Theo’s separation anxiety has yet to wane. I’ve tried all of the vet and friend recommended “OTC” steps, but nothing seems to change. I started with Cesar’s tips, which were similar to other specialists’ tips across the board; his tips (below) typically cured, or at the very least eased, most cases of standard separation anxiety:
1. Before you leave the house, take your dog for a walk
Start your day by taking your dog for a brisk walk. To make the walk even more rigorous, use a dog backpack with extra weight in it. Then reward your dog’s calm-submissive energy with food and water. Some dogs may need to rest before eating, but all dogs can benefit from hydration. The idea is to leave your dog in quiet, resting mode while you are away.
2. No touch, no talk, no eye contact.
Don’t make a big deal when you leave for the day or when you return. This way, you are communicating to your dog that the time apart is no big deal. It’s just business as usual! Depending on the severity of the dog anxiety, you may need to practice the rule for five minutes or up to an hour before you leave and when you get back.
3. Say goodbye to your dog long before you leave.
Having trouble practicing “no touch, no talk, no eye contact”? Take a moment to share affection and tell your dog that you will miss him way before you actually leave. Keep in mind that this display is for you, not your dog! Your dog won’t have his feelings hurt if you didn’t say goodbye.
4. Stay calm and assertive!
When you are ready to go to work, leave those guilty, nervous, and concerned feelings behind. Instead, let your dog know that everything is going to be okay by projecting the confident energy of a pack leader. A calm and assertive leader can ease separation anxiety in dogs.
5. Start out small by leaving your dog alone for just five minutes.
Leave your dog alone for five minutes, then extend the time to twenty minutes, then an hour. Continue to increase the time you spend away until you can leave for a full eight hours without any more dog problems!
The above ideas did not work for Theo. We worked with number 5, repeatedly… for weeks. He was too smart; he could sense what I was doing, and he didn’t like it one bit. After I thoroughly tried those tips, I decided to try some slightly more advanced measures. First we tried the Thundershirt. It worked superbly… when I was still home with him:
However, the Thundershirt didn’t help the problem when I left. I also tried a pheromone collar… that produced ZERO results. Next, per a friend’s recommendation, I bought a package of all-natural OTC calming treats. These actually did help a bit. Although he was still panicky in his crate, he did seem a bit subdued. They still didn’t work well enough to alleviate his suffering.
See, the problem is, when Theo is upset, I’m upset. It’s gotten to the point where I won’t leave the house without him… or I won’t leave the house at all. This wouldn’t be an issue if there were more dog friendly places in Bloomington, but until that happens I’ll probably keep cancelling my dinner plans.
I also hate the thought of Theo being in a crate while I’m gone. I would feel better if he had more space to move about and be comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the concept of the crate and its use as a “safe place.” But guess what? Theo doesn’t see his crate this way… at all. He’s never taken to his crate. Supposedly he was crate trained at the shelter, but since day one at my house, it hasn’t worked for us (and has made potty training especially difficult). At first he did do okay with free run of the house when I was gone for short amounts of time. Then, the barking began (normally he rarely barks)… followed by the neighbor complaints. Since he still wasn’t fond of his crate, I thought leaving him in my room with the door shut (plus the TV on, a special “when-mom-leaves” treat and a recently worn sweatshirt) would be an okay idea. That’s when this happened:
So, my next step was to go back to my vet. She sent me to the behavioral specialist that I’m currently in contact with. Much to my chagrin, she has recommended that Theo be put on a prescription anti-anxiety drug after watching this video. I’m torn. I don’t know if it’s worse for him to be a medication, or for him to suffer so much when he’s alone. Everyone has told me he will just grow out of it… and I do believe that, but what do I do in the meantime? Any suggestions or thoughts on my process will be greatly appreciated!
Theo currently goes to Doggie Daycare on weekdays while I’m at work. While this is a lifesaver most days, it’s not open 24/7.