Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Since our move, the dogs had gotten absolutely beside themselves with separation anxiety when we left. We had two German Shepherds, Pluto and Fritz.
Fritz tragically passed from cancer last summer, and he had the worst anxiety. He developed a new and horribly disturbing habit of putting his tail in his mouth, and then spinning frantically when we left the house. Seriously it was so upsetting to watch. I was in hysterics the day I came home to find this, after just leaving the house to go grocery shopping.
We got him a cone of shame but he actually managed to bend it so badly he broke the side the last time we were both gone. He did the biting the tail / spinning like a dervish to the point of bleeding. Tranquilizers from the vet did absolutely nothing.
We did crate training with them using positive reinforcement,desensitization and counterconditioning. Our Pluto hadn’t been in a crate since he was a puppy, and I don’t believe Fritz had ever been in a crate once, as we got him as an adult. Our first steps were to make the crates happy fun time places. The doors were always be kept open, and all toys had been moved from the living room into the crates. Also, they only got treats inside the crates. This way they associated the crates with fun places.
After a week of having the crates just be happy fun places where the doors were always kept open, we started adding Kong toys with treats inside them, closing the crate doors, and leaving the room for a few minutes. The Kongs kept them distracted enough to be OK with having the crate doors closed, and then I gradually increased the amount of time that I left the room.
After a week of that, then my husband and I both left the house for short periods while they were crated. This was a long, slow process, but thankfully it helped with his anxiety. While I still grieve his loss, I am so thankful that the crating process helped, and he no longer had that terrible anxiety on the times when we had to leave the house.
Photo credit: My photo, my sweet Fritz. This picture was the image credit I used to always used on another writing site, which is long gone! Now that we’re no longer in West Virginia, I’ve dropped the “WV” from my user name :)
Image Credit » My photo