My 15 month old German Shepherd/mastiff mix has had escalating issues with separation anxiety. We adopted him from a shelter when he was 3 months old, he showed signs at that stage of anxiety but it usually consisted of whining and crying. We had gotten past this trouble for a while but now he seems to be having a much more difficult time dealing with us leaving the house, and he is much larger now so it has become difficult for us to handle as well. We used to be able to let him roam free in the laundry room in case he had an accident there were tile floors, but he has become destructive. He chewed the entire inside portion of the door. We bought him an extra large Kong crate, very sturdy and plenty of room. He was originally perfectly fine in his crate and howled a little if we needed to leave but would choose to go into his crate on his own to relax. Then he figured out how to work the door and let himself out and we began returning to a house that looked as if a tornado had been through it. We of course know that his first attempt was to find us once he got out because the blinds to every window were in pieces. We had to padlock his crate to be able to go to doctor's appointments. He returned to just whining, but soon figured out how to get out again somehow and once again the blinds were gone and everything torn apart. We have tried the DAP plugins and collars. The plugin seemed to work for a short time but he has returned to destructive behaviors and has broken the tray in his crate to pieces twice and has now managed somehow to entirely demolish a $200 metal crate....and several sets of blinds, again. We are at a loss at this point. We don't know how to help him. When we are home he is not destructive at all, he is very obedient, aside from the occassional puppy ADD. He has even started to calm down dramatically around the neighbor's dogs when they are out at the same time. He used to try to jump the fence to play with them and get very worked up, now he does his own thing and plays with our other dog. We only have trouble when we aren't here. The other dog is quite calm, never cries or freaks out when we leave. He weighs over 80lbs so the destruction that he can cause just trying to find us has gotten quite costly and we are afraid that he may hurt himself somehow but we can't just stop going to work or to appointments. Does anyone have any advice about this type of behavior and how to correct it, or how to help him be less anxious and scared when we leave? We have left radios playing for him in his room with the crate, but when he escapes he breaks the radio as well. Help please!
If your dog is large and in a small area, there is a problem. Large dogs need room to run. How often do you walk this dog? This dog needs to be walked at least twice a day. I mean long walks too. If there is a pet park near by, you can let them run loose too. This dog is large and needs room to run. You cannot leave a dog in a small area and not let them have some
freedom to go on walks and maybe run and play each day.
The dogs have a large backyard to run in and we take them with us on our daily walks as well. We have avoided the local dog park because they have gotten sick everytime they have gone. We can't leave them outside when we leave the house however because we live in the desert and the heat is very harsh. On top of that one of them has proven his ability to jump the fence into the neighbors yard. When we are home they get lots of time outdoors to play and run. The only time that they are confined to crates with closed doors is when we have to leave, other than that they have access to their crates to lay in and relax if they choose so that they won't associate the crate with us leaving.
My sympathies go out to you. I have had a dog with severe seperation anxiety in the past and, regrettably, treatment is very long and sometimes (as in my case) without success. My rescued lurcher of a few years ago saw three different animal behaviourists, we tried everything, including crating (which we eventually stopped using as he pawed at it so much he tore his feet to shreds). The most useful means of dealing with it is to use rigorous conditioning, which involves de-sensitising a dog from being on his own. However, this only works if it is done consistently and according to a set plan. So, week one, you go out for no more than 5 minutes, you also rattle keys and put shoes and clothes on as if you are going out, but don't actually go out at all, and various other techniques and routines. If after week one the dog has stopped panicking, you up the anti by extending the period of going out to 10 minutes, and so on.
I tried this for 7 months with my dog and it worked well for a while, but then he slipped right back again and I just couldn't afford the time or energy to go through it all again, so I re-homed him. I learned later that the new owner couldn't cope either and he was eventually put to sleep, which to this day makes me feel very guilty for having failed him.
On the other hand, I have heard some wonderfully successful stories from people using the exact same methods, and it certainly seems to be more successful than any other treatment regimes. It is hard work - and it can only really be done if you have the time, energy and motivation to complete it through to the end.
If you want any further guidance please ask. I am very happy to take you through the process in more detail. Tony
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