The Beagle can’t be left all alone.
When they adopted Libby a couple of weeks ago, they had no clue they wouldn’t be able to go out to work and happily leave her.
She had previously been fostered out by the rescue – to a home with several dogs. Her history was sketchy; she was from Ireland and had had at least one litter of puppies.
There was no hint of the problems to come.
The couple had gone out to work, leaving Libby in the kitchen. They came home to a wrecked bed and chewing around the front door. She had jumped the gate.
It was the same the next day so they had to put her in the crate and set up a camera. Libby again went frantic.
They came home to bent bars where she had tried to get out and only through luck she hadn’t damaged her teeth.
They have since left her with someone else and Libby is fine. It seems she’s not in a panic about losing her new owners so soon after finding them. Her behaviour at the foster home suggests other dogs are sufficient company.
Left all alone. Panic.
In all other respects Libby seems a calm and peaceful dog – perhaps a little ‘careful’. It’s early days. She greeted me with polite interest and lay in her bed much of the time as we chatted.
Being left all alone, in a new place, has set off big panic.
I use an analogy of one of us stuck alone in a broken lift, believing nobody knows we are there nor how long we will be left before being rescued – if ever. We would frantically try to get out, to break the door.
Shut in her crate, all alone, she might be feeling something like this.
Once she’s had the panic attack she will be very alert to the same thing happening again.
They are now making temporary arrangements to avoid Libby being left all alone. She will be going to dog daycare on certain days and will get temporary help from a neighbour.
They face two challenges at present. Firstly Libby now won’t easily trust them not to desert her again. Secondly, they have to go to work.
A systematic approach.
They will work on the crate and on leaving her as two separate things, but concurrently. Then they can integrate the two. Keeping a chart is useful.
Libby doesn’t seem worried by the crate itself so probably has been crated before. She will even choose to go in there at times.
Some things need to be constant each time they leave her sight. Other things need to deliberately be varied.
Constants include ritual when they leave her sight and return into her presence. They will drop food on leaving but be boring when returning.
Variables include randomising the times they put her in her crate, how long she stays for, whether they shut the door or leave it open, whether one of them walks out of the room or house, whether they go upstairs…… and so on.
Our ‘left all alone’ programme.
The aim is to come back before she begins to stress. Otherwise she could learn that her frantic behaviour, noise etc. actually can get them to come back.
They have a camera and can watch her from their phones.
In the house they will regularly shut doors and the gate on her so she gets out of the habit of following them about. Initially they will do this with someone still in view.
As someone walks out of sight they will drop food (fortunately she loves her food). When they come back in sight they will ignore her.
Gradually they will add to this one person actually going out of the back door and after a short while returning (with someone still in the house). Next with nobody in the house for a few seconds.
They will gradually increase duration left all alone.
Now they do the same with the front door – the door they went out from when going to work. And so on.
Adding the crate to the process.
Putting her into her crate will continue to be random so it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to be left all alone.
When absences get to ten minutes or more they will leave her increasingly good things to do.
I am hoping that, with sufficient time and patience, Libby will be sufficiently happy being left all alone for three or four hours she won’t need the crate at all.
One novel idea is DogTV. From America, it’s available online and for dogs that are left all alone. If they can get it onto their TV screen it could just be that dogs running about and doing stuff could feel like company.
As the next few weeks go by, other things will very likely develop so we will be ready as so happens with an adopted rescue. She probably hasn’t yet blossomed into her full potential yet – whatever that is.
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 Libby. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog as it can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly. There are various causes and types of separation problems so we need to get it right. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. 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).