Insecure. Feels Vulnerable when Left alone and Encountering Dogs.

insecure when left aloneFeeling insecure is at the root of little Jasper’s problems.

Outside, he barks and lunges at other dogs, rearing up on his hind legs with all his tiny weight.

When left alone, he cries and barks. It has got so bad the lady, who lives in a flat, even wondered whether she could keep him.

She has had the dear little Yorkie for six months now. His first owner had died, he ended up in a pound and then he spent time in a rescue before coming to the lovely home he now has. It’s little wonder he feels insecure.

Continue reading…

Anxious Dog. Systematic Desensitisation. No More Flooding

Another anxious dog.

When I arrived he was very frightened though, unusually when someone new comes to his house, he didn’t bark at me. I had choreographed my entrance carefully.

These first two photos show his anxiety. One with the lifted leg. The other in the way he is lying, kind of hugging himself.

anxious dog

Feels unsafe

anxious dog

Looking at me anxiously

Little Jack Russell Jasper, age two, has been in his new home for six months. One half of the couple he lives with is off work just now but goes back in a month.

Being left alone terrifies Jasper. Continue reading…

Poo, Pee Indoors. Dachshund Alone. More Questions than Answers.

Poo and peeing indoors.

Invariably during the night, alone downstairs in the kitchen, Meg has diarrhoea. When she is left alone during the day she is likely to do the same.pee and poo when left

The challenge here is in separating facts from assumptions.

Meg is a twelve-year-old Dachshund – the longest sausage I have seen! She and her sibling Mini came to live with the couple at eight weeks old and had never been apart.

Continue reading…

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

Panics when left aloneThe 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. Continue reading…

Puppy Joyfulness Lost. Tail Between Legs. Acts Careful

Hettie is an adorable Cockerpoo puppy, now sixteen weeks old.

Why has she lost her puppy joyfulness?

For the first four weeks that Hettie was with them (eight to twelve weeks old), she was a typical confident, happy and energetic puppy. She would fly around in puppy joyfulness, grab things and cause the usual puppy chaos.

she used to be filled with puppy joyfulness

Before getting her, they had already booked their holiday. While they were away, they left her in what they believed was the best place possible. This was a well respected daycare and kennels.

From what I observed of Hettie’s new careful, tail-down behaviour, something must have happened while they were away. She had come back a different puppy. Not to be too dramatic, it’s like something had broken her spirit. She had lost her joyfulness.

Her tail goes between her legs even when the lady owner appears.

It could have been that this holiday care was totally the wrong environment for a young puppy. Too many dogs all at once and too much noise, perhaps.

It can only be guesswork.

Hettie’s not scared of dogs, however. It’s people she’s wary of now; she’s generally reserved and what I can only call careful.

Sensitive period for socialisation

The damage done resulting in her fear of humans won’t have been anything deliberate.

To quote Dr. Sophia Yin: ‘From about 3 weeks to about 3 months of age, puppies are primed for bonding to other animals and individuals, for learning that objects, people, and environments are safe, and for learning what the body cues and signals of others mean. It is their sensitive period for socialization and it is the most important socialization period in a dog’s life. …….but what types of interactions should puppies actually have? ……it’s important to actually make sure that the puppy is having a positive experience and learning something good.’

For the first four weeks the family did all the right things, exposing Hettie gradually to the outside world of traffic, noise, people and other dogs.

During her stay away there could have been one or two single incidents that were negative and scary to Hettie. It could be that the whole thing – the number of big dogs and the barking may have just been too much for her.

Could this explain why Hettie has lost her puppy joyfulness?

Building up her confidence with people

The priority now is to build her confidence in every way possible. They will always use encouragement and avoid scolding. They will put no pressure on her. When the lady approaches she will throw food to the puppy; I’m sure her tail won’t be between her legs for long.

Most importantly, they must train all visitors. Knowing what to expect, I had avoided walking towards her. When I did move, it wasn’t directly. I avoided eye contact and spoke quietly. As I moved about, I leaked food from my hand onto the floor.

Hettie was very soon quite literally eating out of my hand.

What we would love to see is a return of the enthusiastic, excited puppy she had been before they went away. A return of a her puppy joyfulness.

PS: From an email that evening: ‘Hettie has been much more ‘naughty’ this evening and stolen lots of items from the sitting room plus made a break for upstairs – quite a relief after such a withdrawn persona earlier on’.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. Click here for help.

Separation Problems. Leaving the Dogs Alone.

Yesterday I met Cockerpoo Marnie and Springerpoo (Springerdoodle Sproodle?) Luna. The are adorable friendly and polite little dogs – a real tribute to their owners.

They have just moved to a new house with much closer neighbours and have become aware that the dogs cry and bark when left alone. They hadn’t realised there were separation problems. Not wanting to upset anyone, the lady, who no longer works, now feels she can’t go out unless the man is home.

In addition to not wanting them annoying neighbours with barking or crying, they don’t don’t want their beloved dogs to be unhappy.

Breaking a habit takes time.

Separation problems when left alone

Luna and Marnie

They agree that it’s more than likely the dogs cried and stressed with separation problems in their old house. If that’s the case it will be a habit too. Something that they have always done.

Another aspect is that they may believe their crying gets their humans back home eventually – because it always has.

I was able to see a short video of the dogs having been left. It wasn’t like the kind of panic I have seen in some other videos. They showed their separation distress by whining, whimpering, looking at the door and occasional barking. They spent much of the time just standing still and quiet by the door. The real barking started only when they heard the man’s car draw up, in anticipation of his walking in.

With some questioning it soon became apparent that the dogs don’t have enough ‘happening’ in their lives. Everything revolves around their humans being with them in the house. They are seldom taken out. When the couple goes out and leaves them, their only enrichment and fun goes out too.

They lose their whole world.

With no humans at home, there is no activity, a vacuum. Luna is obsessed with the ball – so her ball-thrower has disappeared! The action and excitement begins again as soon as they come home.

I feel the dogs need much more enrichment of the right kind – things they can do by themselves like foraging, hunting and chewing. They need much more than repetitive ball play and cuddles. The obsessive dropping of the ball to be thrown should be stopped and other activities offered that will stimulate their brains instead. Here are 35 simple ways to keep your dog busy indoors.

Instead of associating their humans’ departure with losing everything that matters, they should feel more fulfilled in general. The absence of their humans should be filled with good things as well.

Changing how Luna and Marnie feel about the front door being shut on them will take slow and patient work.

Against a background of a more enriched life including outings if only to mooch about near to home, the couple will then work on the separation itself.

A systematic programme for their separation problems.

They will start by shutting doors on them in the house. Dropping food as they shut an inside door on the dogs, they will turn around and come straight back in again. They will do that multiple times, varying doors and then doing the same with the front door.

Gradually, a second at a time, they will extend the time they spend the other side of the door. Then they will walk a short way away. Always they will aim to come back in before the dogs begin to stress, and for this they have a camera and app on their mobile.

Never again should the dogs think making a fuss brings them back.

When they begin to leave the dogs for a bit longer, they will set up the environment for success with special music to help separation problems, a calming plug-in and stuffed Kongs.

Absent humans won’t leave a vacuum anymore. When they do come back, their return shouldn’t herald fun. They should be boring.

The special exercises worked out for Marnie and Luna will be done many times until the two dogs are convinced beyond any doubt that when their humans go out, they always come back. (I don’t go into too much detail of the whole procedure here, because one size doesn’t fit all).

Now Marnie and Luna should no longer feel that when the lady and gentleman both go out that their whole world has gone with them.

They will have other enriching and stimulating things in their lives also.

A couple of months later: Our two dogs are sooooo much calmer now.They could possibly tune into our unsettled feelings?Luna is no longer mad for a ball. I am able to leave them now for 2 to 3 hrs at a time.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Marnie and Luna and because neither the dogs nor situation will ever be exactly the same. Listening to ‘other people’, finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where separation problems are concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Panic. Separation Anxiety. Left Alone

This is very sad. It all started off so well for the first few months of their Frenchie puppy’s life. They could happily leave her to go to work, coming home at lunch time.

Then they had to go away for a couple of weeks and Margot was left with friends. She seemed perfectly happy whilst there.

But, when she got home, everything changed. The couple went out to work the next day and they came home to toilet mess all over the floor. She had chewed the door they had departed from.

Poor Margot was in a state of complete panic.

Since then things have got worse. At my suggestion, they have just filmed her to find that she runs about in a panic from the moment the leave, defecating as she goes. She pees all over the place. She is constantly pacing, running back and forth and jumping at the door. It seems she does this the whole time that they are absent.

A nine-month-old pup should be sleeping at least seventeen hours a day. Instead, she’s spending most of it in major state of panic. Her humans are distraught. Coming home to such a mess each time as she paces and treads in her mess shows just how much of a panic she is in.

Margot is beautiful, friendly and polite. She is just so biddable and amenable. It’s heartbreaking for them to see how unhappy their precious little dog gets.

Chewing.

For much of the time while I was there, Margo was totally engaged in chewing at something – calming herself down. De-stressing.

Panic attack when left aloneWhat is particularly tricky in a case like this is that it’s impossible to take things gradually, one thing at a time, because their work necessitates continuing to leave her for four hours at a time, twice a day.

It seems that the distress comes most particularly at being separated from one person. He is the one who feeds her and is at home one day a week. He, however, works for the emergency services and when he’s on call his bleeper will suddenly go off. He has to drop everything and run.

This can’t help.

What can they do?

Firstly I have given them fairly mechanical exercises to build up Margot’s resilience to their comings and goings. This starts with doors shutting on her and opening immediately, many times, food dropped as the door shuts. Gradually there will be delay before the door opens. Over time, the time left alone will increase. It’s vital for these exercises that the door opens before Margot feels anxiety.

They will start on easy inside doors before going to the outside door that throws Margot into such a panic.

The next part of our programme is to work on each trigger, like picking up keys, the bleeper and putting on boots

They have to go out to work.

Then there is the big problem of going out for real when Margot simply won’t be ready. But it has to happen.

They will optimise the environment including frosting the glass door from which she can see them depart. Cutting down on the area will mean there is less floor to clean. They have tried a crate, but she was so frantic she bent the bars.

Amongst other things, they will leave a plug-in, special calming music and a large cuddly toy wearing the man’s T-shirt smelling of him.

Their routine when leaving will be overhauled.

Instead of their own panic when leaving as they try to get ready and to get out with an increasingly frantic dog trying to push through the door with them, they will do something else.

They can get ready to go. But, instead of leaving, they will then go back and sit down . They will spend five minutes just being with Margot, sitting very still and contemplating on calmness. This may sound very New Age but I’m sure it will help.

Then, slowly and calmly, they can get up and leave.

Unfortunately, because they have to go to work, each time Margot is left before she is sufficiently prepared is going to set her back again.

I just hope that the speed of progress outstrips the unavoidable backsliding and probable breakdown in trust each time they leave for too long.

Medication may be necessary.

If these protocols and exercises don’t result in any improvement in the next couple of weeks, I believe Margot will need the back-up of meds and we will be in touch with their vet. They may also need to look into daycare, if only to give themselves the few months probably necessary to work on the problem slowly, in tiny increments.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Margot. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear of any kind is involved. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).
Golden Retriever is happy

To Stop Barking When Left Alone

The lady called me because she wanted her beautiful eight-year-old Golden Retriever, Harvey, to ‘stop barking’ when she goes out. One friend suggested she tried an ultrasonic sound device (he ignores it) and another a muzzle to keep his mouth shut.

It’s not gaLoving look from Goldiedgets that are needed, but time and patience. Harvey’s barking needs to be looked at in a completely different way. Stop barking? The distress that is causing the barking needs to be addressed. The actual barking itself isn’t the problem (though it may be so for the neighbours).

Harvey is the most friendly, stable and well-adjusted dog you could want to meet in every respect apart from his fear of being parted from the lady. As a young dog he had been more or less abandoned, underfed and neglected, so it’s a big tribute to her care and love for him. He really is the perfect companion for her. On the right he is looking adoringly up at her (and she was eating a biscuit too!).

It seems that it’s not so much a fear of being left alone itself as a fear of losing the lady. Although he was very friendly with me, he became anxious within a few seconds when she walked out of the room and shut the door, as you can see on the left. It’s very possible that he feels he should be lookAnxious aloneing after her as she has a medical condition that he will pick up on.

He will certainly sense her emotions when she has to leave him, never for more than two or three hours, and that will merely add to his distress because he can’t possibly realise the reason she herself feels anxious – and guilty.

In addition to desensitising Harvey to being away from her and counter-conditioning him to feel her departures are nothing to worry about, the lady herself can change a few other things that will help. If she can behave in some respects a little more like ‘guardian’ in terms of who protects whom in particular. She can then come and go as she pleases without being accountable to Harvey. Departures should be breezy, happy and good news. Coming back home should be boring and no big deal. At the moment it’s the opposite.

The desensitising requires a huge number of comings and goings, starting with duration and places that are very easy for Harvey and gradually ramping it up, over a period of probably many weeks. The counter-conditioning, at the same time, should gradually have him feeling happy when left rather than distressed.

The lady is prepared to ‘give it a go’. She will ‘try’. I have found that the people who succeed are those who stick at it until they do succeed for however long it takes – and don’t give up after giving it a try if things don’t show much improvement after just two or three weeks, as proved by another lady and her dog who I went to quite recently – read here.

Four weeks have gone by and the slow approach is working.  ‘I feel we are getting on slowly but well. Harvey can be left happily for about ten minutes now and went to my immediate neighbours for an hour with no fuss apart from barking at the front door briefly as I left and he was quite happy. Next week we will be gradually extending the time. Fingers crossed!!!

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Harvey, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

 

Doberman Not Coping With Life. Puppy Left Alone

He had been a puppy left alone for too longDoberman Rocky is just 9 months old, and he was rehomed by a young couple just two weeks ago.

Puppy left alone for too long

Although he wasn’t physically neglected, he had spent some very formative months of his young life without proper ‘parenting’. Consequently he’s somewhat ‘emotionally damaged’ just as a child might be that had been left alone for too long.

Rocky had spent much of the time as a puppy left alone, outside in a small yard, an environment the lonely puppy will have found scary. Unsurprisingly he barked constantly with probably a mix of fear and loneliness; nobody will have helped him out and it would be a safe guess that he would have been shouted at for barking.

Having lived like this for crucial months in his development, it is unsurprising that barking at everything is his default now. Tail chasing has become his default way of dealing with stress. Rocky can’t cope at all with being left alone, even for a minute, and when the lady comes back into the room he will madly tail-chase. As is so often the case, it goes on in a sort of sequence. He chases round and round with his tail in his mouth. He then freezes and just sucks the tail, maybe making whimpering sounds. It is virtually impossible to distract him.

He doesn’t feel safe

The bottom line is that for much of the time Rocky simply doesn’t feel safe – though things are certainly looking up for him now he has a lovely home. Any sounds outside sends him into a barking frenzy. I caught him, on the right, just as he thought he may have heard something.

Walking, too, is difficult. He walked beautifullly on a loose lead indoors, but was hyper-alert once outside the door. Getting him to feel safe and protected, desensitising and habituating him to normal sounds – kids out the front, dogs barking, bikes and so on – will take time and patience. They have made considerable progress in these two weeks however.  The lady takes him to work so he meets people. He is very friendly and polite for an adolescent pup, and only scared of people if they approach too directly, stare or loom over him.

The panic barking, the hyper-vigilance when out in particular, the panic at being left alone and the tail-chasing are going to take weeks or months of counter-conditioning and confidence-building, the bottom line being to reduce the stress caused by his hyper-vigilance and to make him feel safe. I believe then that everything else will gradually fall into place.

You won’t have a quiet dog if he’s on high alert, and you won’t have a dog that is happy to be left alone that is on high alert either. Walking calmly on a loose lead won’t happen whilst he is on high alert.

Tail-chasing is simply the way, over the months, he has learnt to cope.

Things are now changing for the beautiful Rocky! The future is bright and he should end up a happy, carefree dog.

Labrador Wrecks the Sofa When Home Alone

Charlie doesn't like to be left aloneThey pulled the throw off the back of their leather sofa to reveal a gaping hole full of white stuffing, like snow, and the wooden frame!

This was Charlie’s handiwork over the past four weeks since he arrived from the Blue Cross. He was originally brought over from Ireland at three months old with his mother and has been in kennels for the past nine months – nine important months in the life of a one-year-old adolescent dog.

When Charlie is left alone he may chew the door frame and leave puddles of drool on the floor due to his stress, or he may chew the sofa. Because it doesn’t happen every time I suspect there may be two separate issues here – separation distress and boredom. After all, he has probably never been alone before as he was kennelled with his mother. In a kennel he will not have been taught some basic rules of living in a house – like don’t eat the furniture, nor reshape it into a comfortable nest full of comfy white stuffing!

On one occasion they videod him and he mooched about and lay down – chilled and settled. Possibly an external noise starts him off, or possibly he simply gets bored. In the kennels they were shut down at 4pm and left alone until the morning. I expect anything in the kennel availabe to chew would be fair game to a young dog.  He needs to be caught in the act – set up intentionally perhaps.  He needs to be taught that furniture isn’t for chewing and shown what can be chewed instead, using patience and encouragement.

Separation issues need working on also. He has only been with them for a month and has settled in amazingly well considering his nine months living in rescue kennels. He is obedient, friendly and not over-excitable. He doesn’t jump up and he’s not demanding for attention. He pulls on walks but has probably never been shown otherwise and is another case of correction and force having the opposite effect to what is wanted. Someone said that if you pull a dog back, his brain says forward.

Charlie is brilliant with other dogs. He has no ounce of aggression in his body. A wonderful dog.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
About six weeks later: “Charlie, high and (not low) lows, mostly high points though.  The good points there has been a significant reduction in any new damage we still have to make sure things are put away when we leave, the slobbering has again significantly reduced when we are out and he is more than happy to go to his bed of his own accord in the evenings and the day even when we are here.  Walking is much much better. He is good with other dogs when out and will come back to me without being called until we get close, this gives me an opportunity to decide whether he plays or not.  His recall is the one issue, its getting better and I have to say even when he does go his return is much quicker, the dog walker says he is much calmer and I have to agree.  We don’t overly fuss him but he is more than happy for a play and cuddle when we want. We will stick with the programme and review in a couple of weeks, the lighter evenings will make it easier to train him when we get back from work”. About five weeks after this I was told that Charlie had started to damage the sofa again. This is what happens if the people go back to their old ways – so does the dog. Lack of consistency is very difficult for a dog.
It’s now eleven months since I started working with them, and I have just had this email: ‘Sorry it has been so long since we contacted you but after the last advice we just got stuck in and can’t believe how the time has gone.  Anyway we thought you may like to see a couple of photos of our wonderful HAPPY dog Charlie.  We have overcome the chewing and separation issues, he is settled very happy, his return is still being worked on but improves each week, indeed he does always come back. I am so glad we stuck with him, despite loosing a whole leather settee as he is a wonderful companion and quite a character…….. I took him back to Blue Cross where we got him from and they could not believe the difference.  He is now a confident, happy pooch who is an established family member. Thanks for the advice, we have followed it and the results – well you can see’.