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Category: Dog Training
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How do I react to negative behaviors from a dog suffering

Customer Question

How do I react to negative behaviors from a dog suffering from separation anxiety? I want to teach the dog to trust me and would like to comfort her but I also don't want to enable the bad behavior.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  PitRottMommy replied 1 year ago.

Hi Ashlee,

You're doing the right thing here by trying to prevent more problems in trying to help Yuna. Can you describe to me what type of behaviors you're witnessing? Examples would be fine. That will allow me to know what you're experiencing and better help with an answer that will be useful with tools you can use immediately.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She tore up the carpet and ate a laptop charger after finding a way to loosen the bottom of her crate so she could move it a few feet to the area of destruction. She displayed similar behavior when I first got her from the pound. After training and bonding for a year she slowly calmed down. She is only 20 lbs moving a medium sized crate. II also have been doing desensitizing training with her for 6 months now. I really am at a loss at how to help her.
Expert:  PitRottMommy replied 1 year ago.

Ashlee, has she had any formal training at a dog school?

Have you considered moving her out of her wire kennel and into a plastic one that doesn't have an open bottom? An alternate consideration is to place cinder blocks front and back/side to side to keep her where she's supposed to stay.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She has at a nearby Petco. She was trained well enough when I first adopted her to attend the advance course they provided.I have thought of getting the plastic kennel but don't have the funds to get one at the moment. I may have to get the cinder blocks until I can get one.But how should I react to her obvious cry of panic?
Expert:  PitRottMommy replied 1 year ago.

I'll add some additional info below. It'll be a few minutes while I type out the response.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you.
Expert:  PitRottMommy replied 1 year ago.

Prevention is key with anxious dogs and based on the info above, it sounds like she's keen on finding her own entertainment when she's bored/alone.

One of the best things we can do as owners is turn a dog's kennel into their "room" and ensure they have a lot of fun things to do in there. Since it's clear that Yuna likes to chew, consider bully sticks, knuckle bones, stuffed femurs, himalayan cheese chews, and other fun chew toys to keep her mentally stimulated. Stuffed kongs are also useful. I love Buster cubes for dogs who need the additional stimulation. You can either allow it to dispense treats as she plays with it or just put her whole meal in there and make her work for it. Hunger is a great motivator for dogs.

When it comes to anxious behavior, you must be one step ahead of your dog at all times and try to out think what she might come up with. If she's able to move her kennel on carpet, don't hesitate to block her kennel in with chairs on a slick surface such as that of the kitchen. A plastic kennel, as we discussed above, can be obtained online on websites like craigslist for cheap. You can also contact rescues to see if they'd be willing to switch a wire for a plastic one. Many rescues like my own have plastic kennels and prefer the wire ones (so people can see the dogs at adoption events). In some cases, they're willing to let you have it if you'll donate a small amount to the rescue. See what you can find, don't just jump to buying the $100 crates from petco if you can avoid it and money is tight. Also look on amazon, wag and They have sales and black friday is coming up. Another thought is Tractor Supply, if you have one in your area. Their prices are very reasonable, although the kennels tend to be a bit more flimsy. If she doesn't test the doors, they will work well.

Petco isn't a bad location for training, but they seldom deal with any behavioral concerns. And if Yuna was ready for advanced obedience at 2 years of age, chances are she may need more stimulation in her life to keep her from being destructive. A tired dog is a happy dog, so goes the saying. If Yuna has enough energy to figure these situations out where she is doing ornery's the time to look into either another class that will challenge her or move on to strenuous exercise like fetch, playing with a frisbee, running, biking, flyball, weightpull, using a flirtpole, etc. Find what she likes to do and expand on it. You'd be surprised how much work a dog will put in for extra food and treats when they know they're pleasing you. A great deal of behavioral assessment facilities will tell owners that any variety of anxiety that involves destruction needs to be met with more mental stimulation and exercise. There are puzzle games that can keep dogs working and you can set the skill level on a lot of the games. Since expense is a concern, you can always make your own like putting food in empty soda bottles that she must move in order to get the food from within. Kong makes a toy similar to this called the Kong Wobbler (even my own cats will play with these because they distribute much so that we have to pick them up at night or someone will be up at 2am and knock it down the stairs and wake the whole household).

You mentioned a cry of panic but I see no additional info above. Can you tell me more about this?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
In regards ***** ***** concern of panic, she barks and whines once she realizes that I have left or will leave for any amount of time. Then continues once again once I arrive home.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She also has plenty of chew toys and objects to play with in her crate. She is more interested in getting attention from me than engaging any object or puzzle. I have tried teaching her to fetch but she only runs up to it and comes back with out the toy. I have given her a Kong ball with peanut butter and one of her favorite treats inside when I leave and she will not touch it.
Expert:  PitRottMommy replied 1 year ago.

Does she stop whining once you've left? Are you aware of how long the behavior lasts?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
No she doesn't stop whining for awhile. I am not positive on the general amount of time but I have heard her go on for more than 10 minutes
Expert:  PitRottMommy replied 1 year ago.

And can you also describe what desensitizing training you've used? There will be another delay as I type out the rest of the answer.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I have worn my work uniform around the house. Even on weekends and didn't leave the house for no longer than to get the mail and back. Slowly increasing the time out. I have also kept the house keys on me with my phone and wallet and stayed home. I have also left her crate open with her food and toys inside while I am home. I have also taken her with me to Petco and dog parks to let her get some exercise and interactions with other dogs.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I have also been calm when I leave and get back and don't acknowledge her until she has calmed down.
Expert:  PitRottMommy replied 1 year ago.

It sounds like as far as desensitization therapy, you're headed in the right direction. One thing you might consider on top of this is adding in a behavioral medication like Prozac that has been shown to have anti-anxiety effects and when coupled with behavioral modification training can make the process more effective. Another option is Alprazolam, although this one tends to just make them tired where Prozac offers the benefit of actually helping to change their behavior by reducing anxiety as you work on behavioral modifications. The idea being to find a dose that works, achieve the desired results with training and wean off of the medication.

I'm going to attach some additional information links that discuss behavioral modification along with separation anxiety.

This one discusses a lot of what you know, but also goes over the benefits of making her work for her meals:

More info here on desensitizing, medications and counterconditioning:

More info on behavioral mods with prozac therapy:

Finally, if this doesn't work, or you'd rather bump to this step vs. going on to meds first, consult in person with a behaviorist. You've implemented almost all of the general recommendations for what to do in this situation but one thing a behaviorist can offer that we cannot is the ability to see what you see, hear what you hear and to detect what your dog is reacting to. Often, behaviorists see behavior you don't see because you've dealt with it for so long...and they have the benefit of seeing the household with fresh eyes. If you need help finding someone in your area that offers this service, let me know and I'll be happy to help. I'll just need your city, state and zipcode.

If my response has helped you, please leave positive rating. If not, reply and I'll help you further. You'll still be able to reach me once a rating has been issued. Best of luck with Yuna. I hope you reach a point very soon where a breakthrough comes and it gets easier on you both.