Left Alone. Separation Distress. Rescue Greyhound Panics
It’s not really surprising that newly adopted young greyhound Max panics when left alone.
I’m sure he was a useless racer – good for him because it’s given him such a great reprieve!
A huge change
The two-year-old has spent all his life in kennels. Now he lives in a house with a young couple. It’s quite amazing how well they have done in just six weeks, integrating him into life living with people in a home. For the first weeks he paced and panted, showing anxiety in general as he became acclimatised. Now he has settled down beautifully….
…apart from one thing.
The couple both work. Nobody checked on that when ‘vetting’ them and in their naivety they’d not anticipated separation problems. They very soon discovered that Max couldn’t be left alone. They came back to a wrecked sofa and carpet. To protect their house they now use a crate which he managed to get out of on one occasion.
BBC Channel 4 Dogs – Their Secret Lives documented how common separation problems are.
In Max’ case it may well not be separation from them in particular or even people in general. It may well simply be isolation. It’s very likely he always had the company of at least one other dog, so fear of being isolated is most likely the real issue.
Max’s panic when left alone for even a very short while has become a huge problem for them. They juggle dropping him off at the crack of dawn with parents a couple of days, with another parent driving miles to keep him company at home another day and with the lady’s work shifts. This still leaves days when he just has to be left.
With all the adjustment Max has had to make in such a short time, it’s understandable he has problems with being left alone.
How can he know that they will ever come back? The systematic and gradual plan involves lots of short absences, so that it proves to him beyond all doubt that when they follow a certain procedure they always return. It will normalise departing.
Apart from the separation issues, Max is the model house dog. He lies about, he’s easy with people he doesn’t know and he’s also very easy to motivate as was demonstrated with teaching him Touch using a clicker. Clever boy.
The separation problems soon brought home to the couple just what a big thing they had taken on. Wondering how they would cope with a dog that can’t be left alone, they considered returning him to the rescue but they had quickly fallen in love with him. Max is unusually perfect in all other aspects.
Avoiding Max being left alone while work in progress
We have worked out a systematic plan which amongst other things involves shutting doors on him briefly, starting on doors he finds easy before moving to the outside door. Departures will be associated with food and returns boring. It needs to be done multiple times. Very gradually they will increase the time they are away or out of sight. They will use a camera with phone app to make sure they return each time before he becomes anxious.
It can be a long, slow job. Because of how fast Max has adjusted in other respects, I’m hoping it will eventually be the same with his being left alone for just a few hours. In all other respects he is so easygoing and placid.
We discussed other ways of meanwhile filling in the gaps where he still has to be left alone. There is a local person with two greyhounds they meet – perhaps she will help. It’s possible also that the man will sometimes be able to take the polite and friendly dog to work with him.
If the couple don’t have to leave him alone while the work progresses, they will get there a lot faster.
It is very early days and Max has adjusted amazingly to so many new things already.
They have a gem in Max.