hysterical pups

Posted by Tisha
Jan 9, 2008
I have a problem which I really don´t know how to deal with. In July two terrified, very thin puppies arrived at our front gates, presumably dumped.
We rekoned they were about 6 months old, both bitches, very pretty looking hunting dog types.We already had four other dogs but as we have plenty of space for them to run and play, it wasn´t a problem taking two more in. We called them Susie and Sam. Sam was so afraid of men and tall people that she would wee everytime my husband approached her.

However, now they are both happy and healthy dogs and with the help of the Sit, Stay and Fetch ebook are training up very nicely. Except for one thing. They cannot be left shut up anywhere. They are fine if they are in a room with me, but the moment I have to leave them, even if the other dogs are with them, they completely freak out and hurl themselves at doors and windows. Most of the time they don´t have to be shut in, but obviously there are occasions when it is necessary. I have tried just leaving for a short time and then coming in and not taking any notice of them, but nothing seem to improve things. They have their toys to distract them, but still they go mad. They are both fine when we leave them to go to bed at night, but at any other time its just chaos.

Anyone got any suggestions??? :confused:
Posted by Todd
Jan 9, 2008
Hi there Tisha

This to me definately sounds like a case of separation anxiety. This is a common problem in rescued dogs as they have become so attached to you. This problem takes a lot of time and effort to fix. You will have days where you think you are having progress and then others where you don't.
But keep up the training as it does work and the dogs that come out from it are wonderful, happy, obedient and loving dogs.

The goal that we are aiming for is to reduce your there anxiety through conditioning them to associate being left alone and outdoors as a good thing. Here are a few tips and techniques that you may find useful.

No.1 Arrivals and departures

Keep your arrivals and departures very low key. Try leaving them alone for at least 15 minutes when you come home. Just ignore Sam and Susie. If your dogs calm down then show them some attention.

No.2 Do not respond

It is important that you do not respond to them when they start acting up. This is inadvertently rewarding your dog for poor behavior and will not help. If your dogs start barking or whining then ignore it, no matter how difficult that may be. Do not even make eye contact.

No.3 Attention

Only give them attention when they are lying down or relaxed and not actively seeking attention (by barking for example). Do this by calling them over and making them sit before petting, etc.

No.4 Contrast

They are both probably having difficulty accepting that sometimes they are going to get all the attention and other times none (like when you are at work). You can help this problem by ignoring your dog for 6 hours a day on the weekends. You can feed your dog but that's it. The idea is that your dog will think "What's the big deal when my owners are gone, even when they are home, they still ignore me".

No.5 Exercise

30 minutes before you leave home walk them both for 15 minutes at a fast pace. If your dogs are tired then it will have less energy to be a nuisance with.

No.6 Clothing

Try giving your dogs something of yours with your scent on it. This may allay its fears when you are not with it.

No.7 Sit-stay and down-stay

Practice these exercises in particular as outlined in the SitStayFetch book. These exercises require your dog to respond to you for longer and longer periods of time, so should be good for its discipline. Once you have your dog staying for 10 minutes or so, then try moving out of its sight for a brief period of time.

Review the "Secrets to becoming the alpha dog" bonus book, this is vital for you. It will help immensely with getting your dog to respond to you in a variety of situations, such as when you are walking it.
A method that is often very successful is to list all the things that trigger the dogs off in the morning. This may range from something simple like picking up the keys, to the shower, the cereal box or the clothes that you wear.
Put the list in order of what they respond the least to and what they respond the most to. Eg from something that may get them pacing or a small whimper, through to something that makes them howl and get very anxious.

The trick is to use these triggers to desensitize his behaviour.
Use the lowest trigger item eg the keys first. If it is keys pick them up, carry them around the house and then put them down. When you first pick them up make Sam and Susie sit and relax. Wait until you see their ears dip a little, nose to drop, tail to stop wagging and their breathing to slow down. The second they relaxe reward them with attention and petting. Rewarding their relaxation is very important.

Use the first stimulus a few times a day. When they got used to being relaxed with the first item use the next trigger up on the list. In this way you move towards the more anxious triggers. In this way you will desensitize both dogs.
Make sure you use the triggers in a way that will not make the dog more anxious. It will take time to do this.

You may also want to set up a radio on a time trigger. Get the radio to come on 10 minutes before you come home. Soon the dog will relate the radio to you coming home. As they do this you can extend the time the radio is on, which can help calm them down.

If the problem continues to worsen you can always get some advice from your vet on other medications. Medication is often required in these situations to just calm them down a little to help get them training started.
There are natural options such as rescue remedy or D.A.P that can help a lot so ask you vet about these to help.

Be patient and consistent with what you are doing and do not flood Sam and Susie with things that will make their anxiety worse. Good luck and please let me know of any success you have

Kind regards
Todd Field
Posted by Tisha
Jan 13, 2008
Thanks a lot, Todd for all the great advice....I shall keep you posted on our progress. I am actually with them all day and only need to shut them up when, for instance, the farrier comes to shoe my horses. But I do agree, ignoring them is definitely the way to go!