals a day through toys when you are at home and when you leave. I don't know about your lifestyle, but it is suggested that people take holidays so they can devote all the time to solving a problem by doing different routines every day getting in and out of the house, practicing and teaching the dog to be able to be alone. In time different routines slowly "merge" into a approximate routines that you have in a normal life.


    As far as his walk routine goes we stick to at least 1hr daily. He’s very athletic and loves to run, so any time we can stay longer or give him another shorter walk on top of the regular one we try to do so (it’s not a regular thing).

    So it seems to me that obedience training is not actually doing anything for his anxiety.
    Obedience does not solve behavior issues. It never did, it's just a tool in management of certain problem behavior issues. Obedience is good for practise and because every dog needs basics at least. Through obedience with lots of positive reinforcement, through fun and play you build dog's confidence. Apart from usual obedience lots of thinking and problem solving games should be introduced. Sometimes intense game of hide and seek or searching and problem solving can do more than 2 hour run in a park.

    It sounded logical that if he stops thinking he’s alpha in the house it will reduce his anxiety re us , but it doesn’t.
    Sweety, stop thinking he's trying to be an alpha. He is not. He's just a very insecure, scared dog and you should see him just as that. If your behavior therapist suggested that, please I urge you to find another one because it's plain nonesense.

    Another peculiar thing is that as worried as he obviously is about us, when we leave him with friends or with another dog (few times we left him with a friend’s dog, but he has moved house and is too far) he is absolutely fine.
    Although behavior specialist do not suggest this in general, perhaps a company of another dog would help ease his fear. If you are absolutely certain he can stay alone with another dog, maybe you should consider getting him a company as the last option. But it should be a very stable older dog as young dogs that are still developing may make things worse and even copy his behavior.
    Last edited by Fedra; 04-26-2011 at 07:49 AM.
    Respect and you shall be respected. Animal is always right.

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