Boxer with seperation anxiety

Posted by peachesandmoose
Sep 8, 2009
I recently adopted a boxer from a rescue. He had been at the shelter for a month before the rescue pulled him out. He is very sweet and tries to please. When I leave for work in the morning I have to put him in a kennel because he pretty much freaks out and gets on every counter, table, or surface he can to look out the windows to try to find me. He has torn my blinds down and cleared off my tables.

So needless to say he is kennel bound while I am gone. While in his kennel he works himself into a huge tizzy. He whines a bit, and he chews at the door and tries everything he can to get out. He salivates so much that I have to put towels under and around the kennel to soak up the spit. When I get home at lunch he is panting and so tired from his morning workout. I feel bad about leaving him in the kennel but I cannot be fearful to come home and see the new destruction.

I put a blanket in his kennel and toys and treats but he could care less, all he wants to do is get out of the kennel.

Any ideas as to how I can help him either get used to the kennel or not worry so much when I leave?

Posted by kjd
Sep 8, 2009

Did you introduce him to the crate before locking him in? One thing you might try is moving the crate to your bedroom at night and have him sleep in it. Next to your bed where you can put your hand down for him to lick. Better to try when you don't have to work the next day as you may not get much sleep the first night. (This is not the best way to introduce a dog to the crate but you seem to need him in there NOW and I think this might be a fast way to get him to see it is a good thing.) Also, feed him in the crate for now. Don't lock the door -- just put the dish in. In the beginning, you may have to put it at the edge, so he can eat with just his head in; gradually move it further in, so he has to get inside to eat.

Good luck,
Posted by KOPsarah
Sep 9, 2009
hi peachesandmoose and thanks for your post,

getting your dog used to its crate will certainly help. You can also try giving rescue remedy or using a DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) disperser available from your local vet to help reduce your dogs stress. Along with this you can help your dog with its separation anxiety by changing a few little things. This will help your dog adjust and realize that it doesn't need to panic when you leave as you will be back.

[B]Information on Separation Anxiety[/B]
Separation anxiety is an intense fear or dislike of separation (usually from one family member in particular to whom they have become very attached), which often manifests itself as destructive behavior such as chewing, digging, barking, etc while they are apart.

You may find separation anxiety easier to understand if you bear in mind the fact that dogs are pack animals - they’re social by nature. It’s normal for dogs to form intense emotional bonds with their pack. It is normal for a dog to miss bonded pack members when they are away, however some dogs find it exceptionally difficult and these are the ones that develop separation anxiety.

Typical problem behaviors include inappropriate urination or defecation, destruction, excessive barking and whining, hyperactive behaviors like tail-chasing, compulsive behaviors like repetitive licking or self-mutilation (for example, pulling out fur, gnawing at nails and skin), and depression, signified by withdrawal and lethargy.

Here are some guidelines that use training to encourage greater independence.
Training involves a combination of methods, including:

1) desensitizing your departure cues
2) toning down your departures and arrivals
3) staging a series of absences, and
4) establishing a routine

Desensitize Departure Cues
Your anxious dog will sense any act or routine you initiate as you prepare to leave. Putting on shoes and picking up keys are the most common examples. These actions are like triggers for your dog’s uneasiness. You can easily break that association. Simply go through the motions of putting on your shoes, picking up keys (or whatever it is that clues in your dog to your departure) then don’t actually leave. Repeat this act until your actions no longer mean ‘owner leaving’. When your dog stays calm – the desensitizing is complete.

Tone down arrivals and departures
If you give your dog a wildly enthusiastic welcome every time you walk in the door you send the message that, yes, this is a HUGE deal. Extra happy returns will not cure separation anxiety; rather they will make it worse. Resist the urge. Keep things brief and casual. Even ignore your overexcited pet for a few minutes until they regain some degree of composure. Similarly when leaving the house don’t make a big fuss of the dog because you feel guilty leaving. Try giving the dog something it will enjoy such as a toy or chew and then leave calmly without paying the dog much attention.

Stage Exits

You want your dog to be alone and comfortable without you, so stage an exit. Practice leaving him confined to another room in your house for a few minutes while you’re at home - then gradually make your absences longer.

Try this: Walk out, but don’t leave – stay standing just outside the door, listening. If you hear whining, crying, or scratching, gently reprimand. This addresses the behavior right on the spot and helps them see that you don’t really vanish when you walk out the door.

Finally, time is on your side. Dogs will learn that you’re always coming back whether you’re leaving them in the car for a few minutes, or in the house for an afternoon. They will grow in confidence as they grow in maturity.

Establish a routine
If possible try to establish a basic routine for the dog to help reduce its anxiety. This will be especially important in your rescue dog as it will not be able to predict whether or not you will leave it forever or just for ten minutes. Have a time of the day for exercise, feeding, playing together and bed time and try to keep roughly to these times. This will help your anxious dog predict when events important to it will happen and therefore reduce the fear that they may not. Exercise before you leave each day will also help reduce all of that anxious energy.

Remember the basics
Remember the basics of keeping your dog happy while your out:
•Physical challenges – as with almost all behavior problems lots of exercise (before you go) will help reduce the symptoms.
•Mental challenges – dogs that don’t have much to keep them occupied while your away are more likely to get anxious about being alone. At this point your dog is not responding to some of these but as it becomes more used to being at home alone these things will become important. Try the usual chews, food balls and toys to keep them busy. They like company too. If they’re left inside, put the radio on quietly or play soothing music.
•Visits – if you work long hours, arrange short visits from friends. (The great thing about having a very sweet and very obedient dog is that everyone WANTS to see them). Alternatively hire a dog walker or arrange play dates with friend’s dogs.

I hope this helps and let me know how you get on. Thank you for rescuing a dog, I am sure you will both be able to enjoy each other a lot more soon.
Posted by peachesandmoose
Sep 9, 2009
Thank you for your insight. I have tried a couple of the items that you mentioned and the other ones I have not tried yet we cetainly will. Thank you again for your help!
Posted by peachesandmoose
Sep 9, 2009
he used to sleep in it at night without any issues but he has stopped doing that. I think that I will have to try that again. The odd thing is that he will walk into it when it is open and grab a toy or check it out when I am straigtening it up but as soon as he is in it and the door closes, he starts drewling and digging at the door, which I had to reinforce and add some clasps so that he couldnt open it. Its like a puzzel, just trying to figure out what works for the little guy. Thanks again for your help!
Posted by LetsPlay
Sep 9, 2009
Hi there,

dogs often develop separation anxiety if they don't view their owner as their leader.
Naturally dogs live in packs. Every pack has a leader or a couple of leaders (male and female). The leader of the pack is responsible for the well being of the rest of the pack. The leader protects, provides food etc.
Naturally most dogs want to be the leader, however it is important to relaize that a dog that lives with humans can't be the leader. A dog can't go to the supermarket and organize food, a dog can't protect his family from all the things that happen every day. A dog that is allowed to be the leader is a stressed dog. When the postman comes some dogs go crazy, it could be an intruder, therefore they need to protect the family.
You, of course know that the mailman isn't a threat, so that clearly shows that you are much more capable of being in charge. You know how the human world functions.
Dogs that are stressed will show all or some of the behavioral problems that KOPSarah mentioned (barking, digging, licking etc)
Separation anxiety is also very common.
The dog thinks he has to take care of you, but he doesn't know where you are. Imagine someone gave you their baby and said that you have to guard it with your own live. Next thing you know they lock you in a cage and you don't even know where the baby is. Of course you would try everything in the world to get out of that cage and find the baby to make sure it's safe.

This is the situation your dog find himself in. He is desperate to get out and protect you.

The best thing you can do for your dog is to free him from having to be the leader.

Some people think they are the leader, because their dogs sits and stays etc when told to do so. Dogs like to please, so that doesn't indicate that you are actually the leader.

You will have to establish yourself as the leader.
Always eat before and in full view of your dog. If you have different meal times eat a biscuit or piece of toast before you feed your dog.
Always walk through doorways first, always be the first to leave the house, then the dog. Always determine which way you walk out the front gate when going for a walk. If your dog wants to go left, make an effort to go the other way (even if you turn around after 10 meters and then go left).
When you play with your dog and toys make sure you stop the game, take the toy away and leave the dog before he gets bored. You are in charge of all the good things. Don't let your dog sleep or sit higher than you - dogs shouldn't be allowed on beds and sofas. Whenever someone comes to visit make your dog sit and wait. If he barks acknowledge that he warned you of the danger and then take control of the situation. Just say "It's okay" in a matter of fact, calm voice. Then go to the door. Never let your dog greet visitors first.
Don't let your dog interact with other dogs while he is walking on the leash. Just keep walking and ignore the other dog.
Give him plenty of opportunity to interact with other dogs when he is off leash, for example at a dog park.
Ignore him for a while whenever you reunite. If he was out in the garden and comes back in, ignore him, when you had a shower and see him again, ignore him. Never pat him if he approaches you, or have eye-contact or talk to him. Only ever do it if you initiate the contact.
This might seem harsh, but it will help him to get the message quicker.
Once he knows you are the leader all the stress in the world will be removed from him.
He will be able to just sleep in your garden/house while you are away, knowing that you will take care of him and there is nothing to worry about.

The more you reinforce your status now, the easier it will be in the long run.
Once he knows it you can interact a bit more freely with him, but make sure he doesn't slip back into his old habits.

The latest addition to our family is now 8 months old and she is very relaxed and calm. She can have the run of the whole house, including the kitchen with the tempting rubbish bin, as well as the garden and she won't destroy anything. It took some effort to get her to that point, but it is so worth it.
I know that some people say that dogs prefer to be in smaller spaces when left alone as it gives them added security, but you might just have to find out what works best for you and your boxer. Some dogs love to sleep in cars, as they are small and smell of the owner. Perhaps you could also try to take your dog to work a few days a week to break up the long days?

Anyway, best of luck and let us know how you get on.
Posted by peachesandmoose
Sep 10, 2009
I have been working on the tactics you suggested and my dog seems to be learning quickly. He waits for me to go out the door and looks to me for direction. But we are still having the issue while being in the kennel. He will sleep in the kennel when the door is open but as soon as the door closes he goes nuts and drewls and digs at the door. Any other things I should be trying, or just continue to keep working in the things you mentioned above?
Thank you.
Posted by KOPsarah
Sep 13, 2009
Hi again,
Have you tried attaching a run or similar to the kennel to give your dog a little more space? He may find this less stressful.
Posted by peachesandmoose
Sep 14, 2009
Initially I had him in a larger kennel (one that was for a great dane) and he would throw himself around violently and would move the kennel around about a foot in all directions. So then I tried putting him in the smaller kennel which he cannot trow himself around in, but he still drewls and digs at the door. We will continue to try to work through this. Thank you for all your help.