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siberian_wolf

Separation Anxiety

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Separation Anxiety has to potentially be one of the most common behaviour problems with dogs these days so I thought I would type up this thread with a few hints and tips along with an explanation of Gesture Leaving.

About this time last year I called a behaviorist about my 3 who, after observing them, said they had separation anxiety and talked me through the gesture leaving technique.

Please note that no one can guarantee that this technique will work with your own dogs and if you do suspect that your dog has separation anxiety I can not advise it enough to seek advise from a professional trainer or behaviorist before starting any techniques.

What is separation anxiety?

Usually when you leave your dog, he/she would go to a particular spot and go to sleep until you get back. However, when a dog has separation anxiety they become extremely anxious when you leave and cannot relax. When you leave, your dog does not understand where you have gone or if you are going to return which is where the high anxiety levels result in behaviours such as:

  • Barking / Howling
  • Chewing
  • Salivating
  • Urinating
  • Defecating
  • Vomiting
With the above some dogs will also try to escape by scratching at doors, chewing through walls, breaking out of cages, trying to dig their way out. In some extreme cases dogs can also become ill, stop eating, hurt themselves or other animals in the household or can also show other behaviour problems such as depression!



Signs of separation anxiety are usually shown as soon as you leave, or just before you leave. Normally it's the first 30-60 mins of being alone when they dogs anxiety levels are at the highest level and this can be usually when the majority of damage is done. However, in some cases the owner may suspect their dog has separation anxiety but the dog is actually just bored which is why it is recommended that you seek advise from a professional trainer / behaviorist first.



What can cause separation anxiety?

There are many different causes of separation anxiety which can either be just one or several causes that can result in the dogs anxiety.

Causes of separation anxiety can often be due to:





  • not enough socialization
  • lack of communication
  • lack of training
  • too much bonding between you and your dog
  • owner behaviour
  • the dog is not sure what is expected of them
  • past mistreatment
  • previously being left along for too long
  • abandonment
  • being a re homed dog
  • lack of physical and/or mental stimulation

Bad genetics can also have an impact with separation anxiety when an adult dog with this problem is used for breeding. With these above causes we need to take into consideration that our dogs are a pack animal by nature and rely on safety in numbers for protection so when we leave a dog along those numbers are not there.....so in the dogs mind, they don't have that protection.

What can I do to help my dog?

As mentioned, if you suspect your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, seek advise from a professional trainer or behaviorist who will be able to correctly diagnose the problem and provide you with a training routine to follow.

As with many behaviour problems there are many different techniques you can use along with medications and herbal remedies but every dog is different and some may respond better/quicker than others.

Gesture Leaving

When you leave many people with give their dog loads of hugs and fuss making the goodbye a long one, this can significantly increase the dogs anxiety levels and make the initial goodbye a stressful one. When we make these long goodbyes it can pass your worries/stress about leaving to your dog, hence the anxiety from them. When you are using the gesture leaving technique, you don't give your dog attention during the leaving process.

This is a time consuming method and requires patience and consistency.

As a dogs anxiety levels usually start to rise when you are getting yourself ready it's best to start here to desensitize your dog to the initial process you go through before leaving.

I did this by not paying any attention to my dogs and I would start to get myself ready as normal (i.e. shoes on, coat on, bag, keys, etc) and would just walk to the door and then I would go back and settle myself back down again until all dogs had relaxed again and I would go and do the same. I continued this until all dogs were not bothered about my process of getting ready to go. The next stage I would do the same getting ready routine but this time I would walk through the door and close it behind me and then walk straight back in and settle down until the dogs where relaxed again and then I would repeat the process again. I would repeat this process until the dogs became relaxed about it and as they became relaxed I would increase the time between leaving and re-entering. When I enter the room after leaving I would ignore the dogs for about 5 mins before fussing them again. If they jump up when I came in I would turn my back to them until they got down and then continued.

When I did this I started by increasing the time by about 5 seconds to begin with until I reached a minute, then I increased it by a minute each time until I reached 5 minutes and then continued to increase it by 5 minutes each time. When I started to reach the longer times out I used to leave the house completely and maybe walk around the block to take a bit of time up or maybe pop to the shops if I needed to, as long as I wasn't out for longer than I had set.

When my 3 were relaxed being alone for an hour I became happy for them to be left for longer periods when necessary. Now they are happy to be left alone for a few hours and all 3 just go to sleep now. However, I still don't like to leave them for long periods as this was one of the causes for their separation anxiety in the first place so if I am going to be out for a long period of time I will either pop back throughout the day to let them out or another member of the household will pop back to them.

A few other methods which can be used to treat separation anxiety can be using a crate when you leave, taking your dog out for a long walk before you leave, leaving your dog with a particular toy (distracting their mind from the fact of you leaving), leaving the radio on in a separate room on a talk or a classical music station, some people will make a recording of themselves talking to play for about an hour which can help reassure the dog you are still there even though they can see you (when the radio is played in a separate room).

If you are using a crate, ensure that your dog is comfortable being inside the crate with the door closed. Some people will introduce the crate by leaving the door open when they are home and feeding their dog inside and placing their favorite toy and a few treats in the crate with a comfy bed/blanket to help the dog feel more comfortable. When you use a crate, it can become a safe den area for the dog and the reduced space will limit their movement which can act as an anxiety reducer for some dogs (please not that some dogs could potentially become more anxious in a smaller space though).

If you are looking at using a distraction for your dog, it may be an idea to buy a particular toy specially for that time. Preferably get a toy which you can fill with your dogs favorite treats, the Kong a great toy to use for this. Many people will freeze the treat, if possible, as this will help keep the dog distracted for longer. All you do is get the specific toy out when you leave and place it near your dog when your going to leave and then when you come back the toy goes away again. The idea of this is that the toy is filled with a particular treat your dog likes so much that he/she will concentrate on enough that they will ignore your leaving. Using the one particular toy with treat can also help the dog look forward to having the toy again instead of the dreading fact that you are about to leave.

There are many other methods that can be used along with other different points and things to remeber when dealing with a dog with separation anxiety. I've made this to use as a simple basic guide mainly for the gesture leaving method and not to help with diagnosing an animal.

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excellent thread Amy! :up: added to rep - also pinned this thread for future members to read x

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That is great information, thank you.

My pup seems to have become very attached to me, as I am the one at home most of the time.

He will cry for a few mins when I go out or up to bed, he sleeps in the kitchen. He is very good when in kitchen and peeps/poos on the mat.

I tried him once in the crate but that didnt go too well, he pooped on the tray and got it everywhere as it was on his paws. I put his bed in there as well, maybe I should just have put a rug down ... what do others do?

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That is great information, thank you.

My pup seems to have become very attached to me, as I am the one at home most of the time.

He will cry for a few mins when I go out or up to bed, he sleeps in the kitchen. He is very good when in kitchen and peeps/poos on the mat.

I tried him once in the crate but that didnt go too well, he pooped on the tray and got it everywhere as it was on his paws. I put his bed in there as well, maybe I should just have put a rug down ... what do others do?

my boys did this for a while until they learnt that the crate was their sleeping area - keep up with it and soon it won't happen :)

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my pup is 12 weeks old and we have tried the kong and the crate and also the ignoring before we go out but she still howls. We currently have a dap collar on her which again dont seem to be working too well. Our biggest problem is our next door neighbour, when suki is fretting she bangs on the wall and shouts shut up, so it makes it very difficult for us to train her properly, as we have to go let her out just to stop her whining so the neighbour will stop moaning.

We are trying to be very patient but its really hard, we know what we have to do but the neighbour wont allow us to do it.

She is not the most approachable neighbour either which makes it 10 times worse (we spent 8 months trying to get her to keep her music down, so she's not very accomodating with us).

Anybody got any ideas xxxx

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my pup is 12 weeks old and we have tried the kong and the crate and also the ignoring before we go out but she still howls. We currently have a dap collar on her which again dont seem to be working too well. Our biggest problem is our next door neighbour, when suki is fretting she bangs on the wall and shouts shut up, so it makes it very difficult for us to train her properly, as we have to go let her out just to stop her whining so the neighbour will stop moaning.

We are trying to be very patient but its really hard, we know what we have to do but the neighbour wont allow us to do it.

She is not the most approachable neighbour either which makes it 10 times worse (we spent 8 months trying to get her to keep her music down, so she's not very accomodating with us).

Anybody got any ideas xxxx

At 12 weeks old she is still learning the basics and getting used to her new surroundings so howling and crying is to be expected. I would try explaining to your neighbour that your pup is still very young and in the essential stage of learning and if something frightens her or makes her anxious it can easily become a much bigger problem. If your neighbour wants peace then I would tell her to stop banging on the walls shouting "shut up" whenever your pup cries or howls as this could be making her much worse and would become a big problem when shes older. If she can't use a bit of common courtesy then I would look at contacting your local council or someone similar and explain the situation before they come knocking at your door because your neighbour is complaining.

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Our Bella had a problem with anxiety when left at home. My husband felt the crate was "cruel", until she destroyed a cell phone charger, a laptop charger, and the back of our leather couch (fortunately the chargers were not plugged in). She would eat her treat, finish the peanut butter in her kong and then start the howling. But after time the howling passed. She gladly goes in her crate when i give the command "crate". She is quite calm and happy when I return home and we don't have to replace any of our belongings.

Good luck Sherrie. Sorry the neighbor is making this transition difficult.

:)

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Kira developed separation anxiety.... Apparently there's a really low percentage of dogs that will develop it after being fixed and he happened to be one of them.

I'm pretty sure he has grew out of it, has taken close to 7 months and it's been a long work in progress. My boyfriend, roommate, and I would leave the apartment for short periods of time then come back. We eventually worked up the time over a long period of time. We had to use a spray collar for the first 5ish months and occasionally we throw it on. We have gotten no complaints about noise... And the room is not destroyed when we come back. He's happy to see us when we are back... A little much so, hence I don't think he's completely over it, but he's a lot better. Not that he was too terrible with it, he'd just howl a few times every 5-10 minutes. I rather a howl then they're high pitched bark any day, ha.

But if anyone is having problems with noise, I'd highly suggest a spray collar. They are humane, no pain, just the scare of a sudden spray when they get too loud. Apparently it's got a high success rate, about 80% of dogs it will work on.

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This is a great thread, it'll definately be useful to me over the next couple of weeks when Kiska gets left alone properly for the first time! She's great for short separations so I'm hoping all goes well :)

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My Mira developed separation anxiety right after she was spade. When I went to pick her up I could hear a dog screaming the most dreadful sound you ever heard. It sounded like someone was back there hacking her up with a knife. After a while I desided it must be Mira. The vet came in the room and said... I don't know why she is doing that I can't find anything wrong with her but she won't let anyone touch her. She wasn't biting anyone but she was fighting to not be touch and SCREAMING! well she had been a bit strange that way. Didn't like me messing with her either but nothing like this! They asked me to go back and get her. Mira was wild!! Fighting to get away. Well she certainly wasn't dying. Not with that kind of strength. I got her collar and managed to hook the leash on. We want out front I paid and she leaped right into the car and stopped screaming. All her life (all seven short years) vets would have to put her out to do the simplest things. She wouldn't let then touch her. Brushing her was a exhausting nightmare. She broke off all her front teeth on a chain link dog run I tried leaving her in. She broke out of windows twice in our house. We came home one night. We had left kira and mira in the house. Well kira was in the house but mira was no where to be found. I checked all the doors they were all closed.. What the heck?? I expected to find her somewhere in the house DEAD! I went in the back yard and kept calling her. I thought I heard something out front so I dashed to the front door and opened it and in ran Mira with this long orange streamer flying from her neck. What the heck? How did she get out. Well there was only one other way. Windows! Sure enough she had gotten behind my computer desk. There was a small window that had been hit by a rock. That glass was really thin. There was like an eighteen inch jagged whole in it. And not a single scratch on Mira. We stopped leaving the dogs in the house. After while she became ok with that thank god but for years I had always kept the dogs locked in the house when we were gone. I was not happy at all not to be able to do that any more.

Anyway we lived with this until Mira was almost six years old. My husband said he didn't think she would be a problem anymore and I thought he might be right. So I began trying very slowly and carefully and terrifiedly to test her. It worked. FINALLY after all these years. I was so damn proud of her. I told her so over and over. And for the next year we lived the life I had always dreamed of. We could take the dogs anywhere. Leave them anywhere. And they got to go everywhere. I'm just so proud of you Mira. Then a year later when she was seven we discovered she had liver and lung cancer. Huge masses! she was with me, at my side always day and night and I didn't know. My husband thought I was nuts to take her to the vets. I didn't have any good reason other then something seems wrong. And for the next twenty two days I watched my little girl being eaten alive by this horrible thing. She hadn't gotten over the SA she had gotten sick. She died two months ago.

So now we have Neeka. Upon birth the breeder named her "Auntie Em". I had to tell the breeder of Miras fate. What are the chances she would have this puppy right now, Miras brothers daughter. Miras niece. Neeka will be named Karamads Auntie M's Neeka in honor of Mira. Why would I want another Mira? Good question. I want my seven years back. I want half a life back that was taken from me and Mira. It's an honor to me to have Miras niece. I was the only thing Mira ever cared about. She stuck to me like glue and love no less.

Anyway as you can see SA is something that is likely to happen again and I'm trying so hard to not let it happen. The crate seems like it's a must and I never mastered it with any of my six huskies. I'll leave it at that for the moment.

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Great Post +1 from me too.

That is what I did with Zihna when she was a pup. She would go off in her crate as soon as she heard me grab my keys. It would make me feel sooooooo bad!!! So I would grab my keys throughout the day and just move them around or walk around with them, same with my purse. Then I would just walk out and back in several times throughout the day. Take the trash out, check the mail, etc. It was a bit easier for me since I work from home so I did not have to leave for long periods of time right from the start.

Now whenever I come home she is stretching in her crate whooooooing and yawning. So I assume she is sleep the whole time I be gone. I don't go out that much, just to run errands and maybe the movies or dinner every now and then with the hubby when he is home.

The only time she makes a fuss is when someone is here with her. I try to go out when Zihna is tired so she be in her crate. If my daughter is here she is usually in her room and I will just make sure she has her door open so in case Zihna wakes up she can let her out. But she always sleeps till I get back.

However, when she knows someone is in the living room then she will cry very pathetic every now and then and lay by the front door till I get back. But it's all for show cause she does not do that when my daughter is in her room and Zihna thinks nobody is home with her that will hear her. :lol: :lol:

So now I just have one more question. Where is the separation anxiety thread for us Husky parents??? :huh: I always hurry home cause I miss my pups so much when I am gone! LOL.

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Yeah, my boy (Suka) has separation anxiety. He just doesn't like being left alone.

One time, when we first got him, we left him at home alone thinking it'll be alright. We were only gone half an hour.

We had put him in my room and closed the door. He wasn't crated because we tried doing that and it broke our hearts because he was yelping/crying for hours...

When we come back, we see a dog trotting along the street looking remarkably like Suka. (There are 2 more huskies on my street) So I take a closer look - and it WAS Suka! We called him back (took awhile, he was smelling everything!) and we went inside the house.

As it turns out, he tried to escape from my room. The carpet in front of my door was torn up, and my window screen was ripped open! So, he jumped out of my window, on to the roof, and somehow landed on the ground without breaking/hurting anything. (My room is on the second story of the house.)

So yeah, we've never left him home alone again. We always have to look for 'doggy sitters' which is a pain because they're not really plentiful in my area and I don't trust the kennel places. They seem...sketchy. :P

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when i leave the house, i tie my pup up to a leash next to his crate. he whines a bit but than eventually falls asleep. do you think its a bad idea to leave him leashed up? he has enough slack to walk into his crate and lie down. when i return home he seems fine, really chill. just antsy because he needs to pee. than i bring him back to his spot and leash him up again.

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I am about ready to put this dog up for adoption or take him to the nearest shelter! He's 8 months old and is really attached to me. 4 o'clock this morning I came out to find he had knocked the gate down that barricades him from the bedrooms down the hall and pooped right there in the middle of the hallway. He'd also gotten into the bathroom (also down that hall with the gate up) and taken toilet paper rolls out of the garbage, brought them into the living room and tore them up. AND he'd gotten a hold of one of my kids toys that was hidden away in the living room. I fear that this dog is not a good match for our family. He'd caused so much destruction to our home. My yard is a mess of holes and chewed wood from the deck. I have young children and he nips their ankles and noses in between my children and I whenever they need my attention. The other day, I went out and left him with my father. My dad was in another room and as a result, Bailey grabbed my husband's baseball cap and chewed that up and when my dad put him outside, he ate through the lattice surrounding the deck, got past the gate that seperates him from my husband's garden and tore that up too! I just don't know what to do with him! I do love him, but unless he calms down considerably, we are probably going to have to find him a new home...

Thoughts? Suggestions?? Thanks!

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I am about ready to put this dog up for adoption or take him to the nearest shelter! He's 8 months old and is really attached to me. 4 o'clock this morning I came out to find he had knocked the gate down that barricades him from the bedrooms down the hall and pooped right there in the middle of the hallway. He'd also gotten into the bathroom (also down that hall with the gate up) and taken toilet paper rolls out of the garbage, brought them into the living room and tore them up. AND he'd gotten a hold of one of my kids toys that was hidden away in the living room. I fear that this dog is not a good match for our family. He'd caused so much destruction to our home. My yard is a mess of holes and chewed wood from the deck. I have young children and he nips their ankles and noses in between my children and I whenever they need my attention. The other day, I went out and left him with my father. My dad was in another room and as a result, Bailey grabbed my husband's baseball cap and chewed that up and when my dad put him outside, he ate through the lattice surrounding the deck, got past the gate that seperates him from my husband's garden and tore that up too! I just don't know what to do with him! I do love him, but unless he calms down considerably, we are probably going to have to find him a new home...

Thoughts? Suggestions?? Thanks!

sounds like he is going thru his teenage stage aswell as having SA - how much exercise does he get? (not read the replies so sorry if this has already been asked)

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Aw crap there's a teenage stage?? I try to exercise him as much as I can. He loves to play fetch, and he's usually pretty good at it, but as a mom with two young kids, it's not always easy to give him the attention he wants. My biggest problems are at night. Maybe it's because he's sleeping when he's not running around like an idiot, so at night, he's awake and bored?

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