Separation anxiety & fear of strangers

Posted by AcePretzel
Sep 28, 2010
We found a pack of three big strays in our driveway three weeks ago.
We were able to place two of them with rescue organizations, but the third one has some issues, so we decided to foster him for a while and hopefully work them out.
It seems he did not come from a good home - he had a swingset chain around his neck, was very skinny and is extremely frightened of strangers (men the most).
He learned to trust us through the other two dogs but soon that turned into being clingy and having a case of separation anxiety. His behaviour ranges from whining at night when he gets to sleep in a crate next to one of our own three dogs, to extremely loud screaming and even breaking out of his wire crate when I have to leave with my own dogs, leaving him all alone.
My question is how I should react to his whining - should I give him more time to bond and learn to trust by allowing him in the bedroom with me or should I ignore him, so that he does not get used to being too needy?
I do my best to exercise him daily, 2x 40 min. walks, playtime with the other dogs and some attention just for him, but I also do work fulltime and have my own three dogs to take care of.
Any suggestions to help him?

I am also working on his fear of strangers, just the daily walks have helped a lot over the last two weeks that I have been working with him. Now I can pass by people at only a few feet distance with just a minor reaction while he used to freak out about people on the other side of the road. He also hestitantly sniffed on my neighbor's hand while the neighbor was petting one of my other dogs.
Any other tips for things I can do to raise his confidence would be great!

Thanks, Shiloh & his friends Ace, Pretzel & Liberty
Posted by KOPCaroline
Sep 29, 2010
Hey AcePretzel and co!

What a great thing to do, working to find all three strays new homes, and without huge behavioural problems! You're obviously a very warmhearted person!

As far as the seperation anxiety problems, the idea in training a dog out of such behaviour is to not reward any attention seeking behaviour. If he's being a so called "glue dog" (not leaving your side when you're home), or barking and whining to get attention, or anything else like that, you should ignore it all. Any response from you, good or bad, counts as attention, and you dont want to give him that in the situations you're describing. Once he stops whining/barking/whatever, and is calm, then praise him and pat him.

You can also help the situation by going through your routine of leaving, step by step, and desensitizing him to the process that way. For example, go through the acts of getting your things together, putting away the other dogs, getting your coat on (whatever is involved in your routine), but don't actually leave. Just repeat the steps throughout your time at home, randomly, so that he learns just because you're doing them doesn't mean your leaving, and becomes less anxious about the activity. When you do actually leave (and when you come home), try to make it as "low key" as possible - don't build him up with lots of "its ok" talk, and don't be overly excited about him when you come home. All these activities should help to curb his anxiety.

As far as being scared of strangers, its all about exposure. If you can get friends to walk past, like your neighbor did, and interact with your other dogs and then him if he's ok, that could help heaps. If you interested, training him in obedience classes is an excellent way to build confidence in dogs. Learning tricks and being rewarded for listening gives dogs a complex for "doing right", and leads to overall most self assured animals.

Awesome job on sticking with him, I hope he continues to improve and that you have a great time with him and eventually can find him a wonderful home
Posted by AcePretzel
Sep 29, 2010
Thank you very much KOPcaroline!
I was not sure if a formerly abused dog needs some special treatment, but it makes sense that rules are rules, no matter what.
He broke out of his crate again last night, he is a very strong dog.
I will buy a big set of locks for his crate and keep working with him and believe that he will make a great dog one day!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Sep 29, 2010
Hi AcePretzel,

That is such nice of you to work on the stray's behavioral problems. I don't know if you want to keep him for good or adopt him out later but those behaviors need to be corrected so that he can be a good companion dog.

I am just curious about his separation anxiety. Does he whine and bark only when he is left in the crate, or even when he is loose in your yard without you?

I thought he might just simply dislike being in his crate:confused:

The reason why I thought so is that he had been a stray and scared of people. I am coincidently fostering a long time stray dog named Dundee for the last 4 weeks. I don't crate him but he now sleeps in our utility room after sleeping in our backyard for 2 and a half weeks. I wanted to crate him but I wanted his transition as easy as possible.

<Stray (totally loose) >to <loose in backyard> to <loose in utility room> and <in a crate>...

I am maybe wrong but I just thought it's worth asking. Sorry if it wasn't the case.

Dundee's progress is posted in "Dog Lover's Corner" if you are interested.
Posted by kjd
Sep 30, 2010

If he is a big, strong dog that hated/feared his crate so much he broke out, do you really want to put stronger locks on? Might this not just make him that more frantic?

Also, are you sure the crate is big enough for him? Again, this is a wire crate. The wire crate might make him feel vulnerable to anyone, as he is exposed on all sides. Solid sides seem to be more comforting (you can always get a cover for the wire type).

Posted by n4d4
Oct 1, 2010
perhaps he was still anxious when he was put in the crate. Perhaps trying to introduce the crate as a restful peaceful place might help. E.g. start by when he is in the crate, makes sure he is relaxed first (dont let him walk out) then give him the command or let him out (this is just to make him think that just cause he is in there doesn't mean he is trapped there). Do this a few times with longer periods. Then try when he is relaxed in the crate, close the door a little but not lock it (make sure he is facing you when you do that, so he wont feel trapped). when he is relaxed again. open door let him out. eventually you want to work your way with time and end up closing and locking the crate and leave him a few minutes first then a longer period of time. perhaps put him in, pretend to go out, wait 5 minutes come back....I am not an experienced dog owner, but this is what I think might work to solve the crate problem
Posted by Kate-Jacobz
Nov 6, 2010
Hi AcePretzel,

May I suggest that you google 'How to Teach a Dog Crate Games'? You can use Crate Games to strengthen your dog's overall training and teach him to love his crate.[COLOR=black][FONT=Georgia] [/FONT][/COLOR]