Separation Anxiety and Retraining, Part II

In addition to general obedience training to help with control issues and being in charge, I have also done what I call situational training to help reduce the separation anxiety.

Things like leaving Zeke, and the dogs on each side of him, in their crates while I am home. This is never much of a problem. Zeke is fine in his crate when I am home. Then I picked up my keys and put them down. Then walked to the door and back. And opened and closed the door. Then went out on the porch and back inside. Several times. On to opening and closing the car door and back inside. Driving up the street to drop off the recycling and back home. (No, they don’t have curbside recycling out here.) Then I drove into town to buy dog food and back, etc.

The ideal is to do this slowly over days or weeks, until the dog does not react. I had to speed this cycle up over a long weekend because, hey, I have this thing called a job. My boss was quite understanding. There were a few days I had to take extra time off to deal with Zeke and my leave slips were granted, no problem. Once I threatened to bring Zeke with me for a meeting I couldn’t miss. When I showed up without him, several people were disappointed because they wanted to watch him in their offices. And all coworkers I mentioned my trials with Zeke to were sympathetic and supportive. One even thanked me for doing rescue work and adopting and dealing with Zekie. It goes without saying, my coworkers are awesome! And their kind words were a balm when I really needed it.

Since I had to do a shortened version of training Zeke to my leaving and coming back, my results were less than stellar too. Although there was some improvement. The rate and intensity with which he chewed and destroyed crates was lessened. The mania he exhibited was more subdued. Whenever I returned from anywhere, I did not let Zeke or any of the dogs out of their crates until he was calmed down. As calm as a Zekie gets.

Some other things I did that I think were of minor help follow. I give him Cannabidiol oil shortly before leaving, along with a couple of herbal homeopathic chews. I make sure there is a nylabone or peanut butter stuffed Kong in his crate. I do not rush to greet Zeke or free him from the crate immediately upon arriving home. I want my comings and goings to be no big deal.

What really returned our lives to being somewhat normal though, is finding an impervious crate. We ended up with an Impact brand crate. While an investment, it has been a lifesaver. Literally. All of the retraining was not wasted though. All of these steps helped to make Zeke a calmer, happier dog with less reaction when we do go away. He still reacts, but not to the same degree.

I hope that someone is able to find some useful information and things to apply to their own dog from these articles. And if it prevents someone else from doing things that result in separation anxiety, even better!