Friday, October 30, 2009

Doggy Anxiety - Need Advice!

Buster and Belle are going to be turning 10 this winter. You would never know it. They haven't slowed down a bit. They still play rambunctiously with each other multiple times a day, they go for mile-long walks without any sign of tire or strain. Their eyes are clear and their hearing seems a-okay. Hooray for muddled mutt-DNA!

I want them to stay this way for as long as possible, obviously. So, as winter approaches -- or rather, as WINTER CONTINUES UNTIL THE END OF FREAKIN' TIME -- I'd like to keep them inside during the day when the temperature drops below 20 degrees or it is really windy.  Give their joints a little break. (Belle might not like this plan, actually. She loves the snow and cold. She will lay down with her legs spread clear out and her belly in the snow. Weirdo.)

The problems are these: Belle likes to tear apart tissues in the trash and Buster eats everything in sight. (Case in point: we left them inside today and they found wheat berries, fermenting meusli, and sunflower seeds. This ought to be fun later.) They break out of the laundry room to do this.

So clearly, we have some separation anxiety issues here. (They exhibit none of this behaviour when either A. or I are home.)

They don't seem to get stressed out when they are left outside, however. The don't dig, they don't whine, they don't try to escape. They bark their fool heads off at The UPS Truck, but they do that all the time. (What is it with that big, brown truck that makes them go batshit crazy?)

We started Buster on doggie prozac a few months ago to help with his increasing fear of thunderstorms. He became even more high-strung on the drugs! Any quick movement or loud noise sent him shaking. We took him off the meds.

However, maybe, this is about routine? They know the drill - when we leave they go outside. Maybe we just need to condition them to another routine, where they stay in the house alone? If so, do you think crate training would be worth a try?

The current strategy I want to put in place is this: begin gradual and consistent desensitizing and re-conditioning about being left inside alone while very, very gradually introducing crates as an awesome, safe place to be. I don't plan on leaving them in the crates alone until well after I feel like the desensitizing and re-conditioning have settled in.

Perhaps I should put Buster on the anxiety meds again? Maybe he will get better with them since it isn't thundering right now?

Boy, I should have started this in May. Oops.

Thoughts? Advice? Help!


  1. I would definitely recommend crate training. Perhaps put the crate(s) in your bedroom and then put the dogs in the crate(s) at night so they get used to the idea that the crates are a safe, secure place. And put them in at random times, sometimes letting them out right away or leaving them in for a just a bit while you stay in the room, so they don't associate going into the crate with abandonment. I've also heard that covering the crate with a heavy blanket (to simulate a cave) and playing the radio can reduce separation anxiety.

  2. oh heavens, i know NOTHING about dogs. at all. i hope your other commenters are more help :-P

  3. I'm no help, but if they're rambunctious dogs, I would imagine staying in a crate all day would make them WILD! Just saying.

  4. I was going to say something very similar to what Lisa said. Crate training is FABULOUS. I think the key here is to slowly teach them that the crate is a safe, happy space, and don't leave them in their crates alone until that lesson has been well and truly learned. Crate them at night, with you, maybe? Maybe even leave the door open at first so they don't feel trapped? And always give them treats when they go in their crates so they develop positive associations.

    Good luck!

  5. I used to think crates for dogs were cruel, but they're so not! Dogs are den animals and like having a place that's theirs and comfy and cozy. Roxy goes into her crate whenever we leave and she sleeps in there at night. Often, we'll find her taking a nap in there when we're home. She loves it.

    I'd recommend getting a couple of library books about crate training older dogs. I've only ever done it with new puppies and have no advice to give.

  6. Also, Roxy's crate is in our room so she's close by us at night. I think that helps. When she was younger, we used to bring it into the living room and put her in it while we watched TV or whatever so that she got used to it and didn't see it as a punishment.

  7. I'm like Erica; before we had Shorty, I thought crates were cruel. They're not. I echo what others have said: slowly start introducing them to the crate so they realize that's their "safe place." Throw them treats in there, leave the door open, give them positive reinforcement for going in there, etc. Eventually, they'll think of it as their "home."

    Shorty got bored hanging out with us downstairs yesterday and I went looking for him (to make sure the cats were safe). He was in his crate, snoozing.

  8. Not a lot of advice, but you can doggy proof the trashes (and maybe some other things?) with baby-proof items.

    I like the idea of a slow introduction too.

  9. I'm an advocate for crate training, even though we opted not to use a crate for our dog. The idea of beginning to put the dogs in a crate while you're home (versus only when you're leaving) is really important. It's also important to ignore the dogs while they're in the crate. I've also heard, crate or not, ignoring your dogs when you come home until they've settled down (i.e. not acknowledging their crazy and happy hellos when you walk in the door) is an important part of dealing with separation anxiety. I'd think the same would hold true with crate training - don't make letting them out of the crate the first thing you do when you come home.


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