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Old 06-29-2010, 10:45 AM
Location: Charlotte, NC
533 posts, read 1,681,451 times
Reputation: 247


We adopted a puppy from a rescue a little over a week ago. He's around 3-4 months and a australian shephard/german shephard mix. He's super sweet, smart, pretty mellow. He's doing great with training and such, but he has developed major separation anxiety with me. I am off for the summer (work in a school) so I spend my days with him and leave occasionally for the gym, errands, etc. But he's started to really freak out after I leave. He does fine in his crate at night and occasionally I put him in there while I am home (am trying to do that more to help with this issue) but when I leave and he's in there alone he pants heavily, drools everywhere, tries to chew through the metal, gets so worked up he pukes, etc. Very stressed! When not in the crate he follows me from room to room (even if he's sleeping, he'll get up and follow me) and he completely prefers me to my boyfriend to the point where he didn't even want to eat his dinner bc my boyfriend served it and not me!

What I am already doing: Walks in the AM and PM for exercise, regular food schedule, I ignore him a little before and after I get home, leave a shirt with my scent, frozen kong with yogurt/PB in it, 2 chew toys, put bitter apple spray on the crate bars to prevent chewing (does nothing), leave classical music on, and he's only in there 1-2 hours while I am out. None of that seems to help 1 bit! He's even escaped once and today when I got home he had one latch open. Sigh.

I am going to try the "Nothing Is Free" philosophy with him from now on, try keeping him in the crate with me here for practice some, and do practice with me leaving and coming back right away and keep doing so at longer lengths. What else can I do?!?!? I go back to work the first week in Aug, so we really have to break him of this soon.

Lastly, I called my vet for advice and he recommended Xanax. He's the same vet that the rescue uses, so he is familiar with rescues, etc, but I don't know. He's already fairly lazy and mellow, just not when I leave. He recommended it for about a month (weaning him off in the end) until he understands that I will always come back. What do you think about using Xanax for this issue?

This has been such a trying process and it really breaks my heart to know he gets SO upset. I look forward to your responses!
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Old 06-29-2010, 04:13 PM
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Hmm I've not heard of Xanax for dogs but I guess it could? I use Rescue Remedy for my pup with separation anxiety, you can get it online or at health food stores. I think I would try that first, it really calms my dog down. It's a natural herbal stress reliever.
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Old 06-29-2010, 04:23 PM
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Some pet stores now carry Rescue Remedy too. I agree it might help. Does he like to go into the crate?

You can also do a search on Separation anxiety
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Old 06-29-2010, 04:27 PM
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We use Xanax to treat one of our dogs fear of fireworks. Mellows him out without knocking him out. Problem is that it doesn't work well on all dogs. My sister's GSD also has issues with fireworks. She got Xanax from her vet at my recommendation and it didn't faze her dog!

For separation anxiety, I'd try other methods of overcoming it first. I suggest you contact a behavourist to work on it.
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Old 06-29-2010, 05:51 PM
Location: Massachusetts
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Well, I would try a bunch of things before you resort to Xanax.

Honestly, his behavior sounds pretty typical of a GSD. I have had my GSD since puppydom and she rarely left me out of her sight as a pup. She has mellowed out now (she is nine) but she is still wicked loyal. She, too, follows me from room to room. Take it as a compliment: this puppy loves you (: and this is very typical of the breed. They are extremely loyal and tend to bond to one person.

I would try taking him with you as much as possible. I have no idea how pet-friendly NC is but a lot of places will allow pets in stores, etc. The more time you spend with him as a puppy, the more secure and less anxious he will feel as he matures.

Also, I would try just leaving him not crated when you leave. I know that is worrisome with a puppy, so maybe put him in a room in which you know he will not get into trouble.

I do like that the vet is conservative with his/her approach--the weaning idea is not half bad. But, honestly, it sounds as if he doesn't like his crate when you are not there. I have never crated my GSD b/c she needs to wander when I am not home, especially of there is a thunderstorm and feels the need to climb in the bathtub (; GSDs and GSD mixes are very sensitive. He may just need to not be crated when you leave to feel safe (I know that sounds weird but they broke the mold when they made these dogs).
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Old 06-29-2010, 06:39 PM
Location: Charlotte, NC
533 posts, read 1,681,451 times
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We did consider getting a gate for the kitchen and leaving him in there when we are out, but his symptoms are straight out separation anxiety and chances are he will tear up the kitchen just as he tries to do to his crate. Still, we may try this route and "fake leave" several times to see if he can indeed be trusted in the kitchen. This was our plan for when I go back to work in August so he won't be crated too long, we may have to bump up the schedule! He does well in his crate at night and once he's housetrained 100%he won't be crated at night but rather sleep on his dog bed.

I was told he was Australian Shephard mix by the rescue, but looking at him I think he's more German Shephard than Aussie and I never knew how much they bond to one person. I feel bad for my BF because most of the time our pup can't be bothered with him. It doesn't help that he had to work a lot more than normal since we got him, so they haven't had enough time to bond.

Are German Shephards particularly lazy? Our pup is very mellow (except when crated alone, heh) and he doesn't really "play" like other puppies. Just chews his toys. Isn't interested in fetch, chasing balls, etc. I tried to teach him to chase a ball today, running the length of our house back and forth, I must have looked rediculous and he really couldn't be bothered lol.

I do try to take him somewhere every day so he can get used to car rides, people, animals, etc. We are hoping to try a dog park this weekend as he really enjoys other dogs.

Thanks for the advice all! If anyone has anything else to add, I'd love to hear it.

Last edited by lacey3eb; 06-29-2010 at 06:40 PM.. Reason: grr, tried to post a pic but I guess I'm not that savvy!
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Old 06-30-2010, 12:18 AM
Location: Los Angeles, CA
126 posts, read 570,145 times
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Your new rescue probably has shelter shock. We were in the same boat as you two months ago. We rescued a 2-3 y/o female boxer in April 2010. She had severe separation anxiety. The amount of destruction she could wreak in the time it took us to walk around the block was STAGGERING. Hundreds of dollars worth. It was so bad we almost gave her back to the rescue.

We did all the stuff you're doing now. Long walks, kongs, shirts, fake leaving, etc. In the meantime, we got her crate trained and when we had to leave her at home, we put her in the crate. She hated it, and drooled and bit the metal, etc. but we knew that as long as she was in the crate she was relatively safe (i.e., she couldn't throw herself against the windows like she was doing when she was loose in the house alone). If we had to leave home for more than a couple hours, she went to day care, which was expensive but better for her mental health and ours.

So, we just kind of went on with our lives. We trained her and walked her daily. We rarely went out, explaining to our friends that our dog had emotional problems. And I'm not exactly sure what happened, but all of a sudden her separation anxiety has really scaled back. I noticed it about three weeks ago, when I went from the living room into the backyard and she decided not to follow me. When I came back into the house, she was asleep on her blanket! So I went out the front door. Came back five minutes later, and while she had her eyes open, she was still lying on her blanket! It really was a major breakthrough. We also noticed other changes in her behavior. She started playing with toys, fetching, catching bubbles. In the car she started to stick her nose out the window, then her whole head. You know, normal dog stuff. None of which she did in the first four or five weeks she was with us. A couple weeks ago she started to lie down on her back when we woke up in the morning and before walks -- she would NEVER willingly go into a submissive position before that. She is doing all sorts of tricks now for treats. She is a different dog now that she has relaxed and is feeling secure with us.

Bottom line, we can leave her in the back yard now for the duration of the work day. Our neighbor reports that she hears no barking or whining. There are no new scratch marks on the back door. No plants are dug up. No holes in the grass. (I'm tempted to try leaving her inside, but not just yet.) I don't worry about her at all anymore when I'm at work.

Bottom line, it is going to take a couple months for you to know if your rescue truly has a severe SA issue. It may go away. Other rescue owners have told me their experiences were similar to mine. In the meantime, you need some short term solutions. Day care, babysitter (maybe a very generous, retired family member as in our case). We were tempted to go with the anti-anxiety meds for a while. The whole situation is very stressful, as you know. We felt ambushed by the rescue people and imprisoned by the dog. We were not informed -- and to be fair we had not informed ourselves -- of the initial difficulties owners face when rescuing a dog. In our case, it was separation anxiety, intestinal parasites, and undisclosed health issues. But stay strong. I don't think you need to resort to the meds yet. Give your dog a chance to adjust. The next couple months are going to be difficult but in the end it hopefully will be as rewarding as it has been for us.
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Old 06-30-2010, 12:36 AM
Location: Los Angeles, CA
126 posts, read 570,145 times
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Originally Posted by Domsey View Post
Bottom line
one too many "bottom lines" in that post but I am really excited by my SA breakthroughs!
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Old 06-30-2010, 06:13 AM
Location: Charlotte, NC
533 posts, read 1,681,451 times
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Domsey, so glad you had a happy ending with your pup and this issue! Unfortunately, we don't have anyone to pet sit for us and doggy daycare here runs $300/month which just isn't in the budget. I can work with him on this for the next month, but once August hits I will be back at work and so we need a breakthrough by then. Maybe the meds will help, I just hope they don't hinder the process. The timing of him being weened off coincides with me going back to work, so that might have to be extented. We also may try the kitchen instead of the crate, but we're so scared that he will do damage to the cabinets and walls. I think I need a Xanax just thinking about it...sigh.
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Old 06-30-2010, 07:07 AM
1,688 posts, read 7,252,951 times
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Originally Posted by lacey3eb View Post
We also may try the kitchen instead of the crate, but we're so scared that he will do damage to the cabinets and walls
Not a good idea - it's sort of like "asking for trouble". There's the damage (and do not underestimate the damage a pup can do), the financial implication of the damage, but most importantly there's the different interpretation of "space" that canines have. A larger space is just a scarier place.

Whether or not you go the anti-anxiety medication route is up to you - do your research first and foremost. However, and most importantly, if you do decide to use the meds, then you really must also use the time the dog is on the medication to train the dog. That is what the meds are for - ie, to decrease the anxiety felt to a level that leaves the dog trainable. They are not a cure, they're just a means to an end.
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