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Sally G.
Sally G., Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 9573
Experience:  Service /assistance dog trainer,Therapy dog evaluator and trainer, AKC evaluator, pet first aide and member of PAS Animal Response Team.
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I am at my wits end, and have no idea what to do. My wife

Customer Question

I am at my wits end, and have no idea what to do.
My wife and I are recently married, 8 months, and shes brought with her a beagle of 11 years, I've knows him for 6 of those years.
This dog has huge separation anxiety, and major behavioral issues. He freaks out when she leaves, hes glued to her hip, honestly hes never more than one foot away from her at any time. When she leaves, he howls, and moans, and whines like there's no tomorrow until she comes back. Recently, he has started pooping and peeing in his room while shes away. He barks at the door when someone comes, and greets them first. He runs up the stairs first, hes in and out of the door first, he begs for attention. Everything I know about dogs, he does it wrong, like hes the alpha dog.
I have tried to correct some of these problems. Make him wait to be invited in and out of the house. Tried to get him to stop howling in the house (he can howl all he wants to outside, hes a dog right?). Made him sit for treats. Im trying to make him a better dog. I cant even work on his separation anxiety, she wont let me. She insists on drugging him up, which doesnt work half the time, and its just pathetic, he doesnt need drugs.
She blames me. Its all my fault and I am mean to him for doing this. He called her mother to pick him up and take him away the other day because when I got home from work, he had pooped and peed all over the carpet and I was really really upset over it. Her mother now wont bring him back because she is fearful for his happiness.
I need help, am I misunderstanding something? Am I doing something wrong? I need help. I cant tell you how much I would pay for someone to intervene and either call me out for being completely insane, or remedying the situation. I love my wife and want her to be happy, but without her dog, and her blaming me for it, shes on the verge of filing for divorce.
Not sure if this was the appropriate forum, but its a shot. Thanks.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Sally G. replied 2 years ago.
Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I have been in the dog field for 25 years. I am a Therapy Dog & AKC Evaluator/trainer/ specializing in behavior. It will be my pleasure to help you today.
the site shows you as having gone offline. I will try to answer your question with the information you have given. Please know that at any time you may come back and ask me to explain anything you do not understand. Please rate my service before you leave, rating will not prevent you from coming back and asking me to explain something:)
There are specific steps to take for separation anxiety and this should be done by both parties so the dog is able to be with you when she is away.
Most SA dogs will begin to take to another only after a few days to a week when the person they desire has left. Obviously no warm blooded animal can be happy in its life with such anxieties, which should be pointed out to your wife.
Daily training in obedience in a positive method should be done by both of you, and done in short sessions but throughout the day as your schedule allows. I would suggest clicker training. Start off doing the training together so the dog sees the two of you as one. Then gradually begin to do it individually while one is in a different room the other trains. This is not to teach the dog obedience, this is to build confidence and a bond between you and the dog. Training positively helps a dog to succeed and the more they can succeed the more powerful and self confident they feel. If you get bored with commands then Google dog tricks and teach the dog tricks. You always want the dog to succeed in what you ask so positive training is a must.
One concern is that the dog may be lumping you into the group of former hunters so this is another reason for you to be involved in a positive way.
What you are doing now, making the dog wait before entering , sit for treat is actually part of a learn to earn program and not as much for SA.
I am going to post my article on dealing with SA below which will give you many suggestions to try. Some will be training, and some will be over the counter calming items that we use to help the dog.
Separation Anxiety
Copyright: Sally G
Generally dogs with SA lack self esteem and you can help to build self esteem through daily positive obedience training and the more short sessions you can do in a day the better. Through that training you want to get a good ‘down stay’, meaning the dog should not get up until a release command is given. This means you need to start training this at a close distance to the dog just a few feet at first and try to give a release command before the has time to get up as this allows the to succeed in what you have asked. The goal is to eventually be able to put the in a down stay while you move out of site. This will start the process of the dog learning to be alone. Continue training throughout the dog’s life to keep from backslides. This does not mean it has to be formal, like every day at 2:30, it means to ask for a command anytime you are with the dog and be sure the dog can succeed at giving it to you for praise or a treat. This is all to build self confidence.
I would also invest in some mind stimulating toys such as the talk to me treat ball, ( this is a ball that you can hide treats in and as the dog rolls it a recording of your voice is played) the Kong stuffed with cream cheese and frozen, the buster cube where kibble or treats are placed inside, and dog puzzles. This is all to keep her mind occupied while you are away from home. I have also found success in filling a large Gatorade bottle with the daily kibble as it lasts a long time as they try to get the food out.
You will have to change your routine a bit so the dog never really knows if you are coming or going. I would start this training on a weekend or at a time you don’t have work or any appointments and I would do it all day long. What you are going do is change your behavior which the dog has learned means you are about to leave. Whatever your routine entails prior to you normally leaving are things you want to change. This means everything from taking that morning shower before work to picking up your keys and leaving the house.
Some find it helpful to make a list of things they normally do before leaving because humans are so automated we do things that we don’t even realize, but the dog picks them up as cues.
You want to do these things all throughout the day preferable for a couple of days in a row, but never really leave the home for hours at a time.
So pick your keys up, jiggle them a little and put them down again , put your coat on walk around the house a bit and take it off, get dressed for the day then get redressed for bed. If you take a shower in the morning each day change that to a night time shower and interchange them on days you are home or away.
Do not give good byes or hellos. Do not acknowledge the dog for at least 15 minutes before you leave and after coming home. Soft talk and acknowledgement of a dog that is acting nervous is actually rewarding to that dog. When you think about training a dog, we ask for something from them, they do it, we praise them. When it comes to doggie habits, they paw our arm and we pet them, so it works because the reinforcement of petting was immediate. When you acknowledge a scared dog with petting or soft talk it is actually a reward and so the behavior continues and gets worse over time.
When training in commands to succeed I find it helpful to use the clicker (which can be found in any pet store) as it is used as a marker over the person’s voice. Sometimes when humans train strictly with their voice , their frustration comes out and the dog hears that, which then makes the dog more nervous. So clicker training is simply giving the dog a command and waiting for the dog to complete that command, they use the clicker as a market that tell the dog they did the right thing then praise & reward. Sometimes the clicker noise frightens a dog so in that instance you will want to use your voice as the marker but keep it to one word such as “Yes.” There are also clickers that make a louder sound and some that are softer so play around and see if one will work for your dog.
The clicker costs about 3 dollars in a pet store and if you cannot find a treat bag for your belt use an old fanny pack. Not quite as stylish but it works For reward I prefer very small soft treats so there is nothing that can crumble to the ground when chewed. When items like biscuits are used and the fall out of the dog’s mouth to the floor it takes the dog’s attention off of you.
Items you may want to try along with training: a thunder/anxiety wrap, a DAP diffuser, ( I have heard through customers that the diffuser works better in home situations than the collar) You may want to try over the counter Melatonin but always consult your vet before using any over the counter meds. I usually use this for dogs with anxiety to noise and separation. There are also a CD’s out called Through A Dogs Ear found on Amazon that I have found helpful to my own dogs in having them rest more peaceably.
Keep in mind that a dog with a case of separation anxiety is normally attached to the owner so getting another dog to help with separation anxiety may not help the dog at all, but cause you more headaches. However I also say “never say never” especially if you have adopted an older dog because you may not know if that dog was actually attached to another animal before it came to live with you so it would not do any harm to having a family member or friend’s dog stay with your dog for a couple of days to see if it helps.
Below are sites to aid you in finding what I have mentioned above .
video’s to see how clicker training is done, scroll down to videos
More Separation Anxiety tips
Melatonin found in drug stores by vitamins
DAP Diffuser
Through a dogs ear
Anxiety wrap
mind stimulating toys
talk to me treat ball
Kong these work great when stuffed with cream cheese and frozen
Buster cube
Dog Puzzles. If you just type in dog puzzles on amazon you will come to a page full. I just happened to pick this one . PetCo also carries dog puzzles.
More Separation Anxiety tips
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I mean sure this is great for anxiety. But am I doing something wrong? Am I abusing this dog? What am I doing wrong that's making him so miserable?
Expert:  Sally G. replied 2 years ago.
You are not doing anything wrong. Dogs that have separation anxiety usually have it for one person. I had a Cocker Spaniel that had this for me and even though the whole family was home, he only wanted me. I also have babysat for dogs who only look for their owners, no one else will do and if they go on a long vacation 2 weeks or more , only then will the dog suddenly start warming up to me, but as soon as the owner gets back, the dog will not come near me for comfort or anything else.
It is the way they are hard wired in the brain. Much like people that have anxieties, it does not mean they don't like other people, it only means they trust only a certain few.
With dogs trust is gained through training because it shows the owner as being consistent, a dog cannot trust those that they may feel is inconsistent.
In the case of my Cocker Spaniel, because no one wanted to work with him in the family, he did not go to anyone until he became senile. That's a long time to put up with howling:)
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
She says he is fine at her mothers house, he doesn't have panic attacks. She works from home. Why wouldn't he be anxious there?
Expert:  Sally G. replied 2 years ago.
No, not necessarily. When a fearful dog, or a dog with SA is taken out of the element where it most feels the anxiety, then it acts totally different. What I would want to do is observe the dog in this other element to see if it is actually fine, or still on edge, just not acting out as it does when home. Home would be the normal comfort zone for the dog because of the owner being there with it.
It would be like dropping the dog off to a vet office and leaving, you will see a totally different dog as they are not sure how to act.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
You said fearful. Is he scared of me? If so, why?
Expert:  Sally G. replied 2 years ago.
Dogs with fear anxiety often have separation anxiety from the owner as well. Sometimes the two run hand in hand, other times the dog just has fear anxiety and does not howl and act out when the owner leaves but hides from the rest of the people in the home.
It could be that you remind him of he former owners, it could be your body language, your tone of voice, or again some dogs are just born with certain fear anxieties that are more magnified with specific people.
Sometimes it is just men, sometimes it is people who wear glasses or caps. Without being able to observe personally the home environment and your interactions with the dog as well as the reactions the dog shows , it would be difficult to say why.
Dogs with fear anxiety to a person have to be treated in a different way by that person. For instance, direct eye contact, reaching out to pet, or continued talking are no no's as they are seen as a challenge to the dog.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
So how to I help him not to fear me? If all I want is for him to behave a bit better indoors?
Expert:  Sally G. replied 2 years ago.
you have to get him to trust you and I would do this while your wife is in the home but be in a different room from her so he is not just drawn to her,. She should ignore the dog totally if he acts out.
She will get clicker training in place so the dog knows what the click sound means, this way when you are alone and he takes a treat from your hand you can just click without saying a word. This will continue until he shows he is not afraid of you or your voice.
Below is the article written for dogs who fear people in the home.
Shy dog training in the home
copyright Sally G
When you adopt a dog chances are the dog may be very shy or fearful. Keep in mind that one never knows the true history of an adopted dog. This means you will not know how they were originally trained, socialized, or treated within the home.
However some dogs just come with a fearful personality, so this can happen with a dog that is fairly young and has not lived with another family.
When you have such a dog you can work around this to gain trust, however, be forewarned that this dog may never accept a stranger, as strangers represent inconsistency and unpredictability.
In your own home with a shy or fearful dog you must represent structure, consistency and predictability in order for the dog to feel safe around you. Sometimes, even if everyone in the family does it right, the dog may still only take to one person in the home that they trust.
The three challenges:
1) Eye contact, 2) talking to, and 3) reaching out to pet. All of these actions to humans, is a way of comforting, however, to a dog they are challenges, and a fearful dog will magnify those actions times ten. So it is very important that you do not look directly at the dog, you do not continue to talk to the dog, and you don’t reach out to touch the dog, until such a time that you notice the dog is feeling comfortable.
Positive training is essential to boost a shy dog’s confidence, but if you can’t look at, talk to, or touch how do you train?
Start by getting down on the dog’s level on the floor. Do not look at the dog, watch TV or turn your head from the dog. Lay your hand out, palm up with a special treat such as a hot dog sliver or chicken sliver. Anything that has an aroma should work. Allow the dog to make its way over to you to take it. Continue this until the dog realizes that when it comes near you, you are not a threat or challenge, and something good is coming from your hand. Gradually as the dog builds confidence you will call the name and continue moving up the chain of perceived challenges. This can take weeks to get through and for some even longer depending on how much time you have to spend with the dog. . Dogs ,like humans, fear the unknown, so the more you can do this, the more you show predictability to the dog. If the dog knows what to expect it becomes less frightened.
This is one reason shy dogs have so many problems getting used to strangers out on a walk. Each person walks, talks, and moves in unpredictable ways to the dog.
Gradually you wan to move to daily obedience training, do it in short sessions, and do it several times a day. This shows the dog you are consistent. The positive training tells the dog that if it listens, some thing good happens (the treat comes). The more successful the dog is during training the more the confidence it boosted. Rewarding the right behavior, (listening to a command), elicits the reward, which builds the bond.
Punishment has no place in any dog’s life, let alone a shy or fearful dog’s life. . Remember that dogs act out for a variety of reasons. Fear, boredom, challenges, anxieties, and instinct for survival, are just a few. It is how you deal with it that can make it better or worse. \
As well, if you have gotten your dog to a certain spot of comfort, you can very easily make them take two steps back through punishment or dominance.
I guess you are wondering how to put a leash on a shy dog to take it out to potty if you cannot talk to , look at or touch! Here is a simple method, rather than trying to attach the clasp to the collar which can make a shy dog move away from your hand, flip the leash over so that you are holding the snap, pull it through the handle to make a loop. From above slip the loop over the dog’s neck. Very similar to a slip lead that is used in vets office. This way you can stand at a bit of a distance, you do not have to physically touch the dog, nor do you need to look directly at it. This can be done in your peripheral vision. Once the leash is on the dog drop a treat to the floor for the dog and then head out the door.
Clicker training, a positive method can be found here: For some dogs the clicker noise will frighten them so in those cases rather than using a clicker as a marker use your voice. Keep it to one word such as good or yes.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
How do we know that I am not the problem? That I am not causing all of this to the dog?
Expert:  Sally G. replied 2 years ago.
For sure I don't. But if the dog shies away from you when you call it, then that can be a sign. If he moves to you slowly like he is coming reluctantly then that would be another sign.
I think once you get clicker training under way things will change because this shows consistency and fearful dogs need consistency in what their owners expect from them, so you and your wife need to make a plan of action to what is allowed and not allowed and stick with it.
Expert:  Sally G. replied 2 years ago.
Hi Matt,
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Sally G.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Tried it this weekend. At her mothers house he is fine, and friendly. But when he is brought over to my house, it's the same. It's like he is terrified of my house.
Expert:  Sally G. replied 2 years ago.
So it is not you that he is scared pf it may be the house?
Please tell me exactly what you did in both homes.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
At her mothers house, he is happy, he plays, I played with him, he sat on my feet and loved on me for hours, he loved it.At my house, he hides under the bed and couch. It's like he is nervous. I am not sure.
Expert:  Sally G. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for that information. Usually dogs are not afraid of areas (either indoors or out) unless something frightened them or hurt them in that area.
For instance, my dog is suddenly afraid to go too far into my backyard, I know of nothing that happened to her, but her fear tells me something did. That could have been a bee sting from a bee in the grass, to a noise that the new neighbors are making during construction. It is up to me to figure that out. The only way I can get her into the back yard all the way is if I stand out there like I am going to play. She is hesitant but then eventually comes to me. This means I have to work with her on a daily basis throughout the day until she is comfortable again.
I think in your case what you may have to do is block off bedrooms and other areas of the home either by gates or by closing the doors. This will give you the chance to be in the same area and gain his trust. Right now by allowing him to hide he is not being helped or desensitized to the fear, he is holding onto it. This may mean you need to keep a leash on him so he can't get under the couch as well.
What ever the fear is I can tell you it will not change overnight, it will take you time and patience to figure it out. Do take notice on what is going on around you at the time. Is there any construction outside, is there a noise inside the home, is their a fly buzzing that sounds like a bee, is there a certain chair or household equipment that is frightening, etc? How about the house location, meaning is it near anything that would resemble hunting noises, such as loud bankgs, groups of dogs in the area, etc? (since this dog was abused by hunters). Try to make a list of the differences in the inside and outside of your home and compare that to what the Mom's home has.
Think back to actions as well, when the dog was continuously howling, what happened to it? Was it scolded (hollered at) and if so what room was it in when scolded?
What was going at the very first time the dog was left in your home? These are things you need to think about because it may have set up the dog's fears for the home itself.
There are always clues, we just have to figure out what they are.
There is one other thing you can try as well. If this pup has another doggy friend, bring that friend over. See what happens
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