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Ask Jane Lefler Your Own Question
Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 19590
Experience:  Behaviorist /Trainer and Dog breeder 18+ years
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Our dog is nearly 2. A Maltese cross. He was fine months.

Customer Question

Our dog is nearly 2. A Maltese cross. He was fine for 18 months. Trained well and happy. He has suffered severe separation anxiety for 5 months. He quivers and shakes even when we are home. He is on anti anxiety mess and still not much improvement. We've tried crate training a thunder shirt lots of activity etc. he injures himself flinging against the wall if we enclose him in the laundry or leave him outside when we are out. Even for short periods. He cringes and cowers. He loves his walks and is obsessed with the ball throwing at the park. He has destroyed our fly screens and window shitters inside the house if we leave him inside also. Please help!
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
Hi JaCustomer,
My name is ***** ***** I’ve been involved professionally with dogs in the health and behavioral fields for over 18 years. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
In order to supply you with an informed answer, it is necessary for me to collect some additional information from you. When I receive your response or reply, it will likely take me between 30-45 minutes to type up my reply if I am still online when I receive notice that you replied. I hope you can be patient.
I want to be sure I understand what is going on.
At around 18 months he started destroying things when you left him alone. Is that correct?
When it first started, how did you handle the situation?
Did you try and reassure him at that time?
Are you saying he quivers and shakes even when he is around you?
Is anything else happening when he does this and you are there with him?
What type of obedience training have you done?
What have you tried for this "separation" anxiety?
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
I was hoping to get a response back from my request for more information but I don't want you to have to wait too long for an answer. So let me give you some information on how to combat separation anxiety.
First thing is to take your dog for a nice long walk before you leave, preferably 30 minutes or long. Make it a long, quick paced walk to tire your boy out. Second is to use a low-key approach to leaving the house. Ignore your dog before you leave and after you come home for at least 5 minutes or more. If your house is like mine in the morning everyone is running around getting ready to leave. This has the dog in an excited mood and then suddenly he is alone. If this is the case, put him away from everyone, say in a bathroom until the frenzy is over.
Don't punish or shout at your dog when you come home and find he’s destroyed something. When you do, you increase his stress level rather than reduce it.
You can provide him with small stimulating toys or toys that you can fill with treats. One is a kong toy filled with peanut butter or yogurt and frozen so the treat inside has to partially thaw to get to it. An occupied dog is less likely to destroy things.
Sometimes leaving a TV or radio on can help a dog with this problem as well. Also remember to not reward a dog's excitement to you with petting and affection or even eye contact. You want to show him nice calm praise when he is being calm. The best way is to crate him. This prevents injury to the apartment and protects him as well especially if he is ingesting any of the items he destroys. I know you have tried a crate, but I recommend a crate with square aluminum bars or the solid style airline type crates for this case. The crate should only be large enough for the dog to lay down and turn around. He won't have the room to gain momentum to throw himself against the door and sides.
Another thing that might help is a DAP collar. These use a pheromone to calm a dog. Since it is not a medication, it can be usine in conjunction with medication and has proven effective for anxiety issues. See one here:
Practice putting him in the crate, leaving the house, opening the door immediately and rewarding him with a hot dog treat if he did not scratch, bite and carry one. This teaches him that you leave but come back quickly. Once he seems to not do anything when you initially leave, lengthen the time he must be quet for you to come back in. Change the time as well. Make it 2 minutes one time and 10 mintues another, so he never knows if you are gone for an hour or gone for 2 minutes. It helps him stay calm for longer periods of time, just be sure you reward him when he is good.
Another thing that helps is to do things that might make the dog feel you are leaving and then don't such as putting on your coat or picking up your keys. Or leave without doing those things. This helps remove things that might trigger the dog to become anxious.
These should help his separation anxiety and boredom and help curb his behavior. It will not be an overnight cure and will take work on your and your family’s part to be consistent in your interaction with him. Here is a site that also offers idea to combat separation anxiety.
Anxiety based issues can be difficult to correct and often it is a combination of techniques that end up helping the most. In additon, you might have to call in a professional behaviorist if my suggestions do not seem to be helping at all after a few weeks of desensitization. The following site should be able to help you find a certified behaviorist near you.
Given his breed, you might also want to check to see if his trembling when home is due to a medical issue called white dog shaker syndrome. Read more on this below.
I hope this information is helpful to you. If you need more information or clarification, please reply and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. If you are satisfied, please take the opportunity to rate.

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