What to do about a previously abused dog who has bad separation anxiety?
By 2reddogs from Wilm, DE
I'm going to assume that you inherited/rescued this dog - and I applaud your efforts! First of all, I would STRONGLY suggest investing in an appropriate size of dog crate for it, if you haven't gotten one already. A lot of times, half the separation anxiety is due to feeling vulnerable without their pack/person (also, if they're destructive in their anxiety, this will help protect your belongings!).
It will also help establish a 'going away' routine - the dog won't worry if you're going to leave them at any given moment, they'll know the signals for when it's time. I don't know if it necessarily helps, but I make sure to say goodbye and 'I'll be back!' before I leave. Dogs are pretty smart, after all. :)
Another thing you can do to ease your dog's anxiety is establish a very stable schedule. This helps the dog to learn that you WILL come back, and can expect you. I've found feeding the dog in their kennel at mealtime helps build a positive association with the kennel. I also give my dog treats when I put him in to reinforce that.
It won't be fast, and it won't be easy to listen to, but it WILL go away if you are gentle, calm and consistent.
I would try leaving the dog first for short periods of time. Leave him/her for 5 minutes and then return. Do this a few times in one day and gradually work up to 10 minutes and so on. If you have a web cam you can keep it running to see how the dog is responding each time. This is how I had to deal with my GSD pup. And when you leave tell the dog "Daddy/Mommy has to go to work" and the dog won't expect you back for a long time. If you are leaving for a short while, tell the dog that "you will be right back." They know what you are saying. They are amazing.
I agree with finchonce, but I would add that if you put your dog in a wire crate, as opposed to an enclosed vinyl one, he might feel safer if you put a towel or blanket over the top to give the crate a more den-like feeling. We give our dogs treats right before we leave, and tell them to "watch the house". It's a routine they seem to enjoy.
I used to board dogs for the Humane Society. Had a lot of abused dogs with separation anxiety. I would suggest that if you go the crate route you find something that you or someone in your family has worn that is old (it may get chewed up) and has a LOT of body odor. Putting that into the crate seems to calm them down a lot. Lots of luck - it will take time.
It's very helpful to get the dog a Kong toy and fill the inside, around the edges, with peanut butter, then keep it in the freezer. (Don't overdo the peanut butter unless you have a large dog). Give this to the dog right before you leave, and it will keep him busy and happy for quite a while licking the peanut butter out of that Kong. Also, a favorite stuffed toy to cuddle is always good.
Good luck and Bless you for taking in an abused dog. He needs much TLC and understanding for a while.
Oh, I swear by the ComfortZone diffuser. That thing is amazing. Just plug it in by the dog's crate. It reminds them of the smell of the mama dog. You can get it at any pet store for about $30. You can usually order them online for a little less. Check out OnlyNaturalPets.com. They have a wonderful spray called "Pet Calming Spray." It's very inexpensive and works really well. It lasts from 6 to 8 hours.
I don't know if you would want to do it, but we got another little dog to keep our sweetie company. That seemed to calm him down. He would still get anxious once in a while and run behind the couch when we were leaving, but his distructive behaviour of pulling on the curtians at the window stopped for good.
Try playing with the dog each time you are leaving him, to tire him, running, fetch etc. Then leave him something to chew on and or a treat or two. Please try and ensure when you return you always give him a treat and cuddle or play for even a few minutes. Hopefully this way he associates your going and coming with happy things.
I have a little doggie, and when I return, first thing I pick him up and cuddle and play him so he has some time with me.
I must confess this is one of my worries too, and I am still working on it. As mine is a small spoilt brat recently acquired I think it is due to his having someone to be with him most of the time.
I do applaud and take hats off to the kind generous people who take in abused and stray animals. May God bless you and all others who treat animals with love and care.
Reading all the entries makes my heart ache. Its been 8 years and I'm still feeling really sad about a Shi Tzu which I used to own. She was a present and truly adorable. Unfortunately, she must have been abused as she had serious separation anxiety, was afraid of loud sounds and rain and worse of all- corophagia (she ate her poop).
At that time, I was lucky enough to stay at home 24-7 and spent all my time with her, but even with lots of attention and kisses, if she was left alone for 5 minutes- she'd go hysterical.When it rained- her eyes would bulge, she'd shake uncontrollably and drool all over me, even though I would put her on my lap to comfort her. It didn't help that my other Shih Tzu is very possessive and when I gave Bubbles more attention, my older dog would get upset and pee on carpets in anger. Between the both of them, it was making my family very upset and my house very filthy.
Almost everyday Bubbles would eat her poop and pee on the mats. Then she'd jump up onto the sofa or bed where she was NOT allowed! I think I spent most hours just cleaning her and the places she soiled. When I took her to the vet for a check and her vaccinations, she was given a clean bill of health but I was advised to give her away or put her down (horrors!)but didn't have the heart to. She was obviously abused before and I didn't think another family would have as much time as I had to devote to her.So I kept trying to assure my poor dog that she was loved and safe even though it was honestly very difficult.
The vet prescribed pills to stop the corophagia but it didn't help. Things got really bad when she jumped onto the bed and pooped.Then ate it! I then went to see the pet store owner where she had been bought to ask about her, he said she had belonged to someone else and told me young females are like that so I should send her for breeding to stop the behaviour problems but I thought that advice sounded very illogical (he probably doesn't care at all about his dogs!) and refused.
I followed all other advise= gave lots of lavish praise and treats, walks (which she didn't particularly like, she just wanted to be hugged all the time) and crate training.She hated the first wire crate, the moment I put her in it- she'd run out- so I got her a plastic one- which she'd try to escape by scratching and biting at the door like possessed. And poop in it as well. I felt like some evil prison guard.
So I bought her a soft cushioned igloo-house with no door- she peed in that one and refused to sleep in it. The only place she slept was beside my bed-on a pile my clothes.
Last resort- I bought many pieces of metal grill fencing to link together and form a large open enclosure..which I moved to wherever I was so she could still see me- didn't help. She managed to climb out like some wonder dog, not before peeing in there too.
There is no happy ending to my story- I came home one day after being out for 4 hours and discovered her gone. She had been left with my husband who was home but was asleep on the sofa. We found a hole she had managed to somehow break and squeeze through the plastic netting I put over the base of the front door, (she had run out once before when there was a thunderstorm)
We searched for her all over for a long time but never found her and none returned her. She was with me for almost a year and except for the problems I mentioned, she was a very loving, intelligent, beautiful 1 yr old female. Can someone please tell me what else I could have done, to have helped her?
I still have her framed photo on my mantelpiece and feel so guilt ridden. Every time it rains now, I think of her and hope she is alive and well. Hopefully she is with a loving, patient family.
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