Posted by btaylor
Apr 1, 2009
I adopted a 1 yo chocolate lab from the humane society last August. She was eager to please, but completely untrained. She learned easily and quickly. She sits, stays, lays down and comes every time I call her. I have an erratic schedule. I work 12 hour shifts 3 to 4 times a week, sometimes days and sometimes nights. I also have an 18 yo cat, and they "play" together well - chase each other around etc. I have an acre of land and had an underground electric fence installed and she has full run of the yard when I let her out. I hike small mountains with her 3-4 times a week - about 2 hours apiece. However, I have to crate whenever I am not around. She has completely destroyed my sofa and loveseat. They are held together with duct tape because I don't want to get new ones until she has broken this habit. She doesn't chew much else - none of my wooden furniture or my drum set. She might get a magazine or towel from the counter. I used to leave her at this kennel where the dogs play outlside in a fenced in area and sleep inside together, but I can't anymore. She chews the other dogs beds. I brought her crate with her, and she escaped from that ( I use the same crate at home and she does not escape) She's chewed up every soft item I left in the crate for her comfort, even after I doused them with multiple "chew stop" sprays. She sleeps with me on my King sized bed when I'm at home and doesn't chew anything. That's the only piece of furniture she is allowed up on, and she is very good about that. I can't leave her with friends or bring her anywhere with me for fear of her chewing up other's belongings. I have definitely established myself as alpha dog, and I've tried everything. I think she has some separation issues and I'm not sure what to do. Help!
Posted by KOPsBecks
Apr 8, 2009

Thanks for your post. Distruction of property like this can sometimes be caused by separation anxiety, this is especially likely in this case due to your long work shifts. I have psoted the protocol for fixing this anxiety below. give this a go and see if it helps.

[B]Protocol for dogs with separation anxiety[/B]
NOTE: This is a default protocol, aspects about this can be altered to suit your individual cases

The following steps are intended to reassure the dogs that they do not need to fear being left alone. Remember that each dog is an individual and some dogs will like a smaller space to be confined to to feel secure in, while other dogs may panic in this situation, if your dog gets in a panic if crated - DONT DO IT, you should not force the dog to be crated, this will make the situation worse.

Step 1:
Teach your dog to "sit" and "stay", and not only to obey these commands but to look happy and relaxed while obeying these commands. Get to the point where during your "stay" command you can clap, hum, walk slightly away from your dog and then back again. When they are really getting the hang of it you may like to introduce some acitivities like picking up your car keys while your dog is in the "stay" position, or leaving the room? See how you go, if at any point your dog loses its relaxed and happy attitude, tone down the exercise a little and work at a level were they are relaxed. It is important to practice this at least twice a day. the harder you work the better progress you will see. It is important that while training your dog not to be anxious that they are not left home alone, take your dog to work, or arrange a dog sitter while training if possible. If the dog must be left home alone put into a confined space...see next step!

Step 2:
Crate the dog, or isolate in a small room whenever you are not home. make sure the dog has everything the require to be comfortable in this room, eg. bedding, water, toys and a biscuit. Take your dogs collar of if they are to be crated, to ensure they don't hook themselves onto the crate. This room/crate is an area the dog can feel safe. Do not use this room/crate as a punishment area - EVER.
Make sure the room/crate is brightly lit and warm and leave a tv or radio on while you are away as company. Some dogs like to be able to see the outside world, so set up the crate in front of a window or isolate to a room where they can see out the window.

Step 3:
Try and minimise your time away from the house and if you have to be at work all day then get someone to come and visit the dog.

Step 4:
As mentioned briefly in Step 1 we need to desensitise the dog to the cues of your departure. These may include keys rattling, doors opening, lights being switched off, make-up being put on etc. To desensitise your dog to these cues, perform the appropriate action, but do not leave the house after it, soon your dog will learn not to associate this action with your leaving. If you work hard at identifying the things that make your dog anxious and work hard to desensitise your dog to these it is achievable relatively quickly.

Step 5:
Leave your house for very short intervals of time initially and work up to longer periods, aiming to have a nice relaxed dog when you return. If your dog is worked up and anxious do not make a big fuss over it. It is important that when you return you do so in a calm and relaxed manner.

Step 6:
Most of these dogs require some kind of anti-anxiety medication to improve, most of these have very minimal side effects and tremendous benefits. Try all the above steps first and assess your dog's progress, at this point it may be identified that your dog needs a little help in relaxing, in which case consult with your local veterinarian.

Good luck,