MAJOR separation anxiety

Posted by flyingsock
Jan 8, 2010
I have a real terror pooch named Teddy. He's not a puppy anymore, but he was never fully trained. He's part chihuahua and (we think) part dachshund, and is adorable and loves us. He's a major lap dog and his favorite thing is to be curled up on our lap under a blanket. What he is good at is only coming up on the couch when invited (about 99% of the time good at this), he'll sit on command most of the time, and he's okay at "stay." However he does have some nasty issues that I just don't know how to deal with.

For one, he gets overstimulated VERY easily. It's hard to train him to go on a walk. I can get him to sit when I pull out his leash/collar, but he's still way too excited. When I bend down to put it on him, he can't stay sitting, he's too hyper. Even though he's really quite smart, I tried to train him to be calm by standing up as soon as he does so that he doesn't get the collar but he's a persistent little devil. I was at it for a good 15 minutes before I gave up (I had to go to the post office you see). He's very strong-willed when he's anxious. He then pulls on the leash, though I'm just starting the "random walking" training, so that may yet be solved.

Worse yet is his horrible separation anxiety. We adopted him from the Humane Society from a family that didn't spend much time with him. We think that's where he developed his problems. He can't stand it when we're away. He'll urinate and defecate in the house, and he barks outside to the point where we got a note from the neighbors. Since we can't put him out and we can't keep him in, we had to lock him in his crate, which he now associates with us leaving. We literally have to use a leash clip to keep his crate closed because he's figured out how to open the latch. We've even tried closing him in his crate downstairs while we sleep upstairs to see if he'd get over his whining, but he whines and whines and whines and then starts yipping, which then turns into full-on barking. We live in a duplex, so we can't let him do that at 1:40 am. I don't know what to do about his separation anxiety, he's not happy, we're not happy...but we can't always have a dog-sitter and we can't always be with him. And he doesn't like toys, so he won't entertain himself.

Beyond that, he's TERRIFIED of my dad, and even bit him once (fear biting I'm positive). What do you do when he's afraid of a person, rather than an object? We see my dad once a week, so I can't exactly integrate him into Teddy's daily routine.
He also whines CONSTANTLY in the car when we're moving less than freeway speeds, or when we slow to a stop. We've been ignoring him. We ignored him for weeks and still he whines for apparently no reason. We can't leave him alone in the car for even a few minutes or he'll defecate.

In summary, I have a high-strung, strong-willed, constantly nervous dog with extreme separation anxiety who is incredibly needy...HELP ME!!!!
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Jan 9, 2010
Hi there

It seems like there are quite a few things that need to be sorted out with Teddy. You have done well so far with training him, and believe it or not, he will eventually become much more amicable if you persist with the training. He may still be quite a highly strung dog, if this is part of his nature, but you should be able to harness this energy so it is only expressed when appropriate, such as on walks or when playing games.

To begin with, you need to make sure that he is clear in your position as Alpha dog. There are a few things that you can incorporate into your daily routine to re-establish yourself as the alpha dog. These include insisting that you walk ahead of him through doorways and when walking on the leash, and feeding him after you have finished your own meal. You must ignore him if he comes up to you for attention, as he has to learn that attention from you is earned and not just given out whenever he wants it. Before you pat him or play with him, give him a command, such as 'sit-stay' so that he will see that your attention is a reward for good behavior. This will act as an incentive for the future. If you are playing a game with him, make sure it is you that chooses the toy and when you decide that you have had enough, take the toy away with you so that he realizes that it is you that controls playtime. When you first come home, you should greet the rest of the household first before saying hello to him, which will help him realize his place in the hierarchy. All these things can be incorporated relatively easily into your normal daily routine, although it will require some patience and perseverance from you. Soon he will settle into his new place in the hierarchy and should become a more relaxed dog, as he has been relieved of the stressful role of protector.

Irrational fear of someone or something is relatively common in dogs. As your dog was a rescue, it may be possible that he relates your father to something that happened in the past. You may have to be careful of him when he is in a state of frenzy though, as he may become so panicked that he will bite anything that comes in his way. It may be impossible to train the fear out of him as it is an instinctive thing, so the best way is to avoid the situation where he gets into such a panic. This can be done by helping him overcome his fears so that she realizes being outside is a good thing after all.

The first thing to do is to desensitize him to your dad. You can do this by having him spend as much time with Teddy, even if it is just once a week. Initially, have him feed Teddy his meals, if possible by hand. As the Alpha dog is the source of food for the pack, this will show Teddy that your dad is This will show Teddy that your dad is the Alpha dog, and is not only not a threat to him, but also his provider. It is also a good idea to have your father give Teddy commands, such as 'Sit-Stay.' Once he obeys, your dad should reward him lavishly and give him a treat. When he is more comfortable being around your father, he could start playing games with Teddy as well, although make sure you are rewarding him with this only when he is calm. You will have to take it slowly and be very patient but firm with him when getting him used to your father. The most important thing to remember is not to ever pat him or reassure him when he is showing this behavior with your dad, because if you tell him 'it's ok' when he is stressing out, he will think that you are agreeing with him and that there is something to be scared of. Therefore each time she is showing this behavior, you need to ignore her and walk away, not even making eye contact. Eventually she will come to see that you are not afraid of it and so there is no reason that she should be either. Dogs are very sensitive and will pick up anxiety easily so you must be sure to be completely calm when you are with him. At first you may find that Teddy can only spend a small amount of time with your dad before he starts getting anxious. Progressively build up the time he spends with him, but make sure you don't rush this, and that he is completely happy before going on to the next stage. Eventually, he will be able to enjoy the company of your dad without becoming stressed at all.

Separation anxiety is quite difficult to overcome but with patience and persistence on your behalf, the hard work will be rewarded in the end. It is quite common amongst dogs that are used to spending a lot of time with their owners, but does need to be addressed as soon as possible to prevent it from becoming a long term problem. By having your alpha dog status firmly established, he will feel safer and more secure knowing he is not in charge, and that you are there to protect him should fearful circumstances arise.

Firstly, you need to make it clear to your dog that the barking is unacceptable. When he starts barking, put him into a 'time-out zone' without speaking to him or even making eye contact. This should be a place separate from his normal sleeping area, so that he knows that he is only left there after misbehaving. Leave him there until he stops barking, and then go and praise him lavishly, and give him a treat for being quiet before letting him out. You may have to put up with quite a bit of barking at first, but he will soon learn that he is rewarded when he is silent. As this will probably be a problem in the middle of the night, it may be advisable to start doing this in the daytime. If he never does this when you are around, you may have to pretend to leave the house a few times so that you can catch him in the act. Make sure you are not making a big fuss of him when you leave, as this will only magnify the significance of being left alone in his eyes.

At the same time, when you do leave the house, it would be advisable to give him something to keep him occupied. Try a few different sorts of toys, such as soft toys, rubber ones or pigs' ears, as you may discover that he prefers some over others. You may also want to consider feeding him his meals in a 'kong ball' so he has to work for it, and it will distract him for a while. By doing this, you are side-tracking him whilst he is alone so that eventually he will come to realize that there is nothing to worry about even if he is left by himself in the house. Another thing you could also try is teaching him the 'sit-stay' command, getting him to do this in a relaxed fashion. By making him stay for longer and longer periods at a time, he will get used to staying in one spot, alert yet still relaxed. You should eventually be able to leave him in a separate room for a considerable length of time and return to find him still in the same spot. Don't forget to make a huge fuss of him when he obeys so that he will be very keen to do so again next time.

Keep ignoring him in the car, as he will soon realize that he won't get your attention by whining. Don't even make eye contact with him when he is misbehaving. Instead, the moment that he is quiet reward him with a treat and pay lots of attention to him. This gives him an incentive to work towards, and you will find that he will soon see that to get your attention, which is what he wants most, he will have to sit quietly. To stop him from defecating in the car, you may have to put him in his crate if possible, although this is only a temporary measure. As dogs are unlikely to defecate in the areas that they will have to spend time in, it is hoped that he can get used to being left alone in the car without having to go to the toilet. For a longer term solution, you will have to show him that being left alone in the car isn't the big deal that he thinks it is. You can do this by leaving him there for a few minutes at the start, making sure you praise him lots if he is still sitting quietly when you get back. Similar to leaving him alone in the house, it is important that you don't make a big fuss of him before you leave him, as this may magnify the significance of you leaving. Hopefully once he is confident for short periods of time, you will be able to leave him for longer. Take this process very slowly, only increasing the time you leave him there if you are sure he is completely confident about being alone in the car for the shorter periods of time. Although tedious, eventually you should be able to leave him in the car for a long time without any problems.

It is very important that you don't give him attention when he asks for it, but only when you feel that he has behaved himself, as this will make it all the more meaningful when you do praise him. By leaving him to last when it comes to greeting everyone when you come home, you will reinforce your alpha dog status in the pack as well as minimize the significance of you leaving the house.

When taking him for a walk, you are right in ignoring him and walking away if he starts getting excited. To get the message across to him, you will have to persists until he is sitting quietly the whole time whilst you are putting the leash on. You may have to wait until you are not in a hurry to go somewhere so that it can be done thoroughly without you feeling rushed.

Although it may seem like a huge amount of things to do, take the training slowly and persist with it, as you will be rewarded in the end with a much calmer dog, resulting in both of you being happier. I hope this helps and all the best with the training!
Posted by kerry-morling
Jan 4, 2013
Please help!!! I have 5 dogs - 11yr old female miniature pincer (from animal welfare aged 1), 11yr old male mid sized mixed breed terrier (from the pound aged 1), 8yr old female maltese (pet shop aged 8weeks), 19yr old female silkie terrier (from a neighbour who was moving and going to send her to the pound aged 16) and a 4? year old male jack russell cross maltese.
(was a stray who ran the streets for approx 10mths). I know, I shouldn't have taken in so many but I'm a sucker. The first 4 all got along fine (- the silky is the boss) but since taking in the 4yr old jack russell I have found myself in trouble. We gave Monte a home approx 2 years ago. He sounds very much like Teddy - posted by flying sock on Jan 9 2010. He is terrified/aggressive towards anyone who comes to our house, has bitten my husband on a few occasions when he tried to approach me and a courier on the ankle when he escaped through the house. I can control him at home when there are no visitors and he sees me as the alpha dog. However he also is very possessive of me and won't allow the others dogs to come to me when called without attacking them. I have started using a squirter of water when this happens to break it up, get his attention and then ban him to the back yard for 15mins - it seems to be working. Walking them is a nightmare - exactly what you said would happen - whenever they see their leashes they bark, yelp, jump, get overly excited and I can't get their attention, so they have been getting walked less and less which is making it all worse.
I KNOW I shouldn't have so many dogs but it was done with a kind heart if not with a cool head. Is there any advise you can offer me to bring calm back into all our lives - theirs as well as ours? They're all lovely dogs with their own special characters and I couldn't face giving any of them up. I read all of your newsletters which have already helped in various areas but some of it is difficult to accomplish with so many. Thank you for reading this message - any advise will be greatly appreciated.